Police in Boone, N.C., have confirmed that the body of Appalachian State University student Anna Smith was discovered in a wooded area near campus. Smith’s body was found less than a half-mile from campus at approximately 10:30 a.m. in an area next to Poplar Grove Road. Her N.C. driver’s license and her student ID were discovered at the scene. Police are not saying how Smith died. Her body will undergo an autopsy at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem.
WSOC-TV is reporting that police received a call on Friday morning by somebody who reportedly was jogging near where Smith’s body was found last week and heard screaming and voices in a ravine. After reading a newspaper account of the search for Smith, the tipster decided to call police. The trail was closed by officials shortly thereafter.
The Appalachian State University freshman went missing from her dorm room on campus on Sept. 2. Her family released a statement through a spokesperson on Monday describing Smith as being upset prior to her disappearance, but gave no reason as to why. The Charlotte Observer reports that Smith visited her parents in late August in order to discuss an experience she had that was troubling her. Rev. Dana McKim, speaking for the Smith family, said that Smith had gone out with friends and was assaulted, but remembered only vague details of the incident.
When Smith was reported missing, said Gunther Doerr, the police chief on campus, investigators did look into Smith’s account of being attacked. They uncovered information that she had attended an event off-campus that included approximately six other students, but police found no evidence that she had been sexually assaulted. Doerr said that police did ascertain that something had occurred to leave Smith in what they say was an “anguished” state.
While Smith remained missing, flyers were distributed and posted across the campus. Search parties were formed to comb the Appalachian Mountains which surround the university. A Facebook page established by Smith’s mother contained an estimate of how far her daughter could have gone since her disappearance – 80 miles walking, 200 miles via boat and anywhere in the United States by car. Appalachian State University officials also held a prayer walk for Smith.
The university’s chancellor released a statement upon learning of the death of Smith expressing her sadness at the news. She also extended her sympathy to the family and friends of Smith. The chancellor, Sheri N. Everts, also thanked the people who stepped in to search for Smith and notified students that resources have been made available to help students through the tragedy. A memorial book will be placed in the student union next week and given to Smith’s family.
Reports of a sexual assault last Friday near the Appalachian State University stadium added to the anxiety felt by students after Smith was reported missing. University officials encourage all students to remain aware of their surroundings at all times and to report anything suspicious. Students are also advised to walk in pairs or groups and to take advantage of university resources such as safe ride, which provides safe transport by van to students.
By Jennifer Pfalz