Huffpost College

Police Locate Missing Iowa State Student's Body After Three-Month Search

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Produced by HuffPost's College Reporting Team

It was a beautiful 75-degree day in Ames, Iowa when Jon Lacina's body was found.

The 21 year-old Iowa State University senior disappeared Jan. 22. He was last seen leaving a friend's apartment located a couple blocks from his dorm.

Lacina, who lived alone, had first been noticed as missing when was absent from classes for a week. His father, Tom Lacina, reported him as missing on Jan. 30. Jon Lacina had not left an "electronic footprint" since 10:57 p.m. Jan. 22 -- and then it was only a two-second incomplete phone call from his cell phone to a friend.

Through the following two days trained searchers conducted ground searches around the area of town near campus. Lacina's name quickly became a part of everyone's vocabulary. During the next two weeks, nightly vigils began on campus.

ISU students banded together to help find Jon -- and help each other. 24,232 people joined the Facebook group "Help find Jon Lacina!" and a constant outpouring of support filled the group's wall for the next three months. As the temperature outside warmed, students posted Facebook statuses describing their fear of the melting snow revealing Lacina's deceased body.

Wristbands were distributed in March reading "Find Jon--Live Fully."

On March 27, a team searched Lake LaVerne again to no avail. The Iowa State Daily, the student newspaper, received dozens of tips but none amounted to anything.

Finally, on April 14 at 8:30 p.m., ISU police discovered a deceased male body in an "isolated room" of the old Dairy Pavilion about a mile south of central campus, just outside of the initial search area. The following afternoon a medical examiner confirmed it indeed was the body of Jon Lacina, as did Lacina's family.

"I just couldn't believe how close to campus they found him," Chantell Moody, ISU sophomore, said. "I feel sorry for his family--that is such a horrible thing to happen."

Seth Rasmussen, an Ames resident, was surprised the body was found so close to central campus.

"I would've thought all those buildings would be searched completely throughly earlier," Rasmussen explained.

The room Lacina was found in was described as a boiler room in a building originally used for classes by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The location is a former campus dairy barn no longer in use except for occasional storage.

Lacina's body was found in the middle of VEISHEA, a huge week-long celebration at ISU with various concerts, performances, speakers, exhibits, food fairs, parades and carnivals. The revelry of the week was overshadowed, however, by the discovery of Lacina's body and the death of another student from meningitis. The news of both deaths dominated the front page of the Iowa State Daily on Friday and an editorial acknowledged the circumstances were difficult for a week dedicated to celebrating.

"Two seems to be too large a number," the Daily editorial board wrote. "This needn't be a heavy time, only a delicate one. Veishea is a time to come together and celebrate Iowa State. Now that we're together, let's show that we're more than just rowdy kids, but that we're loving, caring individuals ready to have a good time."

Why -- and how -- Lacina died remains a mystery. ISU Police Chief Jerry Stewart said an autopsy could take days or even weeks to determine the cause of death and foul play is not being ruled out at this point.

"The investigation will rely heavily upon the results of the autopsy performed by the Office of the State Medical Examiner," Stewart stated in a news release. "This is standard procedure and required by law."

Moody is eager to hear the results of the autopsy to hopefully answer what happened that night.

"Just shows you've got to be careful where you are and who you're with and try not to walk alone on late nights," Moody added. "It's scary to think about."

ISU President Gregory Geoffroy issued a statement Thursday in part saying "We all held out hope that Jonathan would be found alive and well, but while that hope no longer exists, Jonathan's family and friends can now begin to bring closure to this terrible ordeal."

Lacina's father, Tom, also released a statement. "The many weeks of hunting for our son, Jon Lacina, have been filled with a churning pain for our family, and now we grieve over the final known loss," he said. "Jon, our son, is gone."

By the time local broadcast stations came out to report on the discovery for the 5 p.m. news Thursday, they kept their television cameras covered as rain drops fell and the clouds moved in.