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Sarah Townsend, Missing New Jersey Teen, Found Dead In Pond

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BURLINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. -- The body of a missing teenager was found Friday in a pond near where her car was discovered abandoned four days earlier and an autopsy determined that she had drowned.

The body of 18-year-old Sarah Townsend had no signs of trauma, and there was no indication that foul play contributed to her death, Burlington County Prosecutor Robert Bernardi said.

Results of toxicology tests are needed before a final autopsy report is issued, he said. That could take several weeks.

Townsend was last seen Monday morning, when she left her family's home in Florence to go to Allentown High School.

Townsend's boyfriend told authorities that he found her car at the park – a place he said they often spent time – hours later. A door was open and the engine was running. Her cellphone and purse were left inside.

On Friday, WPVI-TV in Philadelphia reported that the boyfriend, identified as Matt Welsh, had to be wrestled to the ground to be subdued on the banks of the pond. Officers led him from the area where Townsend's body was found.

"We're going to take him to the station to make sure he's OK. That's our main concern," Burlington Township Police Lt. Bruce Painter told the television station.

Bernardi said canine tracking teams led police back to the pond they'd searched earlier in the week.

On Wednesday, Burlington Township Police Director Walter Corter said police were told Townsend may have wanted to harm herself.

However, her parents told the Courier-Post of Cherry Hill that their daughter was happy when she left their home on Monday. They said she was getting ready to attend two proms and was working on coordinating her hairdo and dress for each.

A woman who answered the phone at her family's home Friday afternoon tearfully said she couldn't talk.

Misty Smalley, a former co-worker of Townsend's, told WPVI that she was saddened by the news that a body had been found. "It's a shame, I feel very sorry for (Townsend's family)," Smalley said. "She was a very pretty girl, very quiet."

Friends and other teens who didn't know her combed the area where Townsend was eventually found.

They have also been holding nightly candlelight vigils for her.

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