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Police find body of U.S. student missing in Spain

By Al Goodman, CNN
Austin Taylor Bice disappeared in the early morning hours of February 26 in Madrid.
Austin Taylor Bice disappeared in the early morning hours of February 26 in Madrid.
  • "We are all very upset," an official at the university says
  • The body of Austin Taylor Bice, 22, is found in a river near where he was last seen
  • He was last seen outside a Madrid disco February 26
  • Missing-person posters are appearing in Madrid and on Spanish media

Madrid, Spain (CNN) -- Police in Spain found the body of missing U.S. college student Austin Taylor Bice, 22 early Tuesday in Madrid, authorities said.

The body was found after officials drained a portion of the Manzanares River near the discotheque where Bice was last seen after a night out with friends more than a week ago, said Jesus Sanchez, a spokesman for the central government's main regional office in Madrid.

There will be an autopsy, but an initial visual inspection of the body did not indicate any signs of violence, the officials said.

The San Diego State University student had not been seen since early February 26, when he told several friends he was going home alone while others stayed at the discotheque, family members and friends said.

"We are all very upset," said Carlos Lopez Terradas, head of international relations at Madrid's University of Carlos III, where Bice arrived last January for a semester of business-course study abroad.

A team of California-based investigators was due to arrive in Madrid on Tuesday to help search for him. Bice's family hired the investigators from The Halo Corporation to help with the search, his father, Larry, said Monday.

The Halo Corporation's website says it is a San Diego-based company "founded by former special operations and intelligence personnel."

Bice's father, an accountant, rushed to Madrid from San Diego last Wednesday and has since met several times with Spanish and U.S. authorities.

Friends of the student quickly organized a campaign to put up posters of him around Madrid saying, "Missing. Austin Taylor Bice. U.S. citizen, 22, 1.95 meters tall and 100 kilograms" (6 feet, 5 inches and 220 pounds).

There had been no indication of a kidnapping, and no demands were received, his father said before the body was found.

The river has a series of dams to control the water flow and police had been inspecting various sections of it for several days. On Monday evening, they began draining the section where Bice's body was found on Tuesday morning, a spokeswoman for the National Police regional office in Madrid told CNN.

Over the weekend, a family member said that contrary to earlier reports, Bice was not refused entry to the discotheque by doormen and was not drunk, although "he had a few beers." Instead, he just decided to go home, said Juan Gabriel Paredes, who came to Madrid from Wichita, Kansas, to help Bice's father in the search.

"We always told him, never be by yourself. Always be with somebody. And I think the problem was he got a little bit overconfident and decided that he wanted to go it alone, go back to the house by himself and that was the problem," Paredes said.

Dozens of Bice's friends, along with others responding to internet notifications, conducted a search last Saturday starting from the discotheque, La Riviera. The disco is removed by many blocks from the city center.

"I just want to say thank you for all being here. It's hard for me to talk about it, but thank you," Bice's father told the search teams before the body was found, his voice cracking.

"People we've talked to say if it were bad, it would have shown up right away," Bice's father told CNN last Thursday. "It's easier being here than at home. I see what's going on."

The student was carrying two credit cards and his California driver's license, his father said.

Calls to two cell phones Bice was carrying the night he went missing went unanswered, his friends say.

The U.S.-based Institute of International Education said that in 2007, Spain was the third most popular destination worldwide for Americans studying abroad, after the United Kingdom and Italy. It said there were about 17,000 American students in Spain.

The University of Carlos III, where Bice was studying, has 18,000 students, of whom 1,500 are from abroad, including about 220 Americans, Lopez said.