A medical examiner will determine whether a body is that of a missing student
Sunil Tripathi was last seen in Providence, Rhode Island, in mid-March
He was taking a break from Brown University when he disappeared
He was falsely accused on social media of being one of the Boston Marathon bombers
The body of a young man found in the Providence River on Tuesday may be that of Sunil Tripathi, a student at Brown University who disappeared March 16, police told CNN.
A Brown rowing coach reported a body in the river near India Point Park, Lindsay Lague, a spokeswoman for the Providence Police Department, said Wednesday.
Lague said authorities may be able to identify the body as soon as Thursday morning.
When asked if it might be Tripathi, Detective Mark Sacco said it was “likely” but was cautious to say they won’t know who it is until the medical examiner makes a determination.
The body is a man between the ages of 18 and 30, he said.
The Tripathi family’s search for the 22-year-old philosophy major has been detailed on a Facebook page, “Help us find Sunil Tripathi.”
They temporarily took down the page after they were inundated by ugly comments when Sunil Tripathi was falsely accused on social media of being one of the Boston Marathon bombers.
After the FBI released images of Suspect 1 and Suspect 2, people took to sites such as Reddit, a real-time message board, and Twitter speculating that Tripathi looked like one of the suspects.
Reddit’s general manager apologized to the Tripathi family for the misinformation.
Tripathi was last seen in the early hours of March 16, recorded on a security video walking south on Brook Street in Providence, not far from his home. His last recorded computer activity was shortly before that sighting.
“He was seen on the 15th, Friday, hanging out with his friends, talking to family members, all normal activities, nothing out of the ordinary that anyone detected,” his brother Ravi told CNN affiliate WPRI on April 10.
Since then a desperate search has been on for Tripathi, known to family and friends as “Sunny.”
Tripathi, who had been struggling with depression, was last seen wearing blue jeans, a black Eastern Mountain Sports ski jacket, glasses and a black Philadelphia Eagles wool hat. He was said to be 6 feet tall, 130 pounds, with short, dark hair.
By March 17, nobody had seen him for 24 hours, and a friend became concerned and called the police. At that point, the family was notified and came up from Philadelphia as soon as they could, Ravi said.
“We are a very tight-knit family, and it’s very out of the ordinary that he would be not in contact for even 24 hours,” Ravi told WPRI. “He spoke with his aunt, he spoke with his grandmother Friday night, he texted with my mum, all normal activities, and then his cell phone was left in his apartment along with his wallet and ID, which is totally atypical for him.”
The FBI and other agencies launched a search of Providence, Rhode Island, and nearby cities after he was reported missing, but no trace was found.
Over the past month, Ravi has appeared on local and national networks appealing for help to find his sibling, the youngest of three.
At the time he went missing, Sunil Tripathi was on approved leave from the Ivy League school, meaning that he had requested and was granted time off but remained a student there.
Sunil had taken the time off to figure out exactly what he wanted to do, Ravi told WPRI.
He described his brother as a quiet person who enjoyed the little things in life. His preferred food was vegetarian and he was a talented saxophonist, the family said.
“Our concerns are first and foremost with Sunil and his family,” Margaret Klawunn, vice president for student life and campus services at Brown University, said last month. “We are hopeful that by encouraging the Brown community to help spread the word that Sunil will be located.”
Sunil had been living in Providence since 2008 but grew up in Radnor, Pennsylvania.
The family, including Sunil’s sister, Sangeeta, tried to find him by re-creating the sequence of events early on March 16, in the hope of finding a clue to where he might have gone. They also got the word out by posting fliers, canvassing the area, working with law enforcement and sought to harness the power of social media.
A tweet a week ago on the family’s Twitter page, Finding Sunny, said: “Sunny day. We’re out in Providence postering away – learning the nooks and crannies of every block of this town…. “
A moving video was posted on YouTube on April 8, simply titled “For Sunny,” in which family and friends appeal for him to come home, telling him how much they love him and want to see him.
The family “want to know that he’s safe,” Ravi told WPRI just six days before the Boston bombing. “All we really want to know is that he’s around and that he’s okay.
“And we would like him to know that we love him deeply and we miss him a lot.”