Thu, 05 Aug 2021

Russian authorities say they have detained a suspect after the body of an American graduate student who went missing this week in the Nizhny Novgorod region of Russia was thought to have been discovered after a three-day search.

Police opened a criminal investigation when 34-year-old Catherine Serou was unaccounted for after she got into a car 'with a stranger' earlier in the week.

'Today, as a result of a large-scale search operation, the girl's body was discovered,' the federal Investigative Committee said in a statement, without naming the victim.

They said a local man in his 40s with previous convictions for 'grave and especially grave crimes' had been detained 'on suspicion of committing murder.'

Serou's mother, who is in Mississippi, told U.S. National Public Radio (NPR) that she last heard from her daughter in a text message that said: 'In a car with a stranger. I hope I'm not being abducted.'

She said her daughter may have hitched a ride as she was in a hurry to reach a clinic where a payment had not gone through, the station said.

Officers and more than 100 volunteers were said to have been searching a forested area outside the city, which is about 400 kilometers east of Moscow.

Serou was a former Marine who served a tour in Afghanistan, NPR said.

She had reportedly sold her California condominium two years ago to finance her trip to Russia to study the language before applying for law school.

She enrolled in a master's program in law at Lobachevsky University in Nizhny Novgorod in the fall of 2019, according to NPR.

A local Russian search-and-rescue group, Rys (Lynx), whose volunteers were helping in the search, posted news of the discovery of the body and expressed condolences to Serou's family.

With reporting by RIA Novosti and AP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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