Body Identified as Missing Student in Philadelphia
A woman found slain in a park was identified as a medical student who had vanished while out running last weekend, authorities said Friday.
An autopsy confirmed that the body found late Thursday was Rebecca Park, a student at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine from Olney, Md., police Inspector William Colarulo said. He said the cause of death was homicide.
Park appeared to have been strangled and may have been sexually assaulted, Homicide Capt. Charles Bloom said. Investigators won’t know for certain until more tests are done.
Police found the body -- clad only in a jogging bra, sneakers and socks -- in Fairmont Park under wood and leaves on a steep hillside, less than a mile from Park’s garden apartment.
“We don’t know if this was an acquaintance or if this was a stranger,” Bloom said.
Park’s body was found after a news report about the missing student prompted calls to police from people who said they had heard a disturbance in the area at about the time Park was running, Bloom said.
“This is only partial closure. We won’t have complete closure until the person who did this is brought to justice,” said the victim’s brother, Rudy Park, 32, who traveled from Los Angeles earlier this week to help search for his sister.
Park, 30, had told her boyfriend she was going running about 4 p.m. Sunday. She typically ran a two-mile route through the park, past police stables where she enjoyed watching the horses, Det. Michael Chitwood said Friday.
The boyfriend, a fellow medical student, went to police Tuesday to report her missing. Chitwood said investigators had feared foul play because Park was a fourth-year medical student and a second lieutenant in the Army Reserves, so “her life is very orderly.” The boyfriend, who was not identified, is not a suspect, Chitwood said.
Police said they were interviewing friends, co-workers and fellow students and were trying to determine whether the attack was random or the work of someone who knew Park.
“We’re in the process of reviewing any type of assault [and] sexual assault in that area. Right now, we’re not coming up with anything,” Bloom said.
Carol Weisl, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, called Park’s death “heartbreaking.” She said counselors and security officials would visit the campus to offer grief counseling and personal safety tips.
Fairmount Park covers 8,900 acres and includes winding creeks, nature trails, ball fields and picnic areas.