A law student and former female Marine has been found dead in Russia after she accepted a ride from a stranger and texted her mom cryptically, “I hope I’m not being abducted,” reports said on Monday.
California resident Catherine Serou’s body was discovered Saturday morning in a wooded area outside in western Russia where she was living roughly an hour after a man, 44, was arrested in connection with her disappearance, according to NPR and the Moscow Times.
“Serou, 34, a master’s student at Lobachevsky University and a former Marine, disappeared Tuesday evening after getting into an unidentified vehicle outside her residence in Nizhny Novgorod’s Bor suburb,” the Moscow Times reported. “Her mother Beccy Serou told NPR that her last message from her daughter read: ‘In a car with a stranger. I hope I’m not being abducted.’
“A search-and-rescue team involving more than 100 volunteers found Serou’s body on Saturday morning after two days of combing the forests north of the Bor district,” the paper added.
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow released a statement following news of Serou’s death, saying that officials are “closely monitoring” the investigation by Russian authorities and are giving “all appropriate assistance” to her family.
Beccy Serou said her daughter wanted to study in Russia and learn Russian before applying for law school in the U.S. with the ultimate goal of becoming an immigration attorney, NPR reported.
She added that her daughter was in a hurry to get back to a clinic in Nizhny Novgorod to clear up an issue with a payment that had not gone through. Her mother also speculated that because she was in a hurry, she may have taken a ride with a stranger while waiting for her Uber to show up.
“I think that when she saw that the person wasn’t driving to the clinic, but instead was driving into a forest, she panicked,” Beccy Serou told NPR. “Her telephone last pinged off a cell tower in that forest.”
The mother, who is a paralegal, said she last saw her daughter about two years ago when she sold a condo in California to help finance her studies abroad in Russia. She said she and her daughter stayed in constant touch with daily phone calls. She added that her daughter was enjoying studying in Russia.
“She loved the university,” Ms. Serou, of Vicksburg, Miss., said. “It has very small classes, extremely good teachers and she had many friends outside the university as well.”
Catherine Serou, who served one combat tour in Afghanistan, was seen in a surveillance video looking out of the passenger window of a silver vehicle around the time she disappeared.
After she went missing, reports noted that more than 100 people volunteered to search local forests last week looking for any signs of her. The man accused in connection with her death has not been identified in news reports yet, but he is said to be cooperating. He also has prior convictions, the Moscow Times reported.
Catherine appeared in a video that was posted online by Russian news outlet NN.ru in which she is seen laughing about and discussing cultural differences between Russia and the United States, including the celebration of Halloween.
Lobachevsky University is located about 250 miles east of Moscow. Serou had already obtained a bachelor’s degree in design and a master’s in art history from UC-Davis in California.
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