The state medical examiner’s office has ruled the death of Anna Smith – an Appalachian State University freshman whose disappearance in early September touched off a massive search in the western highlands – a suicide.
Smith went about 100 feet into the woods and tied a blue strap to a tree limb, then asphyxiated herself, said an investigative report by the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Raleigh.
Smith, 18, from High Point, was last seen the night of Sept. 2 at Mountaineer Hall, which is at the top of the mountainside campus in Boone. Her body was found Sept. 13 in an advanced state of decomposition with a note she wrote in steep woods near campus, about 300 yards behind Mountaineer Hall off Poplar Grove Road. Widespread searches of the campus and areas in Western North Carolina where Smith was known to hike were conducted after she vanished.
Franklin Pippen, a physician assistant and medical examiner in Watauga County, visited the scene where Smith’s body was found, and Dr. Patrick Lantz conducted the autopsy at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem. Pippen left the cause of death as pending, and it was declared a suicide during a review on Oct. 28 in Raleigh.
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No signs of drugs were found in the body during the autopsy, which found that Smith had a history of depression. Smith had been in a personal crisis in the week before her disappearance, a spokesman for the family has said.