Crime & Courts

Autopsy indicates AppState student committed suicide by asphyxia

Preliminary results from an autopsy conducted on Anna Smith indicate the Appalachian State University freshman committed suicide, the Boone Police Department said Wednesday.

Smith’s body was found Saturday in a rugged thicket on the edge of campus. She vanished nearly two weeks earlier, a mystery that stoked fears in Boone and on the ASU campus. Police said they were releasing the possible suicide determination to quash speculation that a killer might be on the loose in the college town of 17,000.

People familiar with the scene said Smith’s body was found hanging in the woods off Poplar Grove Road near Mountaineer Hall, where the 18-year-old freshman was last seen on the night of Sept. 2. However, in a statement Wednesday Boone police Chief Dana Crawford said investigators are keeping an open mind about the investigation until all leads had been followed.

“We know that this information gives the appearance that this was not a homicide, but we must do everything within our power to make sure,” Crawford said in a statement. “We will continue to work toward the goal of answering as many questions about Anna’s death as possible.”

A medical examiner in Winston-Salem conducted the autopsy Monday. Among the initial findings:

• Smith’s body had signs of asphyxia.

• Smith had no injuries on her head, neck, chest or pelvic region.

• Decomposition was consistent with the amount of time Smith had been missing.

Dr. Patrick Lantz, the medical examiner who did the autopsy and an expert in both forensic and pediatric pathology, has tests pending and is awaiting the results of toxicology screens, which generally measure any drugs, alcohol or other chemicals or substances ingested and could take up to two months.

Smith, a history major from High Point, had been distraught from a personal crisis in her first weeks of college, her family has said. She was last seen alive when she took a Mountaineer SafeRide, a van service that shuttles students around after dark, from the Holmes Convocation Center to a parking lot near the dormitory Mountaineer Hall about 10:30 p.m. Sept. 2.

She was found in a wooded area about 300 yards behind Mountaineer Hall about 10:30 a.m. Saturday after a nearly two-week search. Her backpack and red leather purse were found nearby, as was a note, apparently written by Smith. Authorities have not disclosed the contents of the note.

A service will be held 7 p.m. Friday at Archdale United Methodist Church with a balloon release.

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