BRIDGEWATER, Conn. – Divers searching a lake in rural western Connecticut on Wednesday found a body matching the description of a college student missing since Monday, police said.
Joseph Zahornacky of Shelton, a junior at Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y., disappeared Monday night while driving from LaGuardia International Airport to the college, police said. Family members said he had been in Los Angeles visiting friends and a girlfriend he met while studying abroad in Spain.
A police officer from neighboring Brookfield noticed Zahornacky's 2000 Jeep Cherokee abandoned and sinking shortly before dawn Tuesday off a boat launch in Lake Lillinonah, nearly 50 miles from his college, police said.
After two days of searching in frigid water, divers found a body Wednesday that police said appears to be Zahornacky's. It was being taken to the chief state medical examiner's office for identification. A police spokesman could not provide details about whether there were signs of trauma.
Also Wednesday, police and family members were reviewing surveillance video from Monday night that showed Zahornacky talking with a petite redhead at a convenience store in Greenwich. Records show he also bought gas at a station in the town, which is not far from the New York line.
A family friend said it would not have been unusual for Zahornacky to stop in Greenwich on his way back to school, and his brother said Zahornacky was a friendly person who might have given the redheaded woman a ride. Family members did not recognize her.
Zahornacky's family and state troopers said there was no apparent reason for him to be in Bridgewater.
He had called his mother and a friend later Monday night to say he was on the road and within 20 minutes of arriving at college. No one could reach him after that, police and family members said.
Stratford resident Pam Bashar, a longtime friend of the Zahornacky family, described him Wednesday as a responsible young man who kept in touch with his mother.
His brother, Michael Zahornacky IV, said his mother was the last person Joseph Zahornacky talked to. They discussed the possibility of him switching his major to sociology, and he planned to talk to an adviser Tuesday, Michael Zahornacky said.