Search for Missing New York College Student Focuses on Wooded Area

  • Watson, pictured left, is a junior dance major at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa.

    Watson, pictured left, is a junior dance major at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa.

Police in upstate New York were following up on leads Thursday for any clues in the case of a missing college student who disappeared last week while home for her Thanksgiving break.

Search and rescue teams in Clay, N.Y. -- about 14 miles outside of Syracuse -- have scoured a 600-acre wooded area near the home of 20-year-old Jenni-Lyn Watson, who was last seen Friday inside her Liverpool home.

Kelly Kinahan, a spokeswomen for the family, told that authorities are focusing on the two-mile stretch of wooded land because that is where Watson's cell phone was last used. 

Watson, an accomplished ballerina and dance major in her junior year at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa., was reported missing by her family on Friday. She had returned home from school on Nov. 18 for Thanksgiving vacation.

Her parents and sister reported last seeing her Friday morning, wearing a tan sweatshirt and blue, green and white pajamas. There was no sign of a struggle inside the home, police said. 

"This is completely out of character," Kinahan said of Watson, whom she described as a talented and caring young woman.

Kinahan said she was "exhausted" from having just finished final exams and "her plans were to do nothing but rest for two days."

"She's always in contact with families and friends," Kinahan said.

Watson -- 5-feet-2 and 100 lbs. with dirty blond hair and brown eyes -- was reported missing after her family returned to their home Friday afternoon and found her gone. Her Verizon LG enV3 cell phone with a blue cover was also missing, but Watson's purse -- including her wallet and keys -- were left at the home, police sources told

Sgt. Robert Marshall of the Onondaga County Sheriff's Office said there are currently no leads or persons of interest in the case. 

Marshall also said that police are looking to question the driver of a dark-colored pick-up truck that was seen driving in the area on the day Watson disappeared. He said the vehicle was spotted near the woman's home between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Onondaga County Undersheriff Warren Darby says the search for Watson has expanded from 600 acres to 1,200 acres. He says rescuers will resume searching Saturday.

Friends describe Watson as a "sweetheart" who excelled in ballet for 16 years, performing with the prestigious Moscow Ballet.

A friend of Watson's, who spoke to on condition of anonymity, said the young woman had recently broken off an engagement.

"The break-up didn't go as cordially as it should have," the friend said.

Approximately 15,000 fliers with Watson's photo have been distributed. As of Thursday morning, a Facebook page devoted to her disappearance had drawn more than 22,000 members.

Family members held a vigil for Watson at a local church on Wednesday.

"Thank you to our friends, family and community for all of their love, support and efforts with posting fliers and raising awareness to help bring Jenni-Lyn home safe and soon," the family said in a statement. "Please continue with your prayers." 

Authorities are urging anyone with information on Watson's whereabouts to contact sheriff's detectives at 315-435-3081.

Cristina Corbin is a Fox News reporter based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @CristinaCorbin.