US scientist was suffocated in Greece, body found covered with burlap in Nazi-era bunker

An American scientist who went missing last week in Greece and later was found dead in an abandoned World War II bunker was suffocated, authorities said Wednesday, as new details were revealed about where her body was discovered.

Suzanne Eaton, a 59-year-old molecular biologist at the Max Planck Institute in Dresden, Germany, was last seen on July 2 near the port of Chania, on the Greek island of Crete. Colleagues at the conference had told authorities they believed she had gone for a run in the area.

Greek police discovered her body Monday in a man-made cave that was used as a bunker during the Nazi occupation of Crete, located about 6 miles from where Eaton was last seen.

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On Wednesday, state coroner Antonis Papadomanolakis said that Eaton died as a result of a "criminal act."

In this undated photo provided by her family, showing Suzanne Eaton, a 59-year-old molecular biologist.

In this undated photo provided by her family, showing Suzanne Eaton, a 59-year-old molecular biologist. (AP Photo)

Local police told the Greek Reporter that an examination of Eaton's body determined she died as a result of suffocation.

"What is definite is that we are talking about homicide. Also, there was no sign of death by gun," an unidentified official in the medical examiner's office told the outlet.

The 59-year-old's body was discovered in a cave in a rural area near Chania, located on the westernmost side of Crete. Fire service rescue team leader Nikolaos Papaleonidas said the recovery came after an "extensive search effort." The bunker was located about 330 feet from a nearby road, according to Sky News.

AMERICAN SCIENTIST WHO WENT MISSING IN GREECE AFTER GOING FOR A RUN FOUND DEAD IN CAVE, RESEARCH INSTITUTE SAYS

Eaton's body was located about 200 feet from the entrance to the bunker, "bruised" and covered in burlap, according to the Greek Reporter.

Suzanne Eaton, seen in this undated photo, was reported missing on July 2.

Suzanne Eaton, seen in this undated photo, was reported missing on July 2. (Biotechnology Center of the TU Dresden)

Papadomanolakis told the AP he believed the woman died around the time she was last seen, on July 2.

Officials are not yet sure if the crime was committed at the scene, or if the 59-year-old was killed elsewhere and disposed of in the cave, Greek news outlet Ekathimerini reported.

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Eaton had been attending a conference in Crete. The Max Planck Institute called her death a "tragic demise."

According to a Facebook page set up by her family to raise awareness of her disappearance, some 70 others who were at the conference joined in with the search.

Eaton, originally from Oakland, California, was the wife of British scientist Tony Hyman and the mother of two sons, Max and Luke, according to the institute. Hyman and his sons traveled to Crete upon news of her disappearance.

In a statement posted to the page, the scientist's niece said she was "forever grateful for the support we’ve received from this global community of caring people over the last week."

"We cannot comment on anything at this time, but I will post a message here when the time is appropriate," Callie Broaddus said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.