Police Investigate Death of Young Ohio Woman in Italy

Italian police are investigating the death of a young Ohio woman whose body was found Wednesday in Italy, three days after she disappeared while out jogging.

Allison Owens, 23, who was working as a tour guide in Italy, is thought to have been struck by a vehicle as she ran by the side of a road in the Tuscan town of San Giovanni di Valdarno, south of Florence. Investigators have not ruled out other possible reasons for her death, Italian news agency ANSA reported Wednesday.

"This is an unbelievable tragedy that's come to this family," Cynthia Kinman, a neighbor of the Owens family in Columbus, told FoxNews.com. "She was an angel from the day she was born."

Owens, a 2010 graduate of Southern Methodist University, arrived in the town Saturday after finishing a tour and was last seen a day later at around 3:00 p.m. local time, according to family members. Her employer reported her missing the following morning. A large search was launched Monday involving police with sniffer dogs and civil protection units.

Her body was discovered half-submerged in a drainage ditch by a passerby. The ditch is not visible from passing vehicles, according to multiple Italian media reports.

The U.S. Consulate in Florence confirmed to FoxNews.com that it is actively involved in the investigation with Italian police but declined to comment further on the case.

Owens was working as a tour guide for a California-based travel company called Backroads. The company says she was hired in May 2011 and began working in Europe in June. She operated tours in both Switzerland and Italy.

"It is with great sadness that we received news that investigators located Allison's body today," said Backroads employee Massimo Prioreschi. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to Allison's family and friends."

Owens' uncle, Scott McCauley, said the young woman was working for the company for the past five or six months, traveling throughout Italy as well as Switzerland and other places in Europe. He said Owens did not have a permanent residence and arrived in San Giovanni di Valdarno, where she had visited before, after completing a tour on Saturday.

Owens' mother reportedly arrived at Florence airport Wednesday morning and was expected to be en route to San Giovanni di Valdarno. Official identification and an autopsy are pending.

"The SMU community mourns the loss of Allison Owens," the university said in a statement Wednesday. "We extend our thoughts and prayers to her family and other loved ones during this difficult time."

Susan Lasley, Head of School at Village Academy in Powell, Ohio, where Owens attended high school, described the young woman as an "exemplary student."

"She was just so well-liked by everyone," Lasley said, noting Owens' accomplishments and involvement in various activities from basketball to student Senate. She was also the school's homecoming queen, she said.

"She just brightened everyone’s day," Lasley said. "All of the alumni are devastated."

Newscore contributed to this report.