Note: This story has been updated at the end of the original article.
Michigan State University Police announced today that a body believed to be that of Brendan Santo — the Grand Valley State University student who has been missing since Oct. 29, 2021 — has been recovered from the Red Cedar River.
“After an extensive search, MSU Police and Public Safety and our law enforcement partners recovered a body in the Red Cedar River at 12:30 p.m. today in Lansing, approximately 1.5 miles downriver of where Brendan Santo was last seen. The body is believed to be that of Santo, but identification is still pending,” a press release from MSUPD reads.
Santo, an 18-year-old student at GVSU, was last seen alive on MSU’s campus. He had been visiting with friends at Yakeley Hall just before he disappeared.
Persistent rumors sprang up over the last few months claiming a body had been found in the river, but those were not accurate, as the search had continued. Police searching the river had for months focused on a particular area of the river, near the Sparty statue, the vicinity where Santo was last believed to be. The location of the body retrieved today turns out to be far from campus.
As the press release noted, “The search for Brendan has lasted more than 80 days, with assistance from multiple law enforcement agencies, civilian tips, and community support.”
MLive reported yesterday that a petition had recently been organized demanding that Mayor Ron Bacon order the damming of the river to try to find the body, with the petition reaching 7,500 signatures. Local emergency officials had deemed that idea ill-advised.
Said MSUPD in their statement today, “The Santo family has been informed and we are providing them with as much information and support as possible during this difficult time. We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to the Santo family and all those who knew Brendan.”
Foul play and self-harm have never been suspected by authorities in this case. ELi received multiple tips indicating that the young man had been drinking and may have been disoriented, leading to a tragic accidental drowning. At the time Santo went missing, the river was high and moving fast.
For those affiliated with MSU who are struggling with grief or other mental health needs, the MSU Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) is available 24/7 by calling 517-355-8270. The MSU Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available by calling 517-355-4506. Students at Grand Valley State University can also contact their University Counseling Center at 616-331-3266.
Update, Jan. 22, 2021, 9:20 a.m.: According to a post by Kendra Cassidy at Facebook, the body was in fact found by Ryan Robison, a private investigator working to help the Santo family. Cassidy accuses MSU of misleading the public about how the body was found. Read the post here.