October 8, 2002

Few Clues in Search for Missing Cornell Student

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Nearly two weeks have passed since the mysterious disappearance of Ritesh Shetty grad, and investigators are still left with more questions than answers.

A joint search, conducted by members of the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office and the Cornell University Police, has so far yielded no clues, according to Simeon Moss, deputy director of the Cornell University News Service.

Moss described the investigation as “vigorous,” and said that “police are continuing to explore all possible leads.”

According to Capt. Joseph Vitale of the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office, the search effort has expanded to include members of the New York State Forest Rangers and State Police, who have assisted local authorities since Shetty was reported missing on Sept. 26. Search and rescue teams will begin a survey of the water in the area gorges this week, using probing techniques and bringing in divers for the deeper pools.

There were as many as 40 people on the case on Oct. 1, when law enforcement agents and volunteers assembled to canvass Ithaca’s gorges and the trails surrounding the area, according to Vitale. No evidence was uncovered.

Investigators also have focused on Shetty’s personal life, contacting friends and colleagues for clues as to his habits. By all accounts, Shetty seemed like the typical, highly motivated academic — spreading his time between work in his office at Olin Hall, studying in the library or relaxing in his apartment, Vitale said.

Response to missing person posters and media reports has been minimal, according to Vitale. There have been no reports of sightings, nor have any interviews of, for example, area bus drivers, proven fruitful.

The lack of answers has left many in anguish. In reaction to news of the Shetty’s disappearance, Niraj Shanbhag ’05 echoed the concerns voiced by many students.

“It was at first surprising,” Shanbhag said, “but now it’s eerie … How could something like this happen?”

However, Vitale commented that adult missing person cases are not always violent in nature.

“Sometimes [the individuals] want to be missing … thousands of people around the nation disappear, some trying to start again under a new identity,” he said.

Investigators have been careful not to speculate as to the circumstances of Shetty’s disappearance, but instead prefer to keep their options open.

In the coming week, police plan to continue following the electronic trial as well as monitoring Shetty’s bank cards and credit cards, which have yet to be used, according to Vitale.

Commenting on behalf of the University, Moss said that “Ritesh’s disappearance has caused considerable anguish amongst his family, friends, and associates … Everyone in the Cornell community is hoping and praying for his safe return.”

Archived article by Michael Dickstein