Catherine Serou, a 34-year-old California law student and former marine, was discovered in a forest outside the Bor neighborhood where she resided in western Russia on Saturday morning. She was found after a 44-year-old man was arrested in connection with her case. Serou was found dead after going missing on Tuesday, according to a statement from Russia's Investigative Committee.
US student's mother received a suspicious message before she went missing
The American student vanished after getting into a car with a stranger in a Nizhny Novgorod suburb, 250 miles east of Moscow, on the Volga River. Serou's final communication with her mother in Vicksburg, Miss., was a text message telling her mother that she is in a car with someone she doesn't know and she hopes she is not being abducted, NPR reported.
According to the nn.ru news site, Serou's body was discovered early Saturday morning, one hour after the suspect was arrested. A photo shows Serou staring out of the open passenger window of a silver vehicle was released by a tabloid website. The photo was presumably captured by a surveillance camera.
The US Embassy in Moscow said in a statement that it was closely monitoring the local authorities' inquiry and that it was giving all necessary support to Serou's family. Serou began a master's degree program in law at Lobachevsky University in Nizhny Novgorod in the fall of 2019, said her mother, Beccy Serou. Catherine Serou intended to learn Russian before enrolling in law school in the United States and pursuing a career as an immigration lawyer.
She served in the Marine Corps and completed one tour in Afghanistan before attending the University of California, Davis, where she earned a bachelor's degree in design and a master's degree in art history. Serou went missing after sending a text message to her mother on Thursday, prompting regional authorities to start a possible murder investigation.
Residents of Bor, the Nizhny Novgorod suburb where Serou resided, and the nearby areas were asked to offer any information on her disappearance. The forests north of Bor, where Serou's phone was last picked up, were searched by police and volunteers.
According to her mother, Serou was in a rush on Tuesday to return to a clinic in Nizhny Novgorod where she had made a payment that didn't go through, so she may have gotten into a passing car instead of waiting for her Uber. Catherine sold her California condo to support her studies in Russia, and Beccy Serou, a paralegal, last saw her daughter approximately two years ago.
They stayed in touch with daily phone calls, and Beccy Serou said her daughter was enjoying her time abroad. A video posted by the nn.ru news site less than a year ago shows Catherine Serou laughing and bantering in Russian and English as she explained cultural differences between Russia and the United States.
Suspect charged in the death of US student in Russia
A man in his early 40s has been detained and is cooperating with investigations, said the investigating committee. His identity is being kept confidential. However, Russian press reports say the suspect's name is Alexander Popov, and he has a history of violent acts.
According to the local court, the suspect offered her a ride in his car, then drove her to the wooded area, where she was beaten and stabbed "in the course of a disagreement."
If convicted of murder, he may spend the rest of his life in jail. CNN reported that the suspect has been caught and charged with murder. He will be held in custody until August 15, said the Gorodetsky City Court.