A week and a half after SUNY Buffalo State College student Saniyya Dennis was reported missing, authorities said Thursday they believe that she died by suicide.
The determination follows an "exhaustive" search and review of records that involved at least 10 law enforcement agencies, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said at a news conference during which he offered details of what investigators learned.
"It appears that this poor girl took her own life," Flynn told reporters, joined by members of the University Police and the State Park Police.
Dennis, 19, of the Bronx, was a sophomore and honors student majoring in mechanical engineering technology. She was reported missing April 26 after family members were unable to reach her.
Investigators were able to piece together her whereabouts on April 24 through surveillance camera footage, cellphone records and interviews with two people who Dennis was in communication with that day and into the night.
Flynn said police now know that Dennis had told at least two people she was thinking about suicide that day. Surveillance camera footage showed her leaving her dorm building in Buffalo, throwing away personal belongings in trash can, taking two buses up to Niagara Falls and walking in the park shortly after midnight. Cellphone records showed she was sending and receiving texts until 1:23 a.m. when her phone was either turned off or destroyed, Flynn said. K9 search dogs tracked her scent in the park as well.
However, her body has not been recovered.
"Without a body, without an autopsy being done, we're never going to definitively know," Flynn said. "All I can do is present you with what I have and what I presented ... everything that I had ... to her parents."
Regardless, helicopter searches will continue, Flynn said.
Buffalo State is offering help to students through its Counseling Center, which can be reached at 878-4436. Faculty and staff members should contact the college's Employee Assistance Program.
Crisis Services in Erie County offers a free, 24-hour hotline for anyone experiencing a personal, emotional or mental health crisis. The number is 716-834-3131. Crisis Services in Niagara County also has a 24-hour help line at 716-285-3515.
People in crisis also can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.