Human Remains Found in Northwest Indiana Pond Believed to Belong to Missing Woman, Authorities Say

A fisherman reported snagging what appeared to be a human foot in a pond in Indiana

Human remains found in a pond in northwestern Indiana may belong to a missing mother who disappeared last month while heading to her first day of work at a Panera Bread restaurant, authorities said. 

Police in Avon, Indiana said Tuesday "remains" found in Crown Point, Indiana "have been preliminarily identified as Najah Ferrell." 

Police responded Monday afternoon in Crown Point after a fisherman reported snagging what appeared to be a human foot, the Northwest Indiana Times reports.

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Crown Point police Chief Pete Land said in a statement that officers on the scene confirmed the remains were human.

According to a statement later issued Tuesday evening by the Avon department chief, “Crown Point will resume search efforts on Thursday...I’m not sure if that will generate new info to share or not, but we want to clarify that we are transitioning to a death investigation and articulate why."

A press conference is scheduled to take place Wednesday afternoon to give updates on the ongoing case.

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The Lake County coroner's office said late Monday that remains had been found. Law enforcement officials returned to the area Tuesday to search the pond. 

Crown Point detectives and Lake County Coroner investigators said they were able to "clearly identified a distinct tattoo" on the foot, which included "what appeared to be the Najah," authorities said in a release Tuesday afternoon. The tattoo "closely matches" one Najah Ferrell reportedly had, but police were awaiting DNA test results to officially identify the remains. 

"We will continue to assist the Avon Police Department in any way we can in their investigation," Crown Point Police Chief Peter Land said in a statement. "Hopefully the results of their DNA testing will aide them in reaching a resolution in their ongoing case." 

Ferrell disappeared on March 15 after leaving her home in Avon, a suburb of Indianapolis, to go to work at Panera Bread. The 30-year-old mother of two, who also serves as a foster parent, never made it to work and her family said that was the last time they saw her.

"She got up for work and told [her fiancé] to get the kids out, because she had to go in,” Ferrell's mother Paula Gholson told NBC affiliate WTHR. “He said that's the last time he saw her."

Her vehicle was later found near the restaurant in the parking lot of a Studio Movie Grill, according to WTHR. Some of her personal belongings were later found along Interstate 65 near Lafayette Road in an area full of brush, trees and woods.  

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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