Remains of missing Indiana art teacher identified in Puerto Rico, remembered as a ‘supportive' friend

Friends remember Amanda Webster as beloved teacher, who kids always wanted to be around.

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What to Know

  • Amanda Webster was first reported missing Oct. 11, when her Airbnb host at a vacation rental in Puerto Rico found her rental car and belongings still at the property after her scheduled departure date.
  • Days later, remains that police said "could be that of a woman" were discovered in a rocky area of a river.
  • The remains have been positively identified as Webster, Puerto Rican authorities said Thursday.

A body found in Puerto Rico has been identified as missing Indiana teacher Amanda Webster, the Puerto Rico Forensic Sciences Institute said in a Thursday statement.

Webster, 44, was first reported missing Oct. 11 by her Airbnb host in the east coast town of Naguabo. The host found her bags and rental car at the home after she was supposed to have left.

Days later, Puerto Rico police said they found a body that “could be that of a woman” in a rocky area of a river in the Rio Blanco neighborhood. 

The circumstances surrounding her death remain unclear.

Last week, Webster’s brother traveled to the area to help identify the body. Her dental records and a DNA sample were used during the investigation. 

On Thursday, the institute said it “corroborated through DNA analysis (Rapid DNA) that the body of a female found in Naguabo is that of tourist Amanda Webster.” 

A cause of death has not been determined and remains under investigation, the release said.

Webster landed in Puerto Rico the Monday before her disappearance. She was sending pictures and videos of herself on vacation to her friends throughout the trip, according to her friend of three years, Heather Clark. 

“She traveled a lot and usually on her own,” Clark told NBC late last week, after the remains were discovered. “She likes to get away sometimes and recharge… she told us she had a lot to share when she got home.” 

Clark said Webster had asked several of her friends earlier this year to join her on the trip, but said she planned to travel there whether they came, or not. 

On Tuesday morning she sent a video of a waterfall view on her Airbnb’s porch and her coffee sitting on the railing. 

“That was the last we heard in our group chat,” Clark said. 

On Thursday morning, Clark got a call from a mutual friend saying Webster was missing. 

Clark said she was in disbelief and decided to gather with the rest of their friend group to support each other. 

“A lot of us gathered together just, you know, sitting on her porch and… sharing stories,” Clark said. 

Webster, who “never met a stranger,” had an indelible impact on her life, Clark said. 

The two met at a tarot reading class where they became great friends. Webster loved kayaking, hiking, camping and coffee. 

She was also a supportive friend, known to stop in and check on the people around her.

That same nature brought her to teaching, Clark said. Webster was an art teacher at Thompson Crossing Elementary School in Franklin Township in Indianapolis, where she saw about 500 kids a week.

“They all just loved her,” Clark said. “She said sometimes it would take her 15 minutes to get out of the building because they all wanted to hug her.” 

Michelle Nance, who worked with Webster for five years at another Indianapolis school, said the teacher had that same impact on her coworkers. 

Nance said Webster encouraged her to go back to school and finish her teaching degree. 

“She was also our therapist,” Nance said. “We would call her if we had a personal problem and we could always go talk with her about things.” 

Nance reflected on the impact Webster had on her life and said she wishes she could thank Webster for being a supportive friend. 

“She did a lot for me,” Nance said. “We moved here in 2011. I was seven months pregnant, no friends, no family. So, she became like a big sister to me.”

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