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Lawrence police confirm death of KU grad student from Peru

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, at 12:48 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, at 12:23 a.m.

Lawrence police have confirmed a body discovered Monday afternoon was that of missing graduate student Gianfranco Villagomez-Saldana.

The body of the 23-year-old Peruvian man was found in the grass outside a home at 837 Avalon Drive. Police said it was near where Villagomez-Saldana last was seen early Saturday morning, but in the opposite direction from where he reportedly was headed.

Authorities did not release his name until they contacted a relative of Villagomez-Saldana, who arrived at Kansas City International Airport on Monday. Investigators are awaiting autopsy results to determine the cause of death. There was no indication of foul play, police said.

Villagomez-Saldana had been out with friends, including other international students, and was walking home when he was last seen. Friends said it was unlike Villagomez-Saldana not to contact them or return to his apartment.

Investigators were looking to speak with 30 to 40 people who attended the gathering, Sgt. Trent McKinley said Tuesday.

On Tuesday, University of Kansas officials said they were grieving Villagomez-Saldana’s death.

“On behalf of the entire University of Kansas community, I offer my condolences to the family and friends of Gianfranco Villagomez-Saldana,” Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said in a prepared statement. “His loved ones who searched long hours over these past frigid days for a sign of hope also are grieving now, and my thoughts are with them as well.”

Villagomez-Saldana had earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial design in May and was working on a master’s degree in engineering. Since September, he had worked in the KU Libraries’ International Area Studies as a student assistant for the Spanish, Portuguese, Latin American and Caribbean area, according to school officials.

“Gianfranco brought a broad range of skills and talents to his work,” Lorraine J. Haricombe, dean of libraries, said in a statement. “He was creative, detail-oriented and dedicated to his studies.”

Library colleagues said they would remember Villagomez-Saldana for his outgoing and friendly personality, Haricombe said.

“His charisma and enthusiasm were contagious, and we will miss his presence terribly here in Watson Library. Our hearts … go out to Gianfranco’s family and close friends at this time of immense loss,” she said in the statement.

To reach Glenn E. Rice, call 816-234-4341 or send email to grice@kcstar.com.

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