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EMU Student's Death Investigated As Apparent Homicide

YPSILANTI (WWJ/AP) - The death of a 23-year-old Eastern Michigan University student at an off-campus apartment is being investigated as a homicide.

Police say Julia Niswender was found dead around 9:15 p.m. Tuesday inside a unit at the Peninsular Place Apartments on Huron River Drive, located across the street from the campus police station in Ypsilanti.

A cause of death was not disclosed and Ypsilanti police haven't released additional details.

Police were called to Niswender's apartment after a roommate said she hadn't been seen in several days, university President Susan Martin said in a statement to students and faculty.

EMU Police Chief Robert Heighes said he was putting extra officers on patrol as campus police work with Ypsilanti police on the case. Heighes and Martin spoke to students at a public forum Wednesday.

"Our campus is safer than ever," Martin said.

Niswender's friend, Jacob McLaughlin, said his last contact with her was Sunday when he received a text message wishing him a happy birthday. He said she didn't report to work Monday at a Walmart store in Saline.

"Her passing is extremely shocking," said friend Andrew Hoppert, who knew Niswender at Monroe High School, where she graduated in 2008. "Julia was very social and had a large group of friends. ... She had roommates, at least one. She would have never lived alone. That wasn't Julia's style."

Niswender was a junior in the communications, media and theater department, Martin said. She started taking classes at EMU after a few years at a community college.

Josh Parcha, an EMU student and former classmate, described Julia as a "hard-working colleague with a bubbly personality and clever ideas."

Julia was closest with her twin sister, Jennifer, a recent EMU graduate. They even formerly worked together at a Meijer store in Monroe.

"Those two were inseparable. They could not get enough being around each other," Hoppert told The Associated Press.

Niswender was interested in broadcasting and had met CNN's Anderson Cooper during a trip to New York, McLaughlin said.

"It's final exams, holidays," he said. "That puts a lot of pressure on college students. But I don't think anything of any nature like that would have gotten to her."

At this time, investigators have no information about a possible suspect.

Anyone who might have information is asked to contact Ypsilanti police at 734-482-9878 or Crime Stopper at 1-800-SPEAK-UP.

A website has been established to provide the latest updates on the investigation into Niswender's death, as well as campus safety and security information. Counseling is available for students and others in the EMU family. Those interested may contact Counseling and Psychological Services at 734-487-1118.

TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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