KALAMAZOO, Ind. (WOOD) — The body pulled Sunday from a northern Indiana lake is that of missing Kalamazoo doctor Teleka Patrick, Indiana State Police confirmed Wednesday.
During a news conference Wednesday, Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller said it appeared that Patrick, 30, accidentally drowned in Lake Charles in Porter, Ind.
“I do believe it’s as solved as it’s going to get,” Fuller said.
Fuller said authorities think Patrick, a first-year psychiatry resident at Borgess Medical Center, left Kalamazoo of her own free will on the night of Dec. 5, 2013. Her car was found later that night off I-94 near Porter, not far from Lake Charles.
Authorities believe Patrick drove for about two hours to Porter, got a flat tire and got out of the car along the highway. She then became lost, Fuller said, and accidentally wandered into the lake.
“(She) was found at that point five months and a day, to the day, in that same location, with no indications of any trauma. No indications of anything other than a possible accidental drowning,” Fuller said.
Foul play is not suspected, Fuller said. Officials are still waiting on toxicology results, but Fuller said they don’t believe the results will reveal anything new.
A fisherman spotted Patrick’s body in the lake Sunday morning. Badly decomposed, it needed to be identified via either fingerprints or dental records, Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris told 24 Hour News 8 Sunday.
Car keys, a pager and the $100 a co-worker gave her on Dec. 5 were also recovered at the lake, according to Fuller.
Lake Charles is about 50 yards from busy I-94, separated by a barbed wire fence.
“Back in December when this took place, there were more things between you and the lake. Again, it was at night. It may look like an open field when you’re walking to that area. But if you’re not familiar with the area, you could end up falling into the lake,” Fuller said.
Coworkers and others interviewed by investigators suggested Patrick was troubled the night she went missing. She had a history of unstable behavior and others who knew her confirmed that she sometimes took off when she was upset.
“In those cases , she would leave urgently. Whenever she left, it would be for a day or so. And in each case, it turns out that she would check into a motel or a hotel,” Fuller said.
Patrick attempted to check into a Kalamazoo hotel the night of Dec. 5, but could not get a room.
Authorities originally said Patrick then headed to visit a relative in Chicago, but Fuller said Wednesday investigators believe she was headed to St. Louis to meet up with an old acquaintance. That was initially withheld, Fuller said, because authorities considered Patrick voluntarily missing and did not want her to know they had an idea where she was.
“Had we disclosed that at that time, it would have shut the only door that we felt was open to her at that time,” Fuller said.
But as time passed with no word of Patrick, authorities began to suspect she was not alive any more.
“The longer that went, the less chance we thought we had of that, and the more that we realized that we really needed to focus as much as we could on the area we searched” near where Patrick’s car was found, Fuller said.
The sheriff said he hopes the identification of the body can bring some closure to Patrick’s family.
“Gratitude was expressed and concern for information. Of course they’re [Teleka’s family] concerned with what people are going to think of this case and I fully understand that,” Fuller said. “They are the ones living this thing, we are the ones working on it.”
Following the positive identification on Patrick’s body, Patrick’s family released the following statement Wednesday morning:
“Over the past several months, you have gotten to know Teleka Cassandra Patrick. You’ve gotten to know her how we knew her and you’ve seen her bright and caring smile. She was beautiful, intelligent, and God-fearing. You’ve prayed for Teleka, cried for Teleka, and worked to find Teleka and we thank you. We thank you for walking this difficult journey with our family.
Teleka’s death is not the ending we had hoped for, however, the journey does not end here. As we mourn Teleka, we must also honor her; honor the life she led, honor her kind spirit and honor her devotion to God and others. Teleka had a passion and zest for life and no matter the circumstances that led up to her death, we are certain that she would not have taken her own life. Many questions remain, but what is certain is that we will love her forever and her legacy will continue to live on in the love we show to others.
Thank you for your prayers. Please respect our privacy in this difficult time.”
Western Michigan University released this statement Wednesday:
“We are saddened by the news that the body pulled from an Indiana lake on Sunday, April 6 has been identified as Dr. Teleka Patrick. We offer our sincerest condolences to the Patrick family. Our thoughts and prayers remain with them during this difficult time.”