US Scientist Found Dead in Cretan WWII Bunker Suffocated

In this undated photo provided by her family, showing Suzanne Eaton, a 59-year-old molecular biologist. (AP Photo)

CHANIA, Crete – American molecular biologist Suzanne Eaton, whose body was found in an abandoned World War II bunker on Crete after she had been missing a week, was suffocated, a police spokesman said, multiple news outlets reported.

That came after authorities on July 10 said her death was the result of a “criminal act,” but the details of how she was asphyxiated nor how it happened or if someone had done it were not revealed so far.

An autopsy found the cause of death of the scientist, who was working at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany. She was believed to have gone on a run on July 2 in Crete, her family said on Search for Suzanne, a Facebook page they set up for her before the body was found.

Eaton was attending a conference at the Orthodox Academy of Crete, on Greece’s largest island, which she had done in years past. Eaton typically ran for 30 minutes every day, her family said, according to People magazine.

In this undated photo provided by her family, showing American 59-year-old molecular biologist Suzanne Eaton. A state coroner on Wednesday, July 10, 2019, on the Greek island of Crete says that the body of a woman believed to be the missing American scientist had died as a result of a “criminal act” although her identity still has to be confirmed, after Eaton was reported missing last week. (AP Photo)

Her family said she had gone for a run on the day before she  vanished though details of where she was going remain unknown. Her cell phone and other belongings were left in her hotel room.

The police said officers from Athens including homicide detectives had traveled to the island to head the investigation.

The coroner, Antonis Papadomanolakis said he believed she died around the time she was last seen, on July 2 and initially said the remains were being checked to make sure it was Eaton although it wasn’t said what condition the body was in when found.

Authorities had launched a major search for Eaton in rural areas near Chania, helped by members of her family and fire service rescuers from Athens.

“We showed respect for her remains which were found in a tunnel,” Fire Service rescue team leader Nikolaos Papaleonidas said. “The recovery operation was not difficult but it followed an extensive search effort. The tunnel was about 100 meters (yards) from a rural road,” he added.

When conference-goers noticed she had not turned up to scheduled events, they found a bright-pink shirt and running shoes missing from her room and realized she had apparently failed to return from one of her daily 30-minute runs, the Mercury News in San Jose, California said. She is a native of Oakland, Calif.

Eaton lived in Armonk, New York, before earning a Bachelor’s degree in biology from Brown University and a Ph.D in microbiology from UCLA.

Family members who were in Greece when she went missing worked with authorities and coordinated with friends to raise $40,844 on Facebook to aid search efforts and donate to organizations that volunteer time and resources for the search, the paper said.

The Missing Pieces Network, which had offered a $50,000-euro reward for information, said in a Facebook post that she was found inside a cave in the Cretan village of Xiaomodochori, about six miles from where she was last seen.

“Suzanne was an outstanding and inspiring scientist, a loving spouse and mother, an athlete as well as a truly wonderful person beloved to us all,” the German institute wrote in a statement.

“Her loss is unbearable. Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband Tony, her sons Max and Luke, and with all her family,” a tragic loss.

 

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)