MOSCOW, Idaho — A University of Idaho student who disappeared after leaving a fraternity house was found dead under a rural bridge several miles from campus, and police suspect he died of hypothermia after being asked to leave several homes.
The body of Joseph Wiederrick, 18, of Hailey, Idaho, was found Monday afternoon by trackers with the Latah County Search and Rescue Team under the Paradise Creek bridge, police said.
“At this point we don’t believe any foul play is suspected,” Moscow Police Chief David Duke told The Moscow-Pullman Daily News.
Wiederrick, a freshman, left a function at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house about 2 a.m. Sunday but never returned to his residence hall on the university campus, police said.
A woman reported finding him in the basement of her home around 3 a.m., Duke said.
“She asked him what he was doing there and he said he thought it was a fraternity house,” Duke said. The woman asked if Wiederrick was all right, and when he said he was, she asked him to leave, Duke said.
Another homeowner reported that Wiederrick knocked on his door about an hour later, Duke said.
Largely because of the late hour, “they got frightened and asked him to leave,” Duke said.
Based on tracks in the snow, Wiederrick knocked on a third door and apparently got no answer, police said.
He also phoned his roommate at some point and told him he was on his way home.
On Monday, a phone company tracked Wiederrick’s cellphone signal to a location about two miles north of the city, and that’s where the search began, authorities said.
Wiederrick’s footprints in the snow indicated he was likely alone and disoriented, Duke said. It appeared he slipped down into the creek bed, and then crawled under the bridge to rest, police said.
He likely died of hypothermia in the sub-freezing temperatures, Duke said. The Latah County coroner will release the cause of death, he said.
University of Idaho officials released a statement saying their sympathy goes out to family and friends.
“We are saddened by the loss of Joseph Wiederrick,” the statement said.