April 28th, 2010
05:36 PM ET

University student's death ruled a homicide


[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/28/art.vert.crime.drake.student.jpg caption="Benjamin Backstrom's death was ruled a homicide by police in Iowa." width=292 height=320]

Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

Police in Iowa have ruled the death of a college student found leaning over the side of a bridge as a homicide.

Benjamin Backstrom, who was a sophomore at Drake University, was “the victim of an off-campus crime,” said school President David Maxwell in a statement. “I want to express sincere condolences to the family and friends who shared in Ben’s life.”

According to investigators, a 911 call with a report that a man was learning over a bridge on Highway 65 outside of Indianola, Iowa, was reported early Tuesday morning.

Police officers who arrived at the scene transported Backstrom to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Courtney Greene, public information bureau chief for the Iowa Department of Public Safety told CNN the 19-year-old died of injuries but would not disclose their exact nature. “There’s lots of boots on the ground really trying to piece together what happened,” she said. “At this point we just want anyone with information to come forward.”

Greene added that nothing has been ruled out in the search for answers. “Investigators are still following every lead that comes in,” she said.

The violent, mysterious death of the student has shaken the campus. “Incomprehensibly tragic events such as this test the very fabric of the Drake University family,” school President Maxwell said. “It is a time when we as a community must come together to console and support one another, to do what we can to ease the pain for Ben's family and friends, and to find a way forward that honors Ben's memory and the place that he holds in the heart of the University.”

Candlelight vigils have been held for Backstrom and a memorial service is scheduled for this Saturday.

Anyone with information that could be helpful to the investigation is asked to contact the Warren County Sheriff’s Office at 515-961-1122.

For more crime coverage go to cnn.com/crime.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
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