An Orlando graduate student who disappeared during an evening jog was found dead Tuesday, turning what began as an intense ground search into an all-out manhunt for a killer who may be tied a pair of recent attacks on female joggers in the same area, Florida officials said.
The Orange County Sheriff's Office confirmed late last night that the body of 26-year-old Nicole Ganguzza was discovered at 5:15 p.m., about 24 hours after she'd driven to a local park for an evening jog on her own and failed to return. Her husband called 911 and reported her missing, triggering a search that began Tuesday night and continued through Wednesday.
A team of investigators searching the area found her body 100 yards from a running trail in Jay Blanchard Park, which Ganguzza often used, Jeff Williamson of the Orange County Sheriff's Office told ABC News Tuesday.
Authorities believe Ganguzza was abducted before the murder and are investigating whether she may have been sexually assaulted, Jim Solomon, the Orange County Sheriff's Office spokesman, told ABC News this morning. An autopsy has been been scheduled to determine the cause of death.
Authorities investigating Ganguzza's death are considering a possible link to two other unsolved 2006 attacks on women jogging in the same area.
In both of those cases, the women were able to fight off their attackers during attempted rapes, and composite sketches made based on the two victims' descriptions shared striking similarities, according to Solomon.
"We had cases where women were attacked," Solomon said, citing one in which a female jogger was targeted during a morning run.
Despite the composite sketches, Solomon said, the person or persons responsible were never apprehended.
"You can only surmise what their intentions were," he said.
Ganguzza's husband tried calling her around 7 p.m. Monday, an hour after she left their house. By 9 p.m., he had called 911 to report his wife missing.
Investigators became concerned that she may have been the victim of foul play after recovering Ganguzza's black Mitsubishi Eclipse in the park's parking lot Tuesday.
The University of Central Florida confirmed to ABC News that Ganguzza was a master's degree candidate in the university's marriage and family therapy program. She had enrolled as a student in January 2006.
"The entire UCF family mourns the tragic loss of one of our own, and our most heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with Nicole's family, friends and classmates," the university wrote in a statement.
Williamson described the park as popular among students from the nearby university, many of whom live in the same neighborhood.
University police offered safety reminders for staying safe while jogging, like buddying up, staying in well-lit areas and always telling someone where you are going and when you will be back.