Body Pulled From River May Be Brown University Student Sunil Tripathi

Sunil Tripathi has been missing since March.

ByABC News
April 24, 2013, 12:24 PM

April 24, 2013— -- The Rhode Island medical examiner's office is trying to determine if a body pulled from a river is missing Brown University student Sunil Tripathi, who was erroneously linked on social media to the Boston bombings last week.

An autopsy is being conducted on the body, however it was unlikely a positive identification will be made today, according to Dara Chadwick, spokeswoman for the medical examiner's office.

The body appeared to be a male in his twenties and had "been in the water for a while," said Commander Thomas Oates of the Providence Police Department.

Tripathi, a 22-year-old philosophy major from Radnor, Pa., was last seen on March 16 but ignited a social media firestorm last week after the FBI released a photograph of one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects wearing a white baseball cap.

Amateur sleuths reported a resemblance between the man in the photo and Tripathi, sparking widespread speculation that the missing Ivy League student was the bomber. The speculation became so rampant it propelled Tripathi's name onto the Twitter top trends list.

Tripathi's family wrote on Facebook the attention had been "painful" and they "have known unequivocally all along that neither individual suspected as responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings was Sunil."

On Monday, Reddit general manager Erik Martin apologized for the "dangerous speculation" that "spiraled into very negative consequences for innocent parties."

"The Reddit staff and the millions of people on Reddit around the world deeply regret that this happened," Martin wrote in a blog post on Monday.

"We all need to look at what happened and make sure that in the future we do everything we can to help and not hinder crisis situations," he said.

The FBI became involved in the search for Tripathi last month, expanding the search across the Northeast after authorities found no signs of him in the Providence, R.I., area.

Sangeeta Tripathi, Sunil's sister, told at the time it was "completely atypical" for her brother to disappear without contacting anyone. His cell phone and wallet were also left at his home, she said.

"He's just a really quiet, smart kid," she said.