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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Police recover body of BC student

Published: April 20, 2012
Section: Front Page, News

After a seven-week search that left police baffled, Boston College senior Franco Garcia, 21, was found in the Chestnut Hill Reservoir on April 11. Police searched the reservoir for four days in February but came up empty-handed.

Garcia was a chemistry major and played clarinet in the school band. He commuted from home and worked as a pharmacy technician at the CVS in Waltham, less than two miles from Brandeis.

Garcia disappeared the night of Feb. 22 from the popular college bar Mary Anne’s, where he had been drinking with friends. He left the bar sometime before closing without his companions, who were unable to locate him when the bar closed and left, assuming he had taken a cab home. His cellphone pinged off a tower located near the reservoir, placing him near Moore’s Hall on the Boston College campus, shortly after 1 a.m. He was seen on an ATM camera around the same time.

Until the discovery of Franco’s body, some believed he was still alive, but at Boston College, according to Daniel Friedman, a BC junior, “most people assumed the worst. It’s really difficult to disappear in this day and age.” No personal belongings were found, and no credit card activity could direct officials to his whereabouts.

After six weeks of searching, police discovered the body of Franco Garcia in the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. “We’re really wondering all the same thing,” BC senior Jamie Zhang said, “Why it took so long to find him.”

While the exact circumstances of Garcia’s death are still unknown, a preliminary examination offered that the body showed no signs of struggle or foul play, instead was consistent with signs of an accidental drowning.

“Some speculate that if someone had been involved and they heard that the reservoir had been dragged and they hadn’t found anything, they’d figure it wouldn’t be dragged again and dumped the body,” says Friedman, who “does not personally ascribe to this theory,” but asserts that there is a portion of the student body that is skeptical of the accidental nature of the case.

Zhang presented another alternative. “Most people just believe he was locked in the weeds, so divers had difficulty to find him,” he said. “It’s a big lake.”

The tragedy was less significant to Boston College than initially assumed. While the media reported widely on the case and social media sites were overwhelmed with support for Garcia’s family, the BC student population was less than whole-heartedly involved. “Of the people I knew,” said Zhang, “I don’t know anyone who actively looked for him. They might have put up posters, but no one went and looked with them.”

Friedman said that after the “initial shock” the fervor “got a little subdued. There was a period, a kind of calm” before the body was found.

Students are not permanently affected by the tragedy. “For a while, kids were more aware, but college kids are also idiots and it’s hard to penetrate the feeling of invincibility. It’s chilling that it’s the local bar, that on any given night you’ll find 20, 30 kids there, but it hasn’t changed the campus that much,” Friedman said.

Zhang agreed: “After kids came back from break, it felt like everything was the same again, maybe kids are slightly more careful, especially about leaving by themselves, but in terms of BC culture, I think it’s largely the same.”

In late February, police extensively searched the reservoir and the surrounding areas, including pump houses and nearby wooded areas, finding nothing. They used both divers and sonar, but were unable to locate Garcia. At the time, Massachusetts state police had no reason to believe he was in the reservoir, spokesman David Procopio told The Hoot earlier this month. It was only a logical place to look because his cellphone pinged nearby.

After failing to contact him multiple times the following day, his family became alarmed and returned from a vacation in New York. They found that he had not been home and his car was where he had parked it on Tuesday, before going out with his friends. His clarinet was still inside.

The disappearance inspired a massive manhunt, which included missing posters that covered Boston College campus, social networking announcements and celebrity involvement. Singer Bruce Springsteen, whose son is a senior at Boston College, tweeted the information and requested that if anyone had any information that they call Boston police.

Students feel their safety isn’t compromised by Garcia’s disappearance, which Friedman compared to the year’s earlier suicide at the college, nor the police’s slow discovery of his body.

“I think they did their best, whether they did a good job, I don’t know,” Zhang said.