NJ officials swat rumors: Missing teacher found dead of ‘undetermined’ cause
🔴 Morristown teacher was reported missing in June
🔴 A search dog found her remains on weekend before Thanksgiving
🔴 Officials release more details to counter false foul-play narrative
ROXBURY — The search for a beloved Morris County teacher ended last week after her body was found in a wooded area close to where she had parked her car before disappearing more than five months ago.
The announcement was released by the Morris County Prosecutor's Office on Wednesday, three days after a search dog with the Ramapo Search and Rescue Organization came upon the human remains in a forested area near Route 80.
The official statement included details about the case that authorities in New Jersey usually take pains from disclosing to the public but did so in this case to counter wild, rampant rumors about the disappearance of the 46-year-old Lara Emanuele.
One such detail was a fact that they knew all along but never disclosed until now: A handwritten note was discovered in her vehicle, indicating the educator did not want to be found.
'Evidence points to Emanuele having taken her own life...'
What about foul play?
Ever since the disappearance was first reported by the media, authorities in Morris County had insisted that nothing indicated that this case appeared suspicious or that anyone else was in danger — delicate phrasing that authorities often use when they are not ready to acknowledge a possible suicide or murder-suicide.
But that didn't stop uninformed conjecture on social media, including baseless theories about foul play.
"While a thorough investigation continues into her death, at this time, evidence points to Emanuele having taken her own life. This was a determination that could not have been made prior to the recovery of her body," Prosecutor Robert Carroll said on Wednesday.
"The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office does not ordinarily share specific details regarding suicide investigations, however, there has been a great deal of inquiry related to Emanuele’s disappearance. While the investigation has not yet concluded, some facts are being shared in the interest of transparency," he added.
"While the outcome of the search is disappointing, the officers and volunteers who worked tirelessly to find Emanuele have earned our gratitude. Your efforts will help bring closure to this family and this community.”
'A handwritten note was discovered in her vehicle...'
Mystery remains in death of Lara Emanuele
Emanuele was reported missing June 7 after not returning home from work. She was a teacher at the Alexander Hamilton Elementary School in Morristown.
The search for Emanuele focused on the 2,000-acre Berkshire Valley State Wildlife Management Area because her car was found in a nearby parking lot of the Holiday Inn Express on Howard Boulevard in Mount Arlington.
A search dog used by the Ramapo Search and Rescue Organization found human remains last Sunday (Nov. 19).
The Morris County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed the remains to be those of Lara Emanuele but listed her manner of death as "undetermined." No evidence, however, has been found to indicate a suspicious cause of death.
"A handwritten note was discovered in her vehicle, indicating she did not want to be found," Carrol's Wednesday statement said.
"Surveillance footage from Walmart showed her shopping alone prior to her disappearance, and additional footage showed her exiting her vehicle in the parking lot alone and departing of her own free will."
In times of despair, help is available
Morris County officials last week said that 31 suicides had been reported to the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit so far this year.
New Jersey 101.5 generally does not report on suicides or suicide attempts unless it involves a well-known person or the circumstances are unusual or disruptive to the public, such as in a major search through a public area, and even then our reports strive to avoid unnecessary details.
Any person in emotional distress or a mental health crisis should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or by texting 988
Who was involved in the search for Lara Emanuele?
After helping to lead the Ramapo Search and Rescue Group, which had remained on the case until the remains were found, Roxbury Police Chief Dean Adone offered his department's "deepest sympathy to Lara's family, friends, and students."
"We hope that finding her will provide some sense of relief and help loved ones begin the healing process," he said.
Morris County Sheriff James Gannon, whose department also participated in the search, said the agencies involved "never gave up on her."
Also involved in the search were teams from these agencies:
⚫ New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit
⚫ New Jersey State Police K9 Unit
⚫ New Jersey Search and Rescue (comprised of law enforcement and trained civilians)
⚫ Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office K9
⚫ Bergen County Sheriff’s Office K9
⚫ Pennsylvania Search and Rescue
⚫ Conservation Police
⚫ Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Missing Persons Unit and Major Crimes Unit
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