Twice in two days bodies were pulled from the St. Joseph River, on Sunday in Niles and on Monday in South Bend.
Police said the body found floating in the St. Joseph River on Monday afternoon may be that of a man who went missing last week.
It was shortly before 3:30 p.m. Monday that a walker spotted the body near the Notre Dame rowing team’s boathouse on Northside Boulevard.
Firefighters and police were sent to the scene, but the river’s current carried the body about a quarter of a mile before divers were able to retrieve it near the shore in Howard Park.
Less than 24 hours earlier, about 4 p.m. Sunday, a fisherman made a similar discovery about a half mile south of the U.S. 12 overpass on the east side of the river.
Lt. Greg Sanders of the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department said they are still waiting for results of a medical examination, which could have been completed later Monday or today, and are tracking down potential family members of the man to help make a positive identification.
Sanders said he hopes police can release an identity in the next day or two. It is unclear if the death is suspicious in nature, police said.
But in South Bend, police spokesman Capt. Phil Trent said the body discovered in Howard Park appeared to be a black male, indicating that it’s possibly the body of 23-year-old James Woods Jr., who disappeared near the river more than a week ago.
Woods is believed to have fallen or jumped into the river early in the morning on May 1, after he was confronted by police near the VFW Post 1167 hall on Lincoln Way East, across the river from the Farmer’s Market.
According to police, Woods had been involved in a traffic accident at Miami and Lincoln Way East. Before police could question Woods, they said he began running away - disappearing near the steep river bank.
An officer at the scene reported hearing a splash, but was unable to locate Woods.
Police and rescue crews searched for several hours that day, but were unable to locate Woods. They found a shoe and cell phone on the shore.
On Monday, shortly after the body was pulled from the river, family and friends arrived in Howard Park, anxious for news of the body’s identification.
Police, however, were reluctant to provide information, instead waiting for positive identification. The body was taken to a hospital for a coroner examination.
Trent said St. Joseph County Metro Homicide and the coroner’s office would conduct the investigation to avoid any allegations of conflict of interest. Previously, members of Woods’ family had accused the police department of being involved in Woods’ death.
Although two bodies were pulled from the river within a day of each other, police in Berrien County said the body discovered there appeared to have been in the water for some time and showed signs of decomposing.
Trent said the body discovered in Howard Park was still clothed and had recognizable facial features, indicating it was likely the body had been in the river a relatively short time.
Police in Berrien County ask that anyone with information about the man’s identity or circumstances surrounding his death call Detective Sgt. Randall Miller of the Berrien County police at 269-983-7111, ext. 6287, or Michiana Crime Stoppers at 800-342-STOP.
Staff writer Dave Stephens: