Body of Ex-U.S. Marine in Russia Found after Messaging Mom 'I Hope I'm Not Being Abducted'

The body of a former U.S. Marine who was studying at a university in Russia has been found days after she had gone missing, according to reports.

Catherine Serou, 34, had not been heard from since Tuesday night after she got into an unidentified car outside her residence in a suburb of Nizhny Novgorod, around 250 miles east of Moscow.

Before her discovery, her mother, Beccy Serou, told NPR from Vicksburg, Mississippi that she had received a message from her daughter that read, "in a car with a stranger. I hope I'm not being abducted."

She said that her daughter was in a hurry to get to a clinic and so may have got into a passing car rather than wait for an Uber.

The story of Catherine Serou has moved me the most since I started covering Russia for NPR 5 years ago—a young American coming to Russia with high hopes and her mother Beccy's fortitude as darkness closed in, thousands of miles away. https://t.co/vsRQr3uSP9

— Lucian Kim (@Lucian_Kim) June 19, 2021

"I think that when she saw that the person wasn't driving to the clinic, but instead was driving into a forest, she panicked," Beccy Serou said, "her telephone last pinged off a cell tower in that forest."

A criminal investigation into her disappearance was launched and a large-scale search operation was undertaken.

A public appeal was made on social media and more than 100 volunteers combed the forests north of the suburb of Bor.

The regional federal investigative committee said in a statement on Saturday that after the search "the girl's body was discovered," without naming the victim.

It said a man born in 1977 who had previous convictions for "serious" crimes had been arrested on suspicion of murder.

Catherine Serou had enrolled in a master's program in law at Lobachevsky University in the city in 2019 and wanted to learn Russian before becoming an immigration lawyer.

She had graduated from the University of California with a master's degree in art history and had served in the Marine Corps, doing one tour in Afghanistan.

Beccy Serou said that she had hoped her daughter's survival skills learned as a marine would have held her in good stead.

On Saturday, NPR journalist Lucian Kim, who had interviewed Beccy Serou, tweeted a video of her daughter previously giving an interview in Russian and English to a local news channel.

He tweeted that her disappearance had "moved me the most since I started covering Russia for NPR 5 years ago," describing her story as one of a "young American coming to Russia with high hopes and her mother Beccy's fortitude as darkness closed in, thousands of miles away."

Newsweek has contacted Russia's investigative committee for comment.

Russian police car in Moscow
A Russian police car is shown in this illustrative image from February 2021. Police launched a criminal investigation after the disappearance of a ex-U.S. marine in the city of Nizhny Novgorod. KIRILL KUDRYAV/Getty