Missing American scientist's death in Greece points to homicide: cops

Suzanne Eaton who worked as a molecular biologist was found dead in a disused military bunker in Crete

Suzanne Eaton who worked as a molecular biologist was found dead in a disused military bunker in Crete

Police in the port city of Chania, where the conference was being held, said she was found on rough, rocky terrain inside the abandoned bunker about 10km away from where she was last seen.

"This was a criminal act, death by asphyxiation", a police source told AFP.

Eaton was a US citizen and a research group leader at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany. "What is definite is that we are talking about homicide. Also, there was no sign of death by gun".

The 59-year-old's body was discovered in a cave in a rural area near Chania, located on the westernmost side of Crete.

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"We showed respect for her remains which were found in a tunnel", Fire Service rescue team leader Nikolaos Papaleonidas said. The bunker was located about 330 feet from a nearby road, according to Sky News.

However, investigators are still working to definitively confirm that the body recovered is Eaton's, Greek state coroner Antonis Papadomanolakis told the AP, noting that it was most likely her.

Doctors at Rethymno hospital say she died on the day she went missing but declined to give further details as the case is still under investigation.

Officials are not yet sure if the crime was committed at the scene, or if the 59-year-old was killed elsewhere and disposed of in the cave, Greek news outlet Ekathimerini reported. She disappeared last Tuesday on the island of Crete, where she was attending a conference at the Orthodox Academy in Northwest, People reported.

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The Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics confirmed she had been found dead on Tuesday in a written statement.

On Tuesday morning, a post on the Facebook page set up by her family - called "Searching for Suzanne" - said: "We can not comment on anything at this time, but I will post a message here when the time is appropriate". Emily Kappes, Eaton's cousin, told the Associated Press that her husband and sons went to Crete to help with the search.

"We will remember forever the extraordinary scientist so caring and devoted to her family and friends and so beloved by us all", the statement said.

Upon receiving the news of Eaton's death, Callie Broaddus - Eaton's niece - took to the Facebook group to express that she is "forever grateful for the support" and ask everyone to "avoid speculation on [the] page".

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