Found body identified as missing St. Charles man Nicholas Coppola

Sunday, August 28, 2011 | 3:55 p.m. CDT; updated 5:18 p.m. CDT, Sunday, August 28, 2011

COLUMBIA — The Associated Press reported that a coroner has identified a body found in a creek as that of Nicholas Coppola, a St. Charles man who has been missing since December 2010. He was last seen in his apartment in Columbia.

Coppola's family had offered a reward in May for information that would lead to his return.

The Missourian previously reported that Coppola, 24, was last seen by his mother and roommates on Dec. 10, when he had an argument with his mother over a religious book. Police found his car abandoned on eastbound Interstate 70 on Dec. 12. Coppola was an economics major at MU but did not complete his first year.

Vox previously reported that Coppola intended to follow a highly secretive group to California, and that his parents feared he had joined a cult.

Vox reported that Coppola's friends and family had noticed a change in him during the months preceding his disappearance. He had been uncommunicative, his family said, and began acting strangely.

On Dec. 12, Coppola abandoned his car, leaving his wallet and cell phone, Vox reported. He walked to a nearby house and found shelter in a barn. When a friend of the owner found him and asked him to leave, Coppola apologized and walked away, only to attempt to enter another house.

At 3:18 p.m. that day, Wright City police received a call about a man, presumed to be Coppola, attempting to break into another house.

Coppola was apprehended at 5:11 p.m. that day, but released at 5:40 p.m.

He was not seen alive again.

Coppola's body was found July 26 on the border of Lincoln and Warren counties.

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Benjamin Hoste August 29, 2011 | 10:31 a.m.

There are a lot of unanswered questions prompted by this story. Especially after reading the feature in Vox from a few weeks ago, I'm curious as to how and when he died? Did he die shortly after abandoning his car with his body only being found recently? And how was his body found?

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