The missing fliers for Janet Simpson have been taken down. Family and friends, who had hoped for her safe return, mourned her loss at a memorial service. But the questions still linger.
Simpson had been missing for nearly three months when her body was discovered floating in the Catawba River on Feb. 23.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police haven’t said whether her body revealed any evidence that might indicate homicide or suicide.
It could be weeks – or even months – before the autopsy is completed. It’s possible a cause of death may not be able to be determined, depending on the state of her body.
Simpson, a 56-year-old mortgage broker who liked to garden and travel, was last seen Dec. 5 leaving the Liberty East Restaurant on East Independence Boulevard after breakfast. Her SUV was found days later in Belmont, not far from the river.
For days, authorities used sonar equipment and cadaver dogs to search a stretch of the river, but they weren’t able to locate her body until it surfaced last month.
Police have not said whether they believe Simpson’s body was in the river for the length of her disappearance.
Factors that affect a submerged body’s ability to float include water temperature and depth, bodily gases, and underwater obstructions, according to a 2006 article published in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin.
Suicide remains a possibility, although relatives and friends have said they don’t believe Simpson would take her own life.
In 2007, 358 people committed suicide by drowning in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But that number made up only about 1 percent of all suicides that year.
The CDC reports that poisoning, such as a drug overdose, is the most common suicide method for women.
Speaking to reporters last month outside the restaurant where she was last seen, Simpson’s ex-husband and longtime friend Mike Stephens said her family was glad to finally have some closure.
“But that's just the first piece of the puzzle,” he said.