WEST LAFAYETTE - A body found Monday (March 19) on the Purdue campus has been identified

as that of missing university freshman Wade Steffey, according to

university officials and the Tippecanoe County Coroner's Office.

Purdue spokesperson Jeanne Norberg said Tuesday (March 20) that Steffey,

who hadn't been seen since Jan. 13, was electrocuted. His body was found

around noon Monday (March 19) in a high-voltage utility room in Owen

Hall by a university physical facilities employee who was called to

check on a noise coming from the locked room.

"Wade apparently gained access, and, in trying to find his way around

the room, was accidentally electrocuted," Deputy Coroner Martin Avolt

said. "Because of the voltage involved, he would have been killed


Norberg said the utility room, roughly the size of a one-car garage,

houses three electrical transformers connected by high-voltage wires.

Steffey's body was found behind one of the transformers, she said. The

utility room has both an interior and exterior door.

When the utility worker was called to check the room on Monday (March

19), she entered using the interior door, which had been locked. During

the course of their investigation, police found the outside door was

unlocked. Police removed the lock to determine if it had been tampered

with or faulty and padlocked the door for safety.

"The location of Wade's body inside the room would have made it

difficult for anyone to see him from any of the doorways," Norberg said.

"It seems likely that Wade somehow entered the room sometime shortly

after he was last seen thinking that it was a way to gain entrance to

the residence hall. The utility room would have been dark, and he

apparently tripped over high-voltage lines that connect the three

transformers as he was trying to find his way out."

The room is about 50 yards from the northwest corner of Owen Hall, where

Steffey was reportedly seen at around 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 13.

Investigators said he had left his coat with a friend who lives at the

residence hall. At about the same time, he placed two cell phone calls

to friends in Owen Hall, a short walk away from his room in Cary

Quadrangle. Earlier on the evening of Jan. 12 Steffey attended a party

in the Tower Drive area.

"Our entire campus community, along with Wade's family, friends and

volunteers, have put so much effort into finding Wade and bringing him

home," Norberg said. "While this ends the search for Wade, our search

for answers continues. We offer our condolences and our continued

support for his family."

An independent investigation also will be conducted, she said.

Norberg said an earlier campus search for Steffey included the Owen Hall

complex. She said residence hall employees did not have keys to the

room, which was normally locked as it was on the day of the search.

It is believed that physical facilities employees subsequently checked

the room but did not see Steffey's body behind the transformer, Norberg

said. She said workers would have been forced to shut off power to all

of Owen Hall in order to completely search the high-voltage room.

Steffey, 19, of Bloomington, Ind., was a National Merit Scholar majoring

in aviation technology. He was reported missing on Jan. 16 when his

roommate returned to campus after the Martin Luther King holiday break.

Source: Jeanne Norberg, (765) 494-2084,

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