Michigan State University Police: Body positively identified as Brendan Santo

Santo’s body found Jan. 21 submerged in Red Cedar River after nearly 3 months of searching

Brendan Santo

EAST LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan State University Police said Sunday the medical examiner has positively identified the body found Friday as Brendan Santo based on dental records.

Police announced Friday afternoon a body they believed to be Santo was found in the Red Cedar River nearly three months after he disappeared on the campus of Michigan State University. A positive identification from the medical examiner had been pending, and it was confirmed Sunday.

Santo, 18, was a Grand Valley State University student originally from Rochester Hills. He went missing just before Halloween, during the busy weekend of the Michigan vs. Michigan State football game in East Lansing. He was last seen leaving Yakeley Hall shortly before midnight that Friday, Oct. 29, 2021. He was visiting friends at the university and may have been walking to the Brody neighborhood.

Authorities focused their search on the Red Cedar River, which runs through the campus, as the teen was last seen walking near it the day he went missing. The river’s height was higher than usual then, authorities said.

Still, despite relentless searching for nearly three months, investigators were not able to locate Santo -- until Friday, when police received information from a private investigator of his possible location.

Michigan State University Police inspector Chris Rozman said in a statement Saturday that a private investigator working with the Santo family believed he spotted what looked like Santo’s body submerged in the river, caught at a logjam, while looking at an underwater camera. That area of the river was of particular interest to law enforcement, and a search of the area was planned for Jan. 24, officials said.

Private investigator Ryan Robison reportedly notified police of his findings on midnight Thursday, and authorities were “in the water at first light to begin the recovery process” on Friday, Rozman said. A body believed to belong to Santo was recovered from the river at about 12:30 p.m. Friday, about a mile and a half west of where the teen was last seen.

That particular area was reportedly filled with debris, like trees and brush, that had gathered and needed to be cleared for police to safely get a boat in the water. Officials do not suspect foul play at this time. An autopsy is currently pending.

Several law enforcement agencies reportedly came together to assist with the recovery of Santo’s body on Friday.

More: Family of Brendan Santo calls for better safety measures near Red Cedar River


About the Authors:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.