YPSILANTI, Mich. – The family of an Eastern Michigan student who was found murdered in an off-campus apartment bathtub nearly a decade ago is still waiting for her killer to be captured.
When Julia Niswender was killed more than nine years ago, police collected DNA evidence at the scene. But they have yet to find a match that would crack this cold case.
“She loved her family,” Niswender’s mother, Kim, said. “She loved her friends. She loved life. She just wanted to go to school, work and have a good time.”
Julia Niswender wasn’t the type of person who would miss a friend’s Christmas party or fail to show up for work, so a few days passed without anyone hearing from her, they feared the worst.
“That was immediately a red flag for me, and my heart just started racing,” her twin sister, Jennifer Niswender, said.
In December 2012, police found Julia -- a 23-year-old Easter Michigan University student -- facedown in the bathtub of her off-campus apartment in Ypsilanti.
“Being in that apartment, when we heard the news, I was in shock,” Jennifer Niswender said. “The worst thing that I could (have) ever happened, happened. When you have a twin, you’re inseparable. Hearing the news that she was gone was the worst day of my entire life.”
“I was very angry,” Kim Niswender said. “Someone purposely took my daughter. Someone purposely hurt her. You’re trying to just take in everything that they’re saying to you, and I think at one time it was just like a blur.”
Three years after the murder, the Niswender family learned new details about what happened.
“She was facedown, partially nude,” Kim Niswender said. “Her phone was thrown in the bathtub. Her pants were cut off of her and she was bound at her wrists and at her ankles. There was two male DNA found.”
Investigators told the family they believe Julia Niswender had been tied up with the robe she’d left hanging on her bathroom door.
“Did she know that that was her last moments in life?” Kim Niswender asked. “What was Julia thinking? She had to be so scared.”
Her apartment had been ransacked, but there was no forced entry, police said. Her computer, wallet and purse were not taken. The only items missing were her pillowcase and a dresser drawer, according to authorities.
“As a part, you want to protect your children,” Kim Niswender said. “I felt like I should have been there to protect her.”
“A lot of those thoughts keep me up at night, like, her last moments and what she said, what she did, the struggle,” Jennifer Niswender said. “She did not deserve this at all, and I miss her everyday.”
Kim and Jennifer Niswender want the people responsible to be caught, but they said it won’t help heal the pain they’ve been carrying around for nearly a decade.
“There’s so much about that just makes you sick,” Jennifer Niswender said.
Police declined to comment on the case. Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information that leads to an arrest in the case -- call 1-800-SPEAK-UP, and you can remain anonymous.
You can watch Sandra Ali’s full story below.