By LOIS CLERMONT and DAN HEATH
---- — PLATTSBURGH — There is no evidence of foul play in the death of Kodi Kadeem Beckles, a SUNY Plattsburgh student found dead Monday.
Beckles, 20, who is from Poughkeepsie, had been the subject of an extensive search that involved SUNY Plattsburgh University Police, Plattsburgh City Police and State Police after he was reported missing Saturday evening.
City Police Special Response Team members found a body matching Beckles’s description in a wooded area behind the Knight Automotive dealership and Consumer Square on Route 3.
It was a discovery that devastated family, friends and the campus community, who had hoped that Beckles would be found alive.
“At 10:40 a.m., our tactical team located a body fitting the description of Kodi (Beckles),” City Police Capt. Michael Branch said at a press conference Monday afternoon.
City Police then contacted State Police to set up a perimeter around the location for further investigation by City Police and State Police forensic units.
“There is no evidence to indicate foul play at this time, but the case remains under investigation,” State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation Capt. Robert LaFountain said.
At 11:19 a.m., Clinton County Coroner David Donah declared the man found in the woods deceased and authorized the body’s removal to Albany Medical Center, where Dr. Michael Sikirica was scheduled to perform an autopsy. A positive identification is expected at that time, though officials believed the body to be that of Beckles.
SUNY Plattsburgh University Police Chief Arlene Sabo said the investigation started when friends of Beckles reported him missing Saturday evening. They were concerned when he didn’t show up for a meeting they felt he was unlikely to miss.
University Police launched a campus-wide search, as did other college staff and Beckles’s friends. She thanked all involved for their assistance.
“It’s been a very heartfelt investigation,” Sabo said.
City Police and State Police were contacted to assist with the search. Branch said City Police called in all of their detectives and a number of uniformed officers to help.
Branch said their investigation revealed Beckles had attended a campus-related function at Valcour Conference Center on Friday evening, then went to downtown Plattsburgh and later returned to campus.
Beckles went to an off-campus party for a few hours later that night and was last seen in the vicinity of Cornelia and Wells streets between 12:30 a.m. and 1 a.m. Saturday, Branch said.
The party was hosted by the fraternity Alpha Sigma Phi; members contacted by the Press-Republican had no comment.
Beckles was believed to be walking west along the Route 3 corridor, so some of the search parties covered wooded sections of the city in that area.
Branch said there was added concern because the young man had epilepsy.
“There was an urgency to this,” he said.
Beckles was found dressed in the the same clothing he was wearing the night he disappeared: a black T-shirt, black dress pants, a black-and-white checkered bow tie and black baseball cap.
The clothing was not appropriate for the weather Friday night and Saturday morning, which was cold and rainy, LaFountain said.
Police could not say whether exposure to the elements, drugs or alcohol played a role in the death. That will be determined by the results of the autopsy and toxicology reports.
Beckles’s parents were in Plattsburgh during the search, and City Police broke the news to them that the body had been found, City Police Chief Desmond Racicot said.
Students had organized search parties, spread word through social media and posted missing-person posters.
Many gathered in the Warren Ballrooms of Angell College Center on campus, crying, hugging and remembering Beckles.
“This is a sad day on our campus,” SUNY Plattsburgh President John Ettling said in a statement.
“While the police continue to investigate, we wanted to reach a hand out to the friends and family of Kodi. We have set up counseling in the Cardinal Lounge of Angell College Center.
“Our condolences go out to all who knew Kodi. No family should ever have to face the death of one so young.”
In the City of Plattsburgh, residents received an automated phone message early Monday saying “a child” was missing, giving a description of Beckles and urging people to search their properties.
The student’s brother AJ Girard had tweeted a plea on social-media site Twitter asking for help finding him. By Monday morning, there were at least 1,000 messages, some just spreading Girard’s original tweet but many others expressing encouragement, concern and prayers.
Sabo said students have rallied to show support for Beckles and his family.
“Clearly, the young man was beloved,” she said.
Email Lois Clermont:lclermont@pressrepublicanTwitter: @EditorLois
Anyone with more information connected with the investigation is asked to contact police:
State Police in Plattsburgh: 563-3761.
Plattsburgh City Police: 563-3411.
SUNY Plattsburgh Police Department: 564-2022.