Chesterton Tribune

Body found on the beach identified as woman who vanished at Mt Baldy 8 months ago

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Eight months after an Indianapolis woman vanished at Mt. Baldy in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore—her footprints in the snow dead-ending at the beach but pointing in the direction of the shelf ice—her fate is no longer a mystery.

On Friday morning, the body of Roxanne Shah, 47, was found on the shoreline at Indiana Dunes State Park.

Shah’s family identified her late on Friday from photographs of tattoos on the body, Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris told the Chesterton Tribune.

“They were Chinese symbols, kind of unique,” Harris said. “And they were on the correct locations of the body.”

Harris has ruled Shah’s death a suicide and determined the cause of death to be drowning. Shah had attempted suicide on at least one previous occasion, he said.

Shah was partially clothed—not unusual for bodies long submerged in the water, Harris said—and there were no obvious signs of trauma. She was discovered at 8:38 a.m. on Friday at the water’s edge east of the Pavilion by a person walking the beach.

Harris believes that the violent wave action and fierce north winds of last week’s storm dislodged Shah’s body from its resting place in Lake Michigan and washed it ashore.

Shah went missing on the evening of Feb. 7, when a National Park Service (NPS) ranger found her 2003 Ford Windstar parked in the lot at Mt. Baldy. Inside the van: a note to the effect that the vehicle was broken and its owner would return in a couple of days. The ranger searched for the minivan’s owner well into the early morning hours of Feb. 8—checking the lot and the top of Mt. Baldy—but without success, NPS said at the time.

The search was resumed later on Feb. 8, when human footprints were found in the snow on the beach heading in the direction of Lake Michigan. But the footprints appeared to dead-end, possibly covered by snow or swept by the wind, and NPS accordingly asked the U.S. Coast Guard to undertake a search of the shelf ice with its specialized equipment and litters. The USCG also tasked a fixed wing aircraft to the search that day and NPS firefighters swept the area as far east as the NIPSCO property in Michigan City and as far west as Kintzele Ditch in Beverly Shores but no sign of Shah was ever uncovered.

One week later, on Feb. 16, NPS organized yet another search and 40 personnel combed the area from U.S. Highway 12 to the beach but once again nothing pointing to Shah’s whereabouts was found.

In the day’s following Shah’s disappearance, the Indianapolis Star reported that her husband, Anthony Vivaldi, had advised police that his wife had left him a note saying that she was “going away for a few days ‘to get my head straight.’”

“It was not unusual for Shah to go to the Dunes to hike or camp, even in inclement weather,” the Star also reported.


Posted 10/22/2011