CROWN POINT, Ind. – The Avon Police Department is categorizing the Najah Ferrell case as a “death investigation” for the immediate future.
During an update Wednesday afternoon, Deputy Chief of Investigations Brian Nugent said police suspect foul play in the case. However, the cause and manner of death are currently undetermined, meaning it can't be classified as a homicide investigation until they uncover more information.
Nugent stressed that investigators consider the identification of remains found in Crown Point this week preliminary. They won’t consider her identity confirmed until they receive the results of a DNA test, which could take weeks.
Still, he said Wednesday that investigators believe they’ve found the missing mother.
“They do believe that the person we have preliminarily identified as Najah Ferrell is deceased,” Nugent said, referring to forensic pathologists.
Ferrell was last seen in March. There were few breaks in the case until this week, when two fishermen found a foot in a pond in Crown Point. Investigators in northwest Indiana discovered a tattoo on the foot that matched one Ferrell was known to have. Avon police said they spoke with Ferrell’s family to confirm the tattoo.
Avon police said the FBI has offered its resources to investigate the case. Indiana State Police are also assisting.
“We have to be mindful of the fact that we just don’t know the circumstances surrounding her death,” Nugent said, adding that investigators couldn’t discount the possibility of abduction or another criminal act.
Ferrell was last seen in the early morning hours of March 15. Her family says she never made it to work and didn’t pick up her kids from school. Two weeks later, police found some of her belongings and her car in two different locations in Indianapolis.
Police spent hours in Crown Point Tuesday searching the pond for more evidence, using divers, sonar and a drone. More searches were planned this week, Nugent said.
Police are still asking anyone with information about Ferrell's disappearance to call Crime Stoppers at 317-262-TIPS (8477). Callers can remain anonymous.
Bethel Worship Family Center released a statement about Ferrell:
"Bethel Family Worship Center is extending our prayers & support for the family of our beloved Najah Ferrell, during this difficult time. We are praying for the family's strength & comfort, as we respectfully allow them to process the information privately. Please join us in praying for the family & supporting where you can."
The church has set up the "Najah Ferrell Benevolence Fund" for donations.
Ferrell has two biological children, as well as three foster children. She fostered her kids from Seeds of Life in Indianapolis. The organization made this statement.
On behalf of Seeds of Life, we’d like to thank the media, Avon Police Department, as well as, all other participating agencies for their diligent work. Our thoughts and prayers remain with Najah and her family. Although Najah has been fostering through our agency for only a short time, she made a positive impact on the children in her care. She was enthusiastic and passionate about fostering children. She made connections with other foster parents and was always open to providing guidance and support as they navigated through the foster care process. She not only provided care to the children placed in her home, but she assisted other foster families as well.
Najah was someone who gave back to our community. She had a great working relationship with our staff and our Seeds of Life family. It takes a special person to open, not only their home, but also their heart to care for children in need of services. Our hearts remain heavy, but we are confident that someone in the community, a community in which she gave back to, will please come forward with information regarding Najah Ferrell. Please contact Crime Stoppers at 317-262-TIPS.
Shawna Webster, M.S.