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The desperate search for an Indiana mother of five came to a sad end when authorities confirmed Wednesday that a severed human foot found in a pond belonged to her.
The Avon Police Department confirmed this week that the foot – found in a retention pond more than 100 miles away from where the woman was last seen – was that of Najah Ferrell, 30, who went missing on March 15, local stations Fox 59 and WGN 9 in Chicago and the Associated Press report.
Two fishermen called authorities on April 8 when they reeled in the severed foot on the shore of the pond in Crown Point, which is 130 miles northwest of Avon, said Avon Police Department’s Deputy Chief of Investigations Brian Nugent at an April 10 press conference.
The FBI is examining the remains for clues as to what happened to Ferrell, Fox 59 reports.
Ferrell was reported missing after she failed to show up for work on her third day at Panera Bread in Indianapolis, where she was due to participate in new employee orientation.
Her black Nissan Altima was found abandoned more than a week later, on March 26, in Indianapolis near the Panera where she worked.
Some of her belongings were found along the interstate, WGN 9 reports.
Her mother, Paula Gholson, made a tearful plea for information on the case at a March 28 press conference.
Her daughter, she said, “should be here with her boys. They’ve never been without their mother.”
A devoted mom of two biological children and three foster children, Ferrell’s disappearance is highly unusual, Nugent said.
“Anyone that leaves their family for an extended period of time, we would call that suspicious,” Nugent said at the March 28 press conference. “For a mother to not know where her children are at, and for her children to not know where their mother is at, is not only heartbreaking, but it’s certainly suspicious.”
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A tattoo initially helped authorities identify the foot as belonging to Ferrell, the AP reports. Subsequent DNA testing by the Indiana State Police Lab confirmed that it belonged to her, Fox 59 reports.
“It’s a very disturbing a case of this magnitude,” Nugent said, Fox 59 reports. “A mother of 5 just simply vanishes. It doesn’t just happen on its own. Somebody has some involvement.”
Najah’s disappearance remains a death investigation until police have more details, Nugent said, Fox 59 reports.
“There are other examinations and tests that can be completed to answer more information to have a better understanding of what that evidence can tell our investigators,” he said.
Ferrell’s mother described her daughter as a “giving, giving young lady,” saying, “I love my child, and I tried to teach her to love others the same way.”
“My heart, I can’t even tell you,” Gholson said at the press conference. “I wouldn’t want any other mother to ever, ever have to deal with anything like this because I miss her.”
Anyone with information that may be relevant to Ferrell’s disappearance is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 317-262-TIPS (8477).
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