The Mobile Police Department (MPD) announced Tuesday that its preliminary investigation of Danniella Vian’s car, which was found submerged in more than 20 feet of water earlier this month, shows signs consistent with an accident.
Vian, 25, and her vehicle were missing from July 17, 2018, until May 2, when police divers found her blue 2014 Chevrolet Cruze submerged in Bayou Sara near the public boat launch.
Inside was the body of a deceased adult female. MPD has still not officially confirmed it to be Vian, pending the results of a DNA test. However, Police Chief Lawrence Battiste said nearly all of the physical evidence suggests it was Vian who MPD divers found in the vehicle.
“Based on the clothing, the description of what she was wearing when she was last seen and some of the other things we found at the scene, it leads us to believe with some level of certainty that this is the body of Danniella Vian,” Battiste said. “This is still an active investigation but everything we’ve found to this point, at least appears to us, to be an accidental incident.”
The cause of death was unable to be determined through a preliminary autopsy, though MPD is still waiting on the full results and a pending toxicology report. Battiste said that would allow police to give a more definite account of what they believe happened on July 17, 2018.
Battiste didn’t go into many details, but he said the location of where Vian’s car was found gave police some reason to believe her death could have been an accident. However, he said investigators were still looking into why she would have been in Bayou Sara at all.
Her family and friends have previously said Vian didn’t know anyone in the area and wouldn’t have had a reason to be there in the middle of the night, roughly 17 miles from where she was last seen alive. Battiste also said, at this point, there’s nothing to indicate anyone else was with Vian when her vehicle entered Bayou Sara.
Public Safety Director James Barber said there were also aspects of how the car was found in the water that indicate it was an accident, noting that the windshield wipers were on and one of the windows was open.
He acknowledged it’s possible someone staged the scene to look like an accident but said police feel like that is highly unlikely at this time.
The announcement that police believe Vian’s death was the result of an accident was a perplexing development in a case that’s captured national interest. Because of that and the lack of initial information, it was almost immediately met with some skepticism on social media.
While he understands there are still unanswered questions, Battiste said MPD made its announcement to let the public know police don’t believe anyone is “going around abducting women.” He also said MPD isn’t anywhere near closing its investigation into the incident.
“I’m not here to debate what the viewing audience says, but I am here to reassure them that if anything at any point suggests foul play was involved, we won’t hesitate to use every resource available to us to bring the persons responsible to justice,” he added.
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