Catherine Serou was a missing American student who was found dead in Russia. A man has been charged in her murder days after she vanished in Nizhny Novgorod. The 34-year-old former Marine was last heard from on June 15, when she texted her mother to say she was in a car with an unknown person, CNN reports.
Serou’s mother, Beccy Webb Serou, wrote on Facebook on June 19, “Thank you all for your help trying to get Catherine home safe. Unfortunately, we got a call from the police this morning telling us they found her body. As our family processes this news we’ll have more to say.”
A suspect, who was identified by authorities only as “P.,” was arrested and held on suspicion of murder after appearing at Gorodetsky City Court, CNN reported. The Daily Beast has reported his full name as Aleksey Popov. According to the The Daily Beast, Popov was the driver of the car Serou was last known to be in. He is a resident of Nizhny Novgorod born in 1977 with a criminal record, authorities told CNN. No other details about him have been made public.
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow issued a statement saying, “We offer our sincerest condolences to the family on their loss. We are closely monitoring local authorities’ investigation into the cause of death. We are providing all appropriate assistance to the family.” Nizhny Novgorod, a city of about 1.2 million people, is located east of Moscow.
Serou Texted Her Mother ‘I Hope I Am Not Being Abducted’ Days Before She Was Found Dead in a Wooded Area
Serou’s mother, Becci Serou, told The Daily Beast she, “found a message from Catherine, it said: ‘In a car with a stranger. I hope I’m not being abducted. I realized she had sent me that note 40 minutes before I found it. I tried to reach her but her phone was off. Later police tracked her phone in the woods near the town of Bor. … I could not sleep for three nights, thinking if she got away from him— her being a strong athlete, trained to survive.”
According to CNN, Serou was picked up by the suspect in her death on Tuesday, June 15, about 7 p.m. Police told CNN he saw her at a bus stop and offered her a ride. Authorities told the news network that about an hour later, the suspect stopped in a wooded area and hit Serou several times with his fist and stabbed her at least twice. Serou died at the scene, according to CNN.
Authorities in Russia said the suspect in Serou’s murder had “repeatedly” been convicted of “especially grave crimes,” CNN reported. Additional details about his criminal record were not immediately made public.
Aleksey Zorov, a local politician, told The Daily Beast, “Our society is degrading, criminals feel unpunished, murderers come out of jail after 6-7 years and commit crimes again; the man who raped and killed the American student should get the capital sentence.”
Serou Served as a Marine From 2006 to 2011 & Graduated From the University of California-Davis Before Studying Law at State University of Nizhny Novgorod
According to The Daily Beast, Serou was one of two Americans studying at Lobachevsky State University of Nizhny Novogorod. She was studying law, according to her mother. She said her daughter grew up in New Orleans and had Russian friends and learned the language.
Her mother told The Daily Beast, “She enjoyed Nizhny Novgorod so much, she loved her life in a Russian family, her friends at the University.” She said her daughter taught English in Russia along with her studies. “Catherine was always a big fan of Russian art, she also weaved scarves and sold them at a kiosk in Nizhny Novgorod,” her mother told the news site.
Serou graduated from Cedar Park High School in Texas in 2005 and spent a year studying business management and administration at Purdue University, where she was in the Alpha Xi Delta sorority and a member of the varsity women’s crew team, according to her LinkedIn profile. She joined the Marines in 2006 and was deployed to Afghanistan.
She graduated from the University of California-Davis in 2017 with a degree in design and then completed her master’s degree in art history in 2019, according to her LinkedIn profile. While at UC Davis, she was also a graduate teaching assistant and graduate student researcher. She wrote on LinkedIn she, “Worked to develop a new, sensor-based approach to exterior lighting for security applications for the Office of Naval Research. This project has the potential to enhance the effectiveness of security personnel while dramatically reducing energy use.”