January 15, 2007
01/15/07: Joseph Zahornacky, 22, Purchase, NY
On January 15, 2007, Joseph Zahornacky returned from a trip to Los Angeles where he visited friends and a girlfriend he met while studying abroad in Spain. After leaving the airport, he called his mother at 8:30 p.m. to say he was on the road back to school at Manhattanville College, in Purchase, New York. Records show he then made two stops in Greenwich, Connecticut, something that was not unusual for him. (Greenwich is about 15 minutes west of Purchase.) There, Zahornacky purchased gasoline and then purchased a few items at a nearby Walgreen's convenience store off Interstate 95 at 10:45 p.m. Surveillance video from the store showed Zahornacky alone, buying soap and toiletries. (Early reports that he was seen talking with a petite white woman in her 30s with close-cut red hair proved inaccurate.) Shortly after the stop, Zahornacky's mother, worried about reports of fog, called him. He said he was on the road and within 20 minutes of arriving at college. Around this same time, Zahornacky called friend Logan Osberg to discuss plans to hang out and watch movies. But then, inexplicably, he ended up near Brookfield, Connecticut, more than an hour north of the gas station.
Search and Recovery
By late the following day, Zahornacky's 2000 Jeep Cherokee was sighted by police sinking into Lake Lillinonah, in Brookfield, Connecticut. On January 17, 2007, two days after he had disappeared, divers found Joseph Zahornacky's body in the frigid water. Family members identified him at the scene and his body was taken to the chief state medical examiner’s office for an autopsy.
At the time his body was found, State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance said authorities had labeled his death suspicious but did not release any details about how he died. The investigation was later closed after it was determined that Zahornacky had drowned himself and foul play was not involved. His death was ruled a suicide.
Friends say Zahornacky had a wonderful time in Los Angeles and left ended his trip in very good spirits. The previous week, he had told his best friend he was looking forward to returning to campus and, according to school officials, he was enjoying his classes. He talked to his mother about possibly switching his major to sociology, and he had plans to talk to an adviser on the day following his return (Tuesday). He stopped at a gas station, bought toiletries, had plans to watch a movie with a friend and even told his mother he was on the way home. Yet officials say, he drove an hour away and committed suicide.
About Joseph Zahornacky
"Manhattanville College President Richard Berman said, that as a freshman, Zahornacky spent a few days at Grand Central Terminal, then wrote a powerful piece for class about what it must be like to be homeless. 'He's the type of kid that added that something special and he'll be missed,' Berman said."
"My brother was a great man, a great boy and I don't want anyone to ever forget that," Michael Zahornacky said. "To lose anyone in your family is bad. To lose a younger brother is just the worst thing I could ever think of in my life."
Facts of Interest
Name/age: Joseph "Joey" Zahornacky, 22
Hometown: Shelton, CT
Residence: Purchase, NY
College: Manhattanville College, Purchase, NY (junior)
Physical Description: 6'0", 190 pounds, blond hair, blue eyes
Last Seen: 1/5/07, Greenwich, CT
Found: 1/17/07, Lake Lillinonah, Brookfield, CT
at 2:22 AM