Members of the LSU and Baton Rouge communities joined the family of a missing LSU freshman for a prayer vigil on Sunday evening as local law enforcement and volunteers continue their days-long search.
About 250 people attended Sunday’s vigil at Galvez Plaza in downtown Baton Rouge, where they lit candles and prayed for Kori Gauthier’s safe return. Community leaders, including Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser, Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome and LSU Interim President Thomas Galligan, addressed the crowd and emphasized the importance of hope and faith.
“She is loved by many, cherished by many and celebrated by many. One thing we can be assured of is that God is with us on this journey,” Weston Broome said. “To the family — while we might not understand everything, don’t give up hope. I want you to know this community is beside you and praying for you on a consistent basis.”
LSU freshman Kori Gauthier was last seen Tuesday before her vehicle was involved in a car accident around 1 a.m. Wednesday on the Mississippi River bridge. The driver of the vehicle that struck her car could not find her after the accident. Police officers only found her phone and wallet inside the vehicle.
Baton Rouge police failed to report the accident to her family before towing the car to a salvage yard in Baton Rouge. The family said they did not know about the accident until they learned on Wednesday afternoon that she had missed class, work and a doctor’s appointment, according to the Advocate.
Spencer Gauthier, Kori’s uncle who traveled from Houston to assist in the search, first posted to Facebook about his niece’s disappearance on Thursday. Media coverage and social media posts regarding her disappearance have since circulated the LSU community.
LSU Police have been in close contact with Gauthier’s family and have taken the lead in the ongoing missing person’s investigation. The University reported Wednesday that Kori Gauthier’s vehicle was found unoccupied at the scene of the accident. The vehicle had been left abandoned for an hour by the time of the crash, according to an LSU official.
Students and volunteers met at the flagpoles near the LSU Veterinary School around 8 a.m. on Friday to assist the United Cajun Navy in searching for Kori alongside the levee on foot, while the Cajun Navy used one of its helicopters to conduct an aerial search of the Mississippi River.
A K9 cadaver dog with Mercy Search & Rescue alerted twice in the same area of the Mississippi River Saturday, but conditions were too unsafe to deploy divers, according to a University statement
The search continued Sunday as law enforcement agencies and University officials coordinated an extensive search of the Mississippi River.
“On Sunday, April 11, Mounted Patrol will be searching the levee in both directions from Farr Park, while EBRSO, LDWF, LSUPD and BRPD will continue boat searching, including with the latest available sonar technology,” LSU Media Relations Director Ernie Ballard said.
Law enforcement officials do not believe any criminal activity or foul play took place, according to a University statement released Friday.
After media coverage of Kori Gauthier’s disappearance increased Thursday, students organized a meeting at Mike the Tiger’s Habitat to assist the Gauthier family in hanging up flyers of the missing LSU freshman.
Hundreds of flyers were hung up in the Student Union, Nicholson Gateway Apartments and on poles around campus.
However, some students were shocked Friday afternoon when they noticed all of the flyers they had hung outside of the Student Union had been taken down. After receiving criticism from students, the University apologized for the removal of the flyers.
“We are sorry for the confusion that caused the posters to be initially taken down. An employee was following our Student Union’s policies against hanging flyers on the walls. Obviously, this is a unique situation, and the removal was unwarranted. The flyers have been replaced,” the University said in a statement Friday.
Biology freshman Chlo Adams said she witnessed the flyers being taken down on Friday and was given a reason contrary to what the University’s statement claimed.
“At the Student Union, I saw a lady taking the flyers down and I assumed she was some type of administrator,” Adams said. “I asked the guy at the door who checks the symptom tracker, and he told me that they were taking them down because of all the incoming freshman tours that day.”
Various LSU and Baton Rouge community members used their social media platforms to bring awareness to the situation on Thursday evening by creating the “#FindKori” hashtag on Twitter, which led to “Kori” trending in Louisiana on Friday.
Students organized a prayer circle for Kori Gauthier on Friday evening, which included many student-led gospel songs and prayers. Spencer Gauthier said he appreciated the unity exhibited by the volunteers and supporters.
“Thank you very much. I appreciate the love, it is very well felt,” Spencer said. “She hasn’t been found, so the job isn’t done. We’ll do whatever it takes.”