U.S. scientist found dead in Greece died of asphyxiation, police say

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By Elisha Fieldstadt and Reuters and Associated Press  with NBC News World News
Image: Scientist Suzanne Eaton was reported missing while attending a confe
Scientist Suzanne Eaton was reported missing while attending a conference on the Greek island of Crete.   -   Copyright  Facebook

The American scientist whose body was found on Monday on the Greek island of Crete died of asphyxiation, according to a police source.

Suzanne Eaton, 59, a molecular biologist at the world-renowned Max Planck Institute in Dresden, Germany, was found dead about a week after she went missing by cavers in a disused military bunker — a system of manmade caves used by the Nazis during the occupation of Crete during World War II.

State coroner Antonis Papadomanolakis said he believed Eaton died around the time she was last seen, on July 2.

A post-mortem on Wednesday concluded that she died of asphyxiation, one police source told Reuters. A second source said contusions found on the victim may have been inflicted to immobilize her.

Police said officers from Athens including homicide detectives had traveled to the island to head the investigation.

Eaton had been on the island for a science conference. It was thought she had gone for a run, and colleagues raised the alarm when she failed to return.

Her passport, wallet, phone, cash, and cycling shoes were in her hotel room, but her running shoes were missing, according to a social media page set up by family and friends appealing for help finding her.

Dresden University's Max Planck Institute, where Eaton was a research group leader, described her in a statement on its website as "a leading scientist in her field, a strong athlete, runner and senior black belt in Tae Kwon Do."

Friends and family on Wednesday released statements lauding Eaton's contributions to science, her athleticism, her dedication to her family and her talents at the piano and in the kitchen.

"My mother was a remarkable woman. She managed to live a life with few regrets, balancing out her personal life with her career," said her son, Max Hyman. "Supportive and encouraging, she nurtured and supported anything that the distractible mind of my childhood would come up with, and this curiosity has stuck with me to this day."