Coroner: Body found in pond believed to be missing 22-year-old

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The Marion County coroner's office reversed its ruling Saturday on the identity of a body found on the Indianapolis north side Friday.

The family of Joshua Swalls was told Friday that the body found in a retention pond was not him. But the coroner now believes it is in fact Swalls, who went missing three weeks ago after visiting a friend at a nearby apartment.

The coroner is awaiting dental records to confirm the identification.

Since his son went missing, it has been 20 days and 20 nights of pure agony for Dan Swalls.

In a written statement, he said, "After several searches by family and friends and five searches with volunteers from the community, Joshua was found yesterday, Nov. 23, 2012 in the retention pond near 65th and Keystone Ave., Indianapolis, IN."

Friday afternoon when Dan Swalls and his wife got a call telling them a body had been found in a retention pond. They and several of Joshua friends rushed to the pond. They knew in their hearts that the search for Joshua was over. But initially the coroner told them it was not their son.

Two days after Joshua disappeared on Nov. 4th, the Indianapolis Fire Department and Metro Police were called to search the same retention pond. Joshua was last seen at a friend's apartment right across the street. Police did find his shoes near the retention pond fence. Divers spent more than a hour of searching the dark waters,and came up empty-handed.

Friday afternoon divers found a body after a passerby reported seeing something in the water. Joshua Swalls had tattoos on his wrist. While divers and crime scene investigators worked, someone told the family the body in the pond did not have the same tattoos.

"That was one of the things we had them look for was the wrist tattoos. It is very distinct," said Shannon Swalls, the victim's stepmother. "Under the circumstances we were there and waiting, so that is when they said there were no wrist tattoos."

Their hopes were rekindled, but only momentarily.

The coroner's office says they are working to confirm the identity with dental records and hope to have a positive ID by week's end.

Alfarena Ballew, the chief deputy coroner, issued the following statement Saturday afternoon:

After additional information discovered at autopsy this morning, our office has reason to believe that the person found at 65th and Keystone may be the missing person Joshua Swalls. Confirmation of identity will be achieved using forensic dental comparison. We are working with the family to gather the necessary information for this process.  We hope to have positive identification completed by the end of the week.

On Saturday, the family issued the following statement:

Our son, Joshua Swalls, was last seen on Nov. 3, 2012. After several searches by family and friends and five searches with volunteers from the community, Joshua was found yesterday, Nov. 23, 2012 in the retention pond near 65th & Keystone Ave., Indianapolis, IN.

The outpouring of support, thoughts and prayers from the community, and even around the world, through the searches, our Facebook page, website and Twitter has been tremendous and appreciated far more than each individual person could possibly know. We would like to take this opportunity to send them our deepest and most heartfelt thanks in giving of themselves to help us find our son.

As a family, we ask for some time alone to process what has happened, not only in the last 24 hours, but in the last 21 days as well. All of our energies and thoughts have been focused on bringing our son home, searching from sunrise to sunset in areas we never imagined we would be and talking to people we would probably have never met otherwise. We will announce funeral arrangements and other services for Joshua next week.

A benefit account has been set up in Joshua's name at Key Bank. Donations can be made at any Key Bank location in the Indianapolis-area by asking the teller to add the donation to the Josh Swalls Beneveolent Account.  Outside of the Indianapolis-area, donations can be sent to Josh Swalls Benevolent Account, Key Bank, 4404 E. 10th St, Indianapolis, IN 46201.

Joshua's immediate family includes his mother Theresa Lueder and her husband Kevin, his father Dan Swalls and his wife Shannon, his brother Justin Swalls and his sisters Christina Wisneski and Ciera Nail.