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Police identify body found in Mississippi River as missing scientist

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (CNN) -- Police on Saturday identified a body discovered in the Mississippi River this week as that of a Harvard University biochemist, missing for more than a month.

The body of Don Wiley, 57, was found Thursday in the waters of a hydroelectric plant along the river near Vidalia, Louisiana, across from Natchez, Mississippi, said Memphis Police Director Walter Crews.

"Identification on the body was that of Dr. Don Wiley," he said.

The medical examiner confirmed the identity through dental records, according to Memphis Police Lt. Walter Norris. "However, the medical examiner has not released the cause of death," Norris said.

The renowned biochemist disappeared in the early morning hours of November 16 in Memphis. He had gone there to attend a scientific meeting at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and to visit family.

At 4 that morning, his rental car was found abandoned on the Hernando de Soto Bridge that spans the Mississippi River. The car doors were unlocked, and the key was in the ignition. The car's gas tank was full. Wiley had not been heard from since then.

"We began this investigation as a missing person investigation," Crews said. "From there it went to a more criminal bent. We've deferred it to homicide in the event there is some criminal activity."

Wiley was considered one of the world's leading researchers of deadly viruses -- among them AIDS and the Ebola virus.

Ebola is a highly contagious disease that kills 50 percent to 80 percent of its victims. There is no vaccine.

Memphis police said there is nothing to suggest the doctor's expertise had anything to do with his disappearance. His family said it is out of the question that the successful researcher would commit suicide.

Dr. William Evans from St. Jude said that hours before Wiley vanished he appeared upbeat and happy during a banquet at the Peabody Hotel.


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