A body found Tuesday by members of the Brown University rowing team has been identified as Sunil Tripathi, 22, a student at the university who had been missing since March 15.
"[O]ur beloved Sunil was discovered in the waters off India Point Park in Providence, Rhode Island," the Tripathi family announced in a Thursday morning entry on the "Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi" Facebook page.
"As we carry indescribable grief, we also feel incredible gratitude," the family said. "To each one of you – from our hometown to many distant lands – we extend our thanks for the words of encouragement, for your thoughts, for your hands, for your prayers, and for the love you have so generously shared."
The Rhode Island Department of Health said Tripathi's body was identified from dental records. "The cause of death is pending," health department spokesman Dara Chadwick told the Boston Globe. It's also unclear when Tripathi died.
Tripathi suffered from depression and was taking a semester off school when he disappeared on the night of March 15, leaving his apartment without his cellphone or wallet. His family actively sought media coverage of his disappearance.
Tripathi's disappearance was tied to the then-unknown Boston bombing suspects by amateur sleuths on Reddit after blurry images of the suspects were released by the FBI on April 18. Reddit users noted the short distance between Brown University and Boston and speculated about the political implications of a Che Guevara shirt worn by Tripathi in a photo.
The missing student's family temporarily removed the Facebook page dedicated to his disappearance as the speculation mounted overnight. The next day it became clear that the actual culprits were the brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
"The last eighteen hours have generated tremendous and painful attention - on social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit, as well as from television media inquiries - linking Sunil to the video stills released by the FBI yesterday afternoon," said a Tripathi family statement quoted by WPVI-TV in Philadelphia.
Reddit general manager Erik Martin apologized to the Tripathi family in a Monday blog post.
"[S]ome of the activity on reddit fueled online witch hunts and dangerous speculation which spiraled into very negative consequences for innocent parties," wrote Martin. "The reddit staff and the millions of people on reddit around the world deeply regret that this happened. We have apologized privately to the family of missing college student Sunil Tripathi, as have various users and moderators. We want to take this opportunity to apologize publicly for the pain they have had to endure. We hope that this painful event will be channeled into something positive and the increased awareness will lead to Sunil's quick and safe return home."
Before the blurry photos of the suspected bombers were released by the FBI, Reddit and 4Chan users identified several other people from photographs taken near the Boston Marathon finish line that they deemed worthy of law enforcement's scrutiny.
Although the cybersleuths largely failed in their detective work, users of a subreddit devoted to the Boston bombing were among the first to associate the Thursday evening shooting of a police officer with the case. Listening to an online Boston police scanner stream, the users reported hearing "officer down," causing a spike in the number of people listening to the scanner traffic.