Police ID missing boy found in pond

BPD: Investigation continues, rumors were not true

BROOKINGS – The City of Brookings has released an update on the Brookings Police Department’s continued investigation into the death of a Brookings boy late last week.

The victim, whose body was found in a local pond Friday morning, has been identified as 10-year-old Molu Zarpeleh. 

Investigators also reported that tips they received Friday related to circumstances surrounding the incident were not true. A rumor that had been circulating on social media, claiming Zarpeleh was pushed into the pond, was redacted by the tipster, said Chelsie Bakken, public information officer for the City of Brookings.

The cause of death remains under investigation, Bakken added.

The full press release from the City of Brookings follows:

“This week a family, their friends, and the Brookings community have been devastated by a tragic loss. Our hearts go out to the family and their loved ones as they mourn the passing of their child.

“On Thursday, July 2, 2020, at (10:28 p.m.), the Brookings Police Department received a report of a missing child from the 1000 block of Southland Lane. The caller reported his 10-year-old son, Molu Zarpeleh, had been out riding his bike and had not returned home.

“Officers responded to the area and conducted a coordinated search of the area which included area schools, playgrounds, outbuildings, private residences and churches. After the search began, officers located Molu’s bicycle lying in the grass on the south side of Peace Lutheran Church. After locating the bicycle, officers focused the search in this area, which included a nearby privately-owned retention pond. As the search continued, a pair of sandals were located near the water’s edge of the retention pond. These sandals were confirmed to belong to Molu by his parents.

“As officers continued to search the area of the retention pond, the police department requested the assistance of the Brookings Fire Department. Members from the Brookings Fire Department arrived shortly before midnight and provided search assistance which included members of their dive team to search the retention pond. The search was suspended at approximately at 3 a.m. due to safety concerns, poor lighting conditions and murky water. Officers remained at the pond during the rest of the night to maintain scene security. 

“The search resumed at 7 a.m. Friday, and the Brookings Fire Department utilized pumps to remove about 300,000 gallons of water from the pond which allowed the dive team to conduct a grid-based walking search for Molu. The dive team located Molu’s body in the pond at approximately 8:40 a.m.

“On Friday, July 3, the police department received tips related to circumstances surrounding the incident which resulted in an investigation of individuals identified through information sharing. Through an ongoing investigation and interviews which have been conducted, the police department has verified that the claims are not factual. At this time the Brookings Police Department is continuing the investigation.

“If individuals have information, they are asked to please call the Brookings Police Department non-emergency line at (605) 692-2113.”


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