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Petition to implement heightened safety features on campus gains traction after discovery of Brendan Santo's body

January 26, 2022
<p>After almost three months of searching, on Jan. 21, police have found a body in the Red Cedar River that they believe to be Brendan Santo. The body has yet to be formally identified.</p>

After almost three months of searching, on Jan. 21, police have found a body in the Red Cedar River that they believe to be Brendan Santo. The body has yet to be formally identified.

Photo by Sheldon Krause | The State News

"Make MSU's Red Cedar River Areas Safe," a Change.org petition created Jan. 22, has gained traction following confirmation that the body discovered in the Red Cedar River on Jan. 21 was that of missing Grand Valley State University student Brendan Santo.

The petition calls on the university to put up barriers, lighting and signage in place around the area in which Santo was suspected to have gone missing in.

As of Jan. 26, the petition has garnered over 16,000 signatures.

"Located near Yakeley Hall on Beal Street is a approximate 5-6 foot accessible opening (that) exists with no fencing along the Red Cedar River," the petition's description states. "Beyond this opening is not explorable or walkable by humans or animals since it drops quickly to a steep ravine/river. It is very dangerous with no danger/warning signs near the opening. ... Beyond this opening is a huge drop off down to the Red Cedar River."

The "Bring Brendan Santo Home" Facebook page said it, too, will continue raising awareness of safety issues on MSU's campus.

"As with law enforcement, it is unfair to criticize the university as a whole. ... There should be a guard rail or fence along EVERY INCH of the river to prevent someone from falling in," Santo's aunt Dawn Brewer wrote. "There should be adequate lighting ... I have heard the reasoning behind no fencing and the light issues is an ambience concern to keep the campus 'beautiful' ... Keeping people safe should be the highest priority. You can find ways to keep the campus safe and retain its beauty."

The search for Santo lasted over 80 days after he was last seen Oct. 29, 2021, leaving Yakeley Hall shortly before midnight. The cameras around the area Santo went missing were not operational at the time, which Brewer also raised concerns to.

Yakeley Hall is located on the north end of MSU’s campus, near Michigan Avenue and Grand River Avenue.

In a Jan. 7 Instagram post, Santo was said to have made it farther down Michigan Avenue, crossing back farther down from Beal Street and towards Brody. 

Michigan State University deputy spokesperson Dan Olsen said the university appreciates engagement on something as important as public safety, and MSU is looking into solutions to the petition's outlined troubles.

"We're constantly evaluating improvements to our campus to further the safety and security of our Spartan Community and guests," Olsen said. "We're having conversations about this particular space on campus and looking at additional measures to make it safer for our community."

While Michigan State University Police and Public Safety, or MSUPD, confirmed they have no reason to believe foul play is involved or that Santo intended to harm himself, the details and circumstances surrounding the incident will continue to be investigated by MSUPD and its partners.

MSUPD worked with East Lansing Police Department, Grand Valley State University Police Department, Ingham County Sheriff’s Office, Michigan Department of Attorney General, Michigan State Police, Oakland County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI during the investigation.

Michigan State University Police and Public Safety expanded its partnerships with local, state and federal agencies to assist with the investigation. Oakland County and Grand Valley State University agencies assisted the investigation.

"This is not the outcome any of us wanted or anticipated but we did accomplish bringing Brendan home," Brewer wrote in a Jan. 22 Facebook post. "The full story is not yet known and there are still many questions. We may never know exactly what happened but we no longer have to wonder where Brendan is."

In addition, Brewer's post thanked private investigator, Ryan Robison, and law enforcement.

Inspector Chris Rozman confirmed Robison informed MSUPD on Jan. 21 of something completely submerged in the water at the logjam, the body of Santo.

“Ryan proceeded to the Santo residence to share the findings with the Santo family. Following this, Ryan contacted the 911 centers in both Ingham and Oakland counties sharing the photo and location,” Rozman said. 

The "Bring Brendan Santo Home" Facebook page will continue supporting the families of missing persons, and honoring Santo's legacy.

She wrote, "Brendan was a genuine person who loved to help people. Brendan also loved sports and mentoring younger children. We will be putting something together to honor Brendan’s legacy ... We NEED people like Brendan in this world but unfortunately, he was needed more elsewhere. That does not mean we can’t carry on in Brendan’s name."

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For resources, the MSU Counseling and Psychiatric Services, or CAPS, is available 24/7 by calling 517-355-8270. The MSU Employee Assistance Program, or EAP, is also available by calling 517-355-4506.

Students at Grand Valley State University can also contact their University Counseling Center at 616-331-3266.

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