Montgomery County

State Police: Michaela MacVilla found dead, criminal investigation launched

State police made the announcement at an afternoon press conference
Michaela MacVilla
Michaela MacVilla

ST. JOHNSVILLE — Michaela MacVilla, who had been missing for more than a week, has been found dead, state police said on Wednesday.

Troopers said the St. Johnsville woman’s body was discovered Tuesday on property in Fulton County, near power lines in heavy brush, by the property’s owner.

“It is with deep sadness that collectively we report Michaela was discovered deceased yesterday afternoon in the Fulton County town of Oppenheim,” state police Capt. Richard O’Brien told reporters.

An autopsy was being conducted in Albany, O’Brien said. No cause of death had been determined as of Wednesday afternoon, but the investigation had switched from a missing person case to a criminal probe, he said.

“It is our goal and our mission to arrest, prosecute and convict the person or persons responsible for Michaela’s death, if foul play is determined to be involved,” O’Brien said.

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MacVilla, 21, was last seen leaving  the Stewart’s Shop on West Main Street in St. Johnsville at about 12:10 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 25, state police have said. She was reported missing by her family later that day.

St. Johnsville police then called in the state police to help with the search.

Investigators followed up on dozens of leads, and the search included both ground-based searches and searches from the air, O’Brien said.

Wednesday’s press conference came after troopers searched along Kringsbush Road in the Fulton County town of Oppenheim late Tuesday. Searches were continuing at the scene and elsewhere, as of Wednesday afternoon, O’Brien said.

“I can tell you that Michaela was discovered by a property owner who was searching his own property and discovered her and immediately called 911,” O’Brien said.

Troopers believe the property owner was searching, as other individuals were, because the case had been highly publicized, O’Brien said. 

As for where the body was found, O’Brien indicated it did not appear to have been hidden, though he noted MacVilla was not found near a roadway. He wouldn’t comment whether evidence recovered from the scene indicated how her body got there.

“At this time, we do not believe the public is in any danger; however, we remind everyone to remain vigilant with respect to their personal surroundings and their personal safety,” O’Brien said.

The state police have been assisted by the St. Johnsville Police Department, state Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers, the Fulton and Montgomery county district attorney’s offices and sheriff’s offices, the Amsterdam Police Department, emergency management offices of both counties and “numerous volunteer first-responders in the St. Johnsville area, O’Brien said.

Anyone with information about the case was asked to contact contact state police at 518-783-3211.

“I don’t consider any amount of evidence to be trivial, or any information to be trivial, so we’re still going to continue to ask,” O’Brien said.

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