Second body found in river on fifth day, ID pending

CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WTVR) —On Wednesday, as the search entered its fifth day, a second body  was found, officials announced at a press conference. 

At 11:16 a.m., a body of was found in the Appomattox River, reported officials at a press conference, and has been transported to the medical examiner for identification per protocol, said Lt. Jason Elmore with Chesterfield Fire and EMS.

Dr. Keith Miller, President of Virginia State University, expressed his deepest sympathies to the families of the two students missing since Saturday.The incident began Friday night into Saturday morning, around 1:30 a.m., when five VSU students attempted to cross the Appomattox River as part of an initiation.

“I’ve been touched by your love, and speak for the entire Virginia State University family in saying we are grieving with you and want you to know how loved your sons were on our campus, and want you to know they will remain in our hearts for years to come,” said Miller.

Lt. Elmore said that conditions for the search were best on the fifth day, with water temperatures at their highest and water levels at the lowest since the search began on Saturday. Elmore said that the water level was two feet lower Wednesday than it had been.

The bodies were found about 100 to 150 yards apart and the second body found was near the center of the river, said Elmore.

On Saturday Jauwan Holmes and Marvell Edmondson, two VSU students, were reported missing.

Three people were pulled from the water, recovery efforts for the other two continued into the week as Chesterfield County and the Commonwealth pooled all their resources, including sonar, a helicopter and extensive manpower.

Monday afternoon Edmondson’s body was recovered from the river.

Friends said Edmondson attempted to cross the swiftly moving waters early Saturday morning as part of a hazing ritual for a non-sanctioned fraternity called “Men of Honor.”

“Nobody forced them in,” said CBS 6 legal expert Todd Stone. “But they may have enticed them to do it because the students want to join this group. But the fact of the matter is, they made a choice to go into the river, so the other folks aren’t quite as culpable.”

That said, on Tuesday, Chesterfield police announced the arrest of three men associated with the “Men of Honor” group and continue to search for a fourth. James Mackey Sr., who let police in to search his Ettrick business, along with Eriq Benson and Cory Baytop, have all been arrested and released. Police are still looking for Charles Zollicoffer II.

Benson and Baytop are freshmen at VSU, according to university officials. A university spokesperson tells CBS 6 they are not taking action against the two at this point, and will wait until the police investigation concludes before making an official decision.

On Sunday, an emotional vigil on campus prompted a lock-down, just before 9:15 p.m.

VSU tweeted that the university was on lock-down and that all students should return to their dorms. A CBS 6 crew was turned away from the campus late Sunday by police.

The lock-down was lift Monday morning around 6 a.m.

CBS 6 will continue to follow this story as more information develops.

***Jon Burkett and Nick Dutton contributed to this post***