Homicide detectives on Long Island conceded Wednesday they have few clues to go on in the mysterious death of a college secretary found wearing ballet slippers outside a vacant waterfront house more than a month after she was reported missing.
The body of the woman, identified as 60-year-old Irene Luetje, was found about five miles away from her home last Thursday in Massapequa, Nassau County Detective Lt. John Azzata told reporters. He appealed for the public's help in unraveling the mystery.
"Everything right now is a mystery to us," Azzata said. "What she would be doing there? Is it possible she succumbed to a serious illness at that point and was looking for help? That's a possibility. Right now, everything's a possibility. We do our best work when we have the public's input."
Azzata said police are awaiting toxicology test results from Luetje's autopsy, which could take several weeks. No signs of trauma were found on the woman's body, and her purse contained cash and her driver's license when she was found, police said.
He said Luetje, who worked at Farmingdale State College, was known by friends to take long walks. Azzata noted that Luetje was found wearing silver ballet slippers, which would be unusual footwear for someone taking a long hike.
She lived alone in an apartment in a private house in North Massapequa, police said. The owner of the home told police she last saw Luetje on Jan. 6; relatives filed a missing persons report on Jan. 12. Luetje's car was still parked in her driveway.
Her body was found on Valentine's Day lying under an overhang by contractors working in a neighborhood of homes damaged by Sandy. The house where she was found was unoccupied, police said.
Her sister, Lorraine Hauser of Ronkonkoma, told Newsday that Luetje loved her job, her car and her grandniece. "These are all three things she would never walk away from," Hauser said.