The body of 34-year-old Catherine Serou was found Saturday in a wooded area near the city of Nizhny Novgorod, 250 miles east of Moscow. She had been missing since Tuesday.
Her mother, Beccy Serou, of Vicksburg, Mississippi, told U.S. National Public Radio that her daughter had last texted her: “In a car with a stranger. I hope I’m not being abducted.”
State news agency RIA-Novosti cited the local court as saying the suspect gave her a ride in his car, then took her to the wooden area and beat her and stabbed her “in the course of a dispute.” Russian news reports have identified the suspect as Alexander Popov and said he had a record of violent crimes.
He faces up to life in prison if convicted of murder.
Serou moved from California to Russia in 2019 to study law at Lobachevsky University in Nizhny Novgorod, news reports said.
She had served as a logistics/embark specialist in the United States Marine Corps, getting out as a corporal in 2011, according to her releasable service records.
She had one deployment to Afghanistan from November 2008 to April 2009, Yvonne Carlock, Deputy Communications Strategy Officer with Manpower & Reserve Affairs, told Marine Corps Times on Monday.
Her last duty station was 2nd Radio Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Her service awards include the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, NATO-ISAF Afghanistan, and a Good Conduct Medal.
Beccy Serou told NPR that her daughter was in a hurry to get to a clinic Tuesday and may have gotten into a passing car.
“I think that when she saw that the person wasn’t driving to the clinic, but instead was driving into a forest, she panicked,” Beccy Serou said.
Marine Corps Times reporter Philip Athey contributed to this report.