Amanda McElfresh, Lafayette Advertiser
Authorities said Monday they have ruled out foul play in the death of a 21-year-old woman whose body was found in Girard Park over the weekend.
The cause of death has been determined to be accidental drowning, said Sgt. Randal Leger, spokesman for the Lafayette Police Department.
Leger said an investigation is still ongoing. Police are trying to determine why Alexandria Shelton was at the park Saturday night, Leger said.
According to police, Shelton last spoke to friends around 8:30 p.m. Saturday and made plans to meet up with them in the 400 block of Stewart Street. According to Grambling State University, where Shelton was a student, she was expected to attend a goodbye party for a friend.
Around 11:30 p.m. Saturday, after Shelton never arrived to meet her friends, they called her cellphone, police said. A man answered and said he had found the phone in Girard Park. Shelton's friends then went to the park and met with that man and a second man to retrieve the phone. Shortly after they arrived, the friends found Shelton's vehicle at the park and contacted police.
Lafayette police found Shelton's body in a drainage ditch near the Girard Park pond around 12:10 a.m. Sunday.
Leger said police were not yet releasing where Shelton's phone was in relation to her body, or other details about the investigation.
Shelton was a senior at Grambling State University and was scheduled to graduate May 9, said school spokesman Will Sutton via email. Shelton was majoring in criminal justice, had a 3.5 grade point average and was a member of Grambling's Earl Lester Cole Honors College. Sutton said university officials are working to award Shelton's degree posthumously.
Shelton was in class and on campus Friday, Sutton added.
"We've just been in shock since we first heard early Sunday that the body of a young woman found in a Lafayette city park was likely one of our own," Grambling President Frank Pogue said in a news release. "We immediately reached out to the family and we've been cooperating with Lafayette police. We know how important the first 24 to 48 hours of a police investigation can be."
Pogue also encouraged Grambling students, faculty and staff to contact police if they felt they had information that might help the investigation.
"We need to assist police with this investigation and bring closure to this situation for the sake of Alex's family and close friends," Pogue added in the statement.
The school issued the release around noon Monday, before authorities announced they did not suspect foul play.
The news of Shelton's sudden death left friends and acquaintances shocked and saddened.
"She was so sweet and kind and outgoing, just down-to-earth," said Darrian Meyers, a friend of Shelton's. "She was a great person and everybody is going to remember how sweet she was and all of her accomplishments. Nobody had nothing bad to say about her."
Meyers recalled how Shelton even drove her to the hospital in the middle of the night when she was ready to have her baby.
"I called her at 3 a.m. and she came and we went to the hospital together," Meyers said. "I'm just going to miss everything about her."
There was also an outpouring of emotion on social media.
"You were an awesome sweet girl we had a lot of classes together and you were always the one to tell me hey in class when some of the others didn't," Courtney Miller wrote. "I will never forget you..May your family find answers and may they be blessed. I will have u and ur family in my prayers."