LAWRENCE – Investigators from the Lawrence Police Department believe a body found Monday is that of University of Kansas student Gianfranco Villagomez-Saldana, who was reported missing Saturday. Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and other university officials issued the following statements:
Gray-Little: “On behalf of the entire University of Kansas community, I offer my condolences to the family and friends of Gianfranco Villagomez-Saldana. His loved ones who searched long hours over these past frigid days for a sign of hope also are grieving now, and my thoughts are with them as well.”
Michael Branicky, dean, School of Engineering: “The School of Engineering family is deeply saddened by news of the passing of one of our students. Gianfranco was a kind and beloved student with a keen intellect and a promising future. He was an active member of the Society of Professional Hispanic Engineers. We ask the School of Engineering community to come together to support one another at this difficult time. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his friends and family for their loss.”
Andrea Herstowski, associate professor and interim chair of the Department of Design: "This news is heartbreaking. Gianfranco was a lovely young man with a bright smile and a warm heart. Our thoughts and sympathy go out to all who knew and loved him. He was a gifted young man who was generous with his time and talents, and he will be missed."
Villagomez-Saldana, 23, earned a degree in industrial design in May and was working on an engineering degree. He was from Lima, Peru.
Since September 2012, Villagomez-Saldana worked in the KU Libraries’ International Area Studies as a student assistant for the Spanish, Portuguese, Latin American and Caribbean area.
“Gianfranco brought a broad range of skills and talents to his work,” said Lorraine J. Haricombe, dean of libraries. “He was creative, detail-oriented and dedicated to his studies. Our library colleagues will most remember Gianfranco for his outgoing and friendly personality. His charisma and enthusiasm were contagious, and we will miss his presence terribly here in Watson Library. Our hearts to go out to Gianfranco’s family and close friends at this time of immense loss.”
He was reported missing Saturday evening after he failed to show up at his girlfriend’s house after a party early Saturday. Lawrence Police reported he was found in a yard in the 800 block of Avalon Road about 1:30 p.m. Monday.
Gray-Little also thanked Lawrence Police and all other agencies who assisted in the investigation.
“Although the outcome was tragic, the efforts of the Lawrence Police and others showed how the city and university come together in the interest of our students and community,” Gray-Little said.
An informal gathering to celebrate the life of Gianfranco Villagomez is set for 5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 13 at Ecumenical Christian Ministries, 1204 Oread Ave.
A viewing and visitation will be at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14 at St. John the Evangelist Church, 1229 Vermont St. Mass will follow at 2 p.m.