U.N. investigator found dead in the Congo had Indiana ties

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Michael Sharp

BENI, Congo – Authorities with the Congolese government confirmed this week that the bodies of a U.N. investigator with Hoosier ties and two other people have been found weeks after they disappeared.

The bodies of Michael Sharp, Zaida Catalan and Betu Tshintela were discovered in Central Kasai province, government officials said Tuesday. Sharp and Catalan were investigators with the United Nations. Sharp grew up in Indiana and attended Bethany Christian Schools in Goshen.

Sharp’s father, who now lives in Kansas, wrote about the discovery in a heartbreaking post on Facebook:

This is a message I hoped never to write. We have been informed that two Caucasian bodies have been found in shallow graves in the search area, one male and one female. Since no other Caucasians have been reported missing in that region, there is a high probability that these are the bodies of MJ and Zaida. Dental records and DNA samples will be used to confirm the identities. This will take some time.

All other words fail me.

The investigators and their interpreter were abducted on March 12 along with three Congolese drivers while traveling by motorcycle through the region. They were investigating violence and alleged human rights violations.

Investigators said the bodies were discovered Monday in shallow graves.

“After tests … it is possible to identify the bodies as the two U.N. experts and their interpreter as being found near the Moyo river,” Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende told the Associated Press.

Officials with the U.N. and Congolese government said they would continue to investigate the case and said the cause of death hasn’t yet been determined.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report