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Woman Found on Sandbar Died Trying to Save a Dog, Police Say

March 06, 2017

Jacqueline Watts

Police believe that Jacqueline Watts, the Indianapolis woman who was found dead Saturday morning after being reported missing the night before, was not the victim of a homicide but instead died while trying to save a runaway dog, Columbus police said at a Monday press conference.

The 33-year-old’s body was found on a sandbar in the Flatrock River in Columbus, Indiana, Saturday morning. At the press conference, police said multiple eye-witnesses remember seeing Watts chasing after a small, white dog wearing a sweater near the river.

The dog, later identified as a local dog named Ringo whose owners reported him lost over the weekend, was found dead on the shore of the river, Lt. Chris Harris of the Columbus police department said.

“Jackie saw beauty in everybody,” the Watts family said in a statement read at the press conference. “She lived and loved with great humility.”

The statement added, “Oh, that we would all be filled with enough passion to give our lives for what we believe in.”

Watts was reported missing Friday night when she failed to return home from dropping her pets off at a relative’s home. The 33-year-old was scheduled to take a trip with her husband to Washington, D.C., later that night.

The night of Watts’ disappearance, Columbus police responded to a suspicious vehicle on a road near the river. Upon arrival, officers found Watts car running on the side of the road with the flashers on, her purse and cell phone inside and the passenger door open, police have said.

On Sunday, police announced they did not suspect foul play to be involved in her death.

Watts was an animal lover who volunteered at local shelters and was on the board of directors at Indyclaw Animal Rescue.

“Jackie was always taking home the really sick bunnies that she could nurture back to health,” Indyclaw Rescue wrote on their Facebook page. “We love her and will never forget all she did for us and the animals.”

When she wasn’t helping animals, Watts worked as a teaching assistant in the Indianapolis public schools and also coordinated events for the local Big Brothers Big Sisters of America chapter.

“We will continue to celebrate her life through the memories she has left through our lives,” her family said in the statement read at the press conference. “As her family, we are eternally grateful for the time we had with Jackie. ”

Watts’ family could not immediately be reached for comment. A coroner’s report will be released at a later date, authorities said.