The last time anyone saw Suzanne Eaton, she was playing the piano at the Orthodox Academy of Crete in Kolymbari on July 2.
An American molecular biologist living and working in Germany, she was visiting the Greek island to attend a conference on insect hormones.
Eaton was not limited in her passions. On top of playing music and being the senior research leader at the Max Planck Institute, she would run nearly every day for 30 minutes and held a blackbelt in Taekwondo.
So on that humid Tuesday afternoon, when she didn’t show up for conference activities, her colleagues were initially unconcerned — they couldn’t conceive that the 59-year-old would days later be found dead in a Nazi bunker.
She had gone on a run the previous day, so that’s probably what she was doing this time around too, they thought.
Panic set in the following day. Her fellow scientists hadn’t seen Eaton since around 3 p.m. the previous day and she was expected to attend certain meetings.
They went over to her room and noticed her passport, money and laptop were all left behind. Her phone’s wakeup alarm was still sounding that afternoon, so they suspected she hadn’t returned the night before. The only thing missing were Eaton’s running shoes.
Her family and friends assumed that while she was on her run, she might have passed out due to the heat or fallen on jagged terrain.
A Facebook page called Searching for Suzanne was set up by her family in hopes that anyone with information could help them locate Eaton. Additionally, they crowdfunded €50,000 as a reward for her discovery.
Hopes were still high; Eaton knew the area, according to the Facebook page, because she had previously attended conferences at the academy.
However on July 8, the search came to a halt. Two amateur cave explorers found Eaton’s body 11 kilometres away in a World War II bunker dug by the Nazis.
Her body had been tied up in burlap and showed signs of torture, the Daily Beast reported. The perpetrator used a knife in the attack and her wounds were described as defensive but she ultimately died slowly by asphyxiation, the coroner said. And because she was left in the heat for a week, her body had decomposed so much that dental records had to be used to determine it was indeed Eaton.
When they set out on a search for her killer, investigators were interested in men with muscular builds who had the capability to overpower Eaton, who must have used her Taekwondo knowledge to defend herself.
Crete’s Chief of Police Konstantinos Lagoudakis told CNN he had never seen anything like this in his four years as chief. Officials believe that Eaton wasn’t killed in the bunker, but that her lifeless body was brought there because it was face down.
The location of the body came up as suspicious to police. “It is of course part of the investigation,” Crete’s police spokesperson Eleni Papathanasiou told The Daily Beast. “It is a curious place to leave a body, especially when the victim was living and working in Germany.”
On Monday, Crete police said they found Eaton’s alleged killer. Using tracks left by a vehicle and CCTV footage, investigators narrowed down a group of people and interrogated them.
When they questioned a 27-year-old man, who ABC identified as the son of a priest, he “provided too many conflicting answers,” the police press statement read. “Under the light of the collected evidence, he confessed his crime.”
Days earlier, before the alleged killer was found, Eaton’s employer issued a series of statements by Eaton’s family, friends and colleagues.
She shone brightly
Her son, Max, described her as a remarkable woman who seamlessly balanced her busy life as a scientist with her busy life as a mom. Though she was accomplished in her field, her love for music shone brightly, he said. ”
“I have many fond memories of her and my father playing duets together, filling our home with a beautiful, joyful sound that was unique to them, and I shall forever cherish the memory of lying on the floor, watching and listening to the thing that brought them together.”
Eaton tragically leaves behind her husband, Tony Hyman, and two sons Max and Luke.