Along a rural forested road in Marlin, local police discovered an abandoned 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer earlier this week, its doors locked and a cell phone inside. The car belonged to Texas A&M student Anthony Carey, who had been missing for several days.
But what police found perhaps 50 yards away from the car, among the woods, has roiled the Aggie community: the dead body of a man, a single gunshot wound in the head.
Police say they haven't confirmed this body belonged to Carey, nor has the autopsy been completed to determine whether the death was indeed a suicide, but some in the Aggie community assume it was, though they're dismayed Carey would do that. Carey's family has said the body was his.
Still, it doesn't seem real. Carey was a member of his university's Corps of Cadets and seemed a committed member of Squadron 18, saying he was looking forward to another year, remembered one person affiliated with the organization who talked to us but didn't want to be identified. Then, two days later -- Carey's dead?
"Some of the cadets are taking this hard," that person said. "His roommate can't even go back to their room. We have no idea why this happened. There was nothing. No depression. And you think he would have shown signs. Wouldn't it be odd to you?"
Another cadet said: "A lot of us don't think [a suicide] makes sense. We know what kind of person he was."
Last week, Carey left his River Oaks home for College Station to attend a meeting with the Cadets, but he never showed. That was the last time anyone saw him. Days passed, then a missing-person report was filed. Later, Marlin Detective Rob Douglas told Hair Balls, police discovered his car in Marlin -- 60 miles north of College Station.
Friends, some of whom have sought out therapy over the tragedy, have been left wondering what happened. Why did he stop in Marlin? Had this been planned?
The body was sent to the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences Medical Examiners Office in Dallas, but because it's an out-of-county case, the center declined comment, adding that the coroner hasn't released a report yet.
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By all accounts, Carey was well-liked and popular -- nearly 420 people have agreed to pray for him and his family, according to the Facebook group "Prayer for the Anthony Carey Family." Several cadets remember Carey on the page as a natural leader in the group who spent time on younger members.
"Carey, you made my fish semester hell," wrote C Daniel Bernhard. "But I'm proud to have gone through it. I've always been happy to say 'Howdy' to you and catch up when I left 18. I'm going to miss you."