Nicole Mittendorff, a firefighter from Virginia who went missing 2 weeks ago, took her own life and the fire department is investigating whether she was a victim of cyberbullying through a local web forum.
The administrator of the northern Virginia office of the state medical examiner, Nancy Bull, said Mittendorf, 31, committed suicide.
Her remains were found in the Shenandoah National Park after a dayslong search. The body was found in a remote location more than a mile from the Whiteoak Canyon parking area, officials said. Fire Captain Dave Hall said Mittendorff had called in sick to work on April 13 before disappearing, the same day her family last heard from her through text message.
Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said on April 21 evidence collected during the investigation included a note that was found in Mittendorff’s car, which was found in the Shenandoah National Park by a U.S. park ranger in the parking area of the Whiteoak Canyon Trail on April 17.
“Our hearts are broken,” the family said in a post on the Facebook page Find Nicole Now after her body was found. “We thank you for your support and ask that you keep our family in your prayers in the challenging days ahead.”
Mittendorff was said to be a high-achiever and was well-liked by her colleagues. Fairfax Firefighters Chief Richard Bowers said Mittendorff always put others first. She was a career firefighter and paramedic, and was married to Virginia State Police sergeant, Steve Mittendorff.
However, the fire department is now looking into whether Mittendorff was a victim of cyberbullying. In a web forum, Fairfax Underground, the firefighter is insulted and called “ugly,” as well as other sexual derogatory words, even after her death. Anonymous users in the forum also referenced posts from last December that talked badly about the 31-year-old.
“We at Fairfax Fire and Rescue are aware of the posts and are looking into the matter. I assure you that my department cannot and will not tolerate bullying of any kind,” said Chief Bowers in a post on the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department News website.
“We will thoroughly investigate this matter and take any appropriate actions needed. However, right now we ask that we be allowed to grieve the loss of one of our own,” he added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.