LOWELL — Officials announced Monday afternoon that the remains of the missing 7-year-old Lowell girl, Anna Mburu, were discovered in the Merrimack River after nearly a full 24 hours of searching.
“We are all heartbroken to be here this afternoon to report that it appears that the end of the search has come with the recovery of a body of a young child, preliminarily identified as 7-year-old Anna Mburu,” Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan told reporters at a Monday afternoon press conference at the Lowell Police Department.
Ryan said Anna’s remains were discovered by Massachusetts Environmental Police in the Merrimack River in Tewksbury near the Trull Brook Golf Course shortly after the search resumed for the day at 7 a.m.
The search for Anna, who had autism and was nonverbal, was conducted in conjunction with a number of different local police departments and law enforcement agencies, Ryan said, and it involved the use of drones, K-9 units, the Massachusetts State Police Air Wing, ATVs and dive teams.
The search began in Anna’s immediate neighborhood on Geana Lane after police were called around 3 p.m. Sunday, Ryan said, and expanded block-by-block from there. Anna had last been seen on her bicycle at the end of her family’s driveway between 2 and 3 p.m. on Sunday.
Ryan praised the community response to Anna’s disappearance and the widespread community assistance in the search.
“Lowell does an amazing job of responding. We had literally hundreds of people come out,” said Ryan. “People were out with flashlights walking through the area, checking their properties and the properties of people who might have been away, looking in playhouses and swing sets and all sorts of places a 7-year-old little girl may have gone.”
Anna’s remains were ultimately found when Environmental Police on the Merrimack River deployed “side scanner sonar,” which prompted divers to search the area where she was finally found about 15 yards from the shore and in about 8 feet of water.
Ryan noted that there are no obvious signs of foul play. The chief medical examiner will still need to determine a cause of death.
Heavy rains complicated the search for Anna, Ryan said, especially by raising the water level on the river by 4 to 6 feet, and causing rough waters.
Lowell Police Superintendent Greg Hudon thanked all of the law enforcement agencies that came to join the search effort.
“This was not the way we wanted it to end, unfortunately, but I think we did everything we could possibly do to help the family,” said Hudon.
Ryan noted that it is not yet clear where or when exactly Anna initially entered the water. She said there was some home security footage police were able to obtain that showed Anna before she entered the river. It is believed, Ryan said, that Anna’s body traveled between a half mile and one mile in the water.
“It is unusual to locate someone who has gone missing in a moving body of water as quickly as was done here,” said Ryan.
Police began cleaning up the search command center they had set up on Geana Lane near Anna’s family’s home after her remains were discovered downstream from where she went missing.
Ryan noted that Anna’s family is asking for privacy at this time.
St. Michael’s Church in Lowell conducted a vigil for Anna Monday evening, followed by a candle lighting at the Reilly Elementary School, where Anna was a student.
At the St. Michael’s vigil, parishioner Lucy Waweru said that she came to show support for the Mburu family and for the St. Michael’s community.
“Right now we are just here to mourn for them. We are going to have meetings tomorrow to plan for the funeral,” said Waweru.
Lowell City Manager Tom Golden was at the vigil, and said afterwards that he was there to show support, and that he was proud of the response the Lowell community gave during the search for Anna.
“It was a beautiful thing last night to see the number of [people] walking around until 11:30 with their flashlights out looking for wherever a child could be,” said Golden. “Hundreds of individual people walking up and down the streets just trying to see if there would be a better outcome.
“Our heart will continue to go out to the family, and the city will be there for them as we have in the past. It has been a difficult 24 hours for the entire community and for the family,” Golden continued.
The tragic news of Anna’s death comes less than a month after the one-year anniversary of the drowning death of another child from Lowell. Harry Kkonde, 3, went missing in the Pawtucketville neighborhood on June 14, 2022, and was found deceased in a pond near his babysitter’s house the following day.