Fingerprints helped identify the decomposing body of Irene Luetje, 60, a Farmingdale State College secretary. But the reasons her body was discovered on Ocean Avenue, five miles from her home, remains a mystery to her family and detectives, who want the public's help in tracing her footsteps.
"We cried a lot," said brother Eugene Snow of Ronkonkoma. "We kept going through the scenarios. Could it be this? Could it be that? Did she go on a road trip? Was she set up with something? No, no, no."
Luetje was found lying under the overhang of a vacant, Sandy-damaged house when contractors working next door heard water spilling out of the flooded house, police said.
She was last seen at home the morning of Jan. 6, and a missing-person report was filed Jan. 12 by her sister, said homicide Det. Lt. John Azzata. The cause of death has not been determined.
"This poor woman succumbed to whatever she succumbed to and she laid out there until she was found," Azzata said. "To me, that's the worst, when a person dies alone and in this case is left to the elements."
To her brother and sister, the facts of the case contradict the Luetje they knew: a widow in good health who bundled up in the cold and never took off from work without making sure her colleagues knew.
But she was found without her hat, gloves and scarf, wearing ballet shoes and not walking shoes, her sister Lorraine Hauser of Ronkonkoma said. Her coat lay within an arm's reach, she said.
Her car sat in her driveway, and when she did not show up for her grandniece's birthday Jan. 6 or for work the next day, her family knew something serious had happened.
"She loved her job, she loved her car and she loved her grandniece," Hauser said. "These are all three things she would never walk away from."
Luetje was the secretary to the chief diversity officer at Farmingdale. "We really miss her," said her boss, Veronica Henry, chief diversity officer and executive assistant to the campus president. "Everybody liked her. In her own way, she was a scholar. She just loved what she did, and she loved students."
In Luetje's office, the walls displayed her dedication to learning, from her graduation with Phi Beta Kappa honors from Stony Brook University to an award for her commitment to counseling Asian-American students at Stony Brook, she said.
At one time, Luetje was a teacher, focusing on students who spoke English as a second language, but she hoped to publish her poetry, Henry said.
Anyone with information may call Crime Stoppers at 800-244-TIPS.