Cops seek clues in mysterious death of Irene Luetje

Undated photo of Irene Luetje, 60, of North Undated photo of Irene Luetje, 60, of North Massapequa who was identified by Nassau police as the woman found dead Feb. 14, 2013 in front of a Massapequa house. Photo Credit: NCPD

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Almost a week after her decomposing body was found outside a vacant Sandy-damaged house in Massapequa, police identified the dead woman as Farmingdale State College secretary Irene Luetje, 60, of North Massapequa.

How she died and how she wound up where she was found more than a month after she first disappeared remain a mystery, Nassau County police said.

A police spokeswoman Wednesday morning said autopsy results are pending.

Police said Luetje suffered "no apparent trauma." And she was five miles from her home, wearing ballet shoes, her coat on the ground an arm's length away.

Now, her family and detectives are seeking 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."

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Luetje was last seen at her own home the morning of Jan. 6, and a missing-person report was filed Jan. 12 by her sister, Homicide Det. Lt. John Azzata said. Police said her body was found on Valentine's Day lying under the overhang of a vacant, superstorm Sandy-damaged house on Ocean Avenue, five miles from her home, after contractors working next door heard water spilling out of the flooded house.

Investigators determined her identity using fingerprints and released her name to the public Tuesday, when they also asked for assistance from anyone who might have seen her before she went missing.

"This poor woman succumbed to whatever she succumbed to and she laid out there until she was found," Azzata said on Tuesday. "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.

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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," her boss, Veronica Henry, chief diversity officer and executive assistant to the campus president, said. "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.

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Police are asking anyone with information regarding the case to call the Homicide Squad at 516-573-8800.

With John Valenti

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