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As family and friends began the formal grieving process for Chelsea Bruck, the Monroe County woman who disappeared six months ago, investigators say it could be weeks before a cause of death is established.

"The autopsy is incomplete," Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office spokesman Ryan Bridges said Sunday. "We need more time to determine exactly how she died. And the why's and who's will be answered by someone else."

The body of Bruck, 22, of Maybee was found Friday at a construction site in a wooded area near railroad tracks about 12 miles from where she was last seen at a Frenchtown Township party on Oct. 26.

Her body was discovered by the property owner, investigators said. Due to advanced decomposition, positive identification was made through dental records.

Monroe County Sheriff Dale Malone released few details but made it clear at a news conference Saturday night that he and his investigators consider Bruck's death a homicide.

Malone said of the still-unknown person responsible that investigators "believe he was familiar with railroad tracks there" and "in all likelihood the crimes were committed at or near where the body was located ... ."

Evidence, including a homemade Halloween costume Bruck wore at the party of a Batman villain, Poison Ivy, had been found April 5 in an industrial site in Flat Rock about 10 miles away, investigators said.

Her family was notified Saturday afternoon after a positive ID. The family has requested privacy.

For months, hundreds of volunteers have searched for Bruck , staging rallies, candlelight vigils and public prayers. Many wore T-shirts with Bruck's name and photo, and passed out fliers seeking information. Her brother, Nathaniel Bruck, expressed gratitude Saturday on a "Find Chelsea Bruck" website that read:

"I want to thank everyone for their efforts. And while this may be the end of the search, it is also a new beginning. The beginning of the search for justice for my sister."

Friends like Shaylynn Duvall, who worked with Chelsea at an Olga's Restaurant in the Mall of Monroe, were numbed by the news.

"There will be a memorial and a funeral but no one is certain when that might be," Duvall said. "Her family has been dealing with a lot for months and now this."

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

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