PEEKSKILL, N.Y. -- The body of the man pulled from the Hudson River in Peekskill has been identified as a 53-year-old Cortlandt man who had been missing since fleeing from police Friday morning, Peekskill Police announced Monday.
The body of Michael Varella, of Cortlandt Manor, was pulled from the Peekskill Bay of the Hudson River Sunday morning, Peekskill Police said Monday afternoon. The Westchester County Medical Examiner's office determined that the cause of death was accidental drowning, police said Monday. Varella had been identified as a suspect who had been chased by police after he was suspected of breaking into a vehicle early Friday before crashing his car into Dain's Lumber, police said.
Police Chief Eric Johansen said it was likely that Varella's body was in the water for roughly two days before being recovered. Varella's body was found "a good half-a-mile" away from where he was last seen by police, Johansen said.
A Peekskill officer witnessed a white male, who was later identified as Varella, smash a vehicle's window and remove a bag from inside, Johansen said in a statement Monday. The bag was never located, but Johansen noted that police have an idea as to why the vehicle was broken into.
"It is an active part of the investigation that we don't want to put out there at this time. It was not a randomly targeted vehicle," he said.
The officer then witnessed Varella drive away and later found his vehicle smashed into Dain's Lumber before fleeing on foot. Varella then hopped a fence and jumped into a brook that feeds the Hudson River, Johansen said Monday, noting that a later K-9 search revealed nothing.
"Our officers worked with Michael Varella's family members in an attempt to locate him, but all parties were unsuccessful," Johansen said in the statement. "We extend our sympathies to the Varella family. As you can imagine, the family is devastated. We ask that the public give them support and the media give them privacy during this difficult time."
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