Case Files: The murder of Eastern Michigan University student remains unsolved nearly a decade later

Julia Niswender was found dead in her apartment on December 11, 2012
Published: Jul. 19, 2022 at 5:45 PM EDT
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Ypsilanti, Mich. (WTVG) - It was just a few weeks before Christmas.

Julia Niswender, 23, was attending classes at Eastern Michigan University. She lived off-campus in an apartment with two roommates and had a job at Wal-Mart.

Her grandfather, Jim Niswender, said Julia was the life of the party and had a smile that could light up a room. On December 9th, multiple people spoke with Julia. It was the last time they would ever hear from the young woman.

According to police documents, her roommates were gone for the weekend. When one returned on Sunday night, she went to bed. The next morning, she heard Julia’s alarm going off but didn’t think anything of it.

The next day, it was the same thing. A roommate also noticed there was no communication and Julia’s car was parked in the same spot for multiple days, a hard thing to do when you live in a busy apartment complex. On December 11, 2012, police did a well-check and someone from the apartment complex used a master key to unlock Julia’s bedroom door. Police said she was found in her bathroom, partially clothed, dead in the bathtub.

The tub was filled with water and part of her clothing had been cut off. Her death was ruled a homicide.

Police documents indicate Julia’s room was ransacked. There were no signs of forced entry, but her apartment keys were missing from her lanyard.

“So they could lock her bedroom door and the front door when they left. It leads you to believe she knew this person,” said Jim Niswender.

Police processed the scene, took some items away for evidence, and conducted interviews. Julia’s stepfather James Turnquist − was considered a person of interest at one point in the investigation, according to police documents −but he has never been charged. He took two polygraph tests and denied any involvement.

13abc reached out to Ypsilanti police multiple times for an update on the case. They acknowledged the request but never provided any comment or update on the case.

Nearly a decade later, the crime remains unsolved and the person responsible could be walking free. Jim Niswender is frustrated as he helped raise Julia. Jim Niswender said he is sick of waiting for movement on the case. He contacts Ypsilanti police for updates but they are few and far between and most recently, there’s no communication.

“As a family, we are left with a whole bunch of questions and not getting any help getting the answers,” said Jim Niswender.

Niswender said it is his life mission to get justice for Julia.

“Now that I’m 74 years old I’m starting to wonder if I will ever see the end of this,” said Jim Niswender.

If you have any information about the murder of Julia Niswender, contact Crime Stoppers of Michigan.

You could be eligible for a cash reward.

If you have a case that needs attention, email

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