Police look into puzzling case of missing student

WARRENTON (AP) — Police are investigating the puzzling disappearance of University of Missouri-Columbia student Nicholas Michael Coppola.

Coppola, a 25-year-old senior economics major from St. Charles County, hasn’t been seen by relatives since Dec. 10.

On Dec. 12, his 1998 Subaru Legacy was found abandoned on Interstate 70 near Foristell, about 45 miles west of St. Louis. Police say the car had run out of gas. But Coppola’s wallet and cell phone were left in his car, Foristell Police Chief Douglas Johnson said.

That same day, Coppola was arrested after breaking into a home in nearby Wright City. Police say he was apparently seeking shelter from the bitter cold, though they are puzzled as to why he didn’t use his cell phone to call for help.

Coppola was jailed, then released that same day after the homeowner declined to press charges.

Police now believe he may be staying in the Warrenton area. Relatives have been checking motels to see if he might be staying there, perhaps with money from a charitable organization.

But investigators believe he may be staying in an abandoned building or vacant home — worrisome with extreme cold weather expected to arrive this weekend.

“With this severe weather on the way and no resources to feed himself, I don’t know what he is going to do,” Johnson said. “I’m hoping somebody is helping him.”

Gene Coppola told the Post-Dispatch that his son started talking less to friends and relatives about six months ago, after reading a book called “The Celestine Prophecy.” The student apparently had a spiritual awakening and planned a trip to California with a group.

But Coppola recently told his parents he had decided against the trip.

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