Jigba did not return to his apartment. When he missed his first day on his new job at the local Kona Grill, his mother, Theresa, who lives in California, reported him missing.
According to Jigba's roommate, the young man did not have a ride home from the party. He tried to get a ride from someone, but was turned down. Jigba did not have money for a cab, and because he only lived about 2 ½ miles away at the Gateway Apartments, friends believe he might have tried to walk home.
"We don't know if he went with someone or tried to walk home and something happened," Jigba's mother said. (The Arizona Republic, Jan. 17, 2011).
Jigba never answered his cell phone or responded to messages. His roommate said his disappearance was "completely out of character, especially with a new job." He also mentioned that Jigba wasn't the type of person to be involved in any kind of altercation that might get him into trouble.
Police said there were no signs of foul play connected with his disappearance, or any reason to suspect that Jigba migh have harmed himself or others. Yet, they were concerned about the fact that Jigba had not shown up for work.
Jigba moved to the Tempe area in 2009 to attend the nursing program at Arizona State University. He ended up taking a job instead, but did have friends attending the university. They say he led a typical student's life.
His friends began a Facebook group called “Help us find Willie Jigba,” which as of Jan. 26 had 1,216 members.
The Search for Willie Jigba
The search effort for Willie Jigba focused on nearby Tempe Town Lake because both of the possible routes that Jigba could have taken home crossed the lake. It has been reported that Jigba could not swim. (Arizona Republic News, Jan. 26, 2011.)
On Saturday, Jan. 22, Arizona Search Track and Rescue--a private, volunteer search group hired by the family--were not able to search the lake due to high winds.
The search team returned to the area on Wednesday, January 26. They circled the lake with boats, and canines were brought aboard to search for a scent or anything that might lead to Jigba.
A team of twelve divers also searched the area that afternoon and most of the following day, using a grid system. Divers searched for Jigba in 45 to 55 degree, water rotating in and out of the water. Because visibility was so poor--less then one foot--divers conducted the search entirely by feel.
Arizona Search Track and Rescue Commander Kristi Smith said that all other areas around Tempe Town Lake had been searched. “If he’s not in the lake, said Smith, "he’s got to be out there somewhere." (Arizona Republic News, Jan. 26, 2011.)
The search resumed the morning of Jan. 27. Arizona Searth Track and Rescue canines picked up a scent indicating that a human body could be under the water. The "hit," was found west of the bridge and south of Loop 202. The scent was not specific to Willie Jigba, however. (Phoenix New Times, Jan. 27, 2011.)
The following morning (Friday, Jan. 28), "a member of the dive team returned to the area and discovered the body floating on the surface, just outside the original search area on the north side of the lake." It was then recovered from the water by the Tempe Fire Department.
The Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office was able to make a positive identification that the body was Jigba.
Preliminary autopsy results indicate that Jigba probably died of drowning and not foul play. According to
azcentral.com, "The final cause of death will be determined after toxicology reports are completed, Tempe police said."
According to the azcentral, "He'd gone to a Tempe party, the party was broken up by Tempe police in the wee hours of the morning, his cell phone died, and he didn't have money for a cab or a ride home, [a friend] said."
Name/age: Willie Jigba, 24
Last seen: 1/15/11, party at 615 E. Weber Drive, Tempe, AZ
College: former Arizona State University student
Physical description: African-American male, 6'0", 180 pounds, black hair, brown eyes. Last seen wearing a blue/green flannel shirt over a black "Jack Daniels" t-shirt, blue jeans and purple Vans shoes.
Investigating Agency: Tempe police, 480-350-8311
Originally published: 1/26/11. Updated 1/30/11 and 2/12/11.