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Police believe missing MIT, University of Rochester professor 'in danger'

UPI
Police in upstate New York are asking for the public’s help to locate missing university professor Heikki Rantakari, who they believe is in danger after he failed to teach a scheduled class Saturday at the University of Rochester. Photo courtesy of Rochester Police Department

Oct. 25 (UPI) -- Police in upstate New York are asking for the public's help to locate a missing university professor who they believe is in danger.

Heikki Rantakari, 44, a professor at the University of Rochester, was reported missing after he failed to show up to teach a scheduled class Saturday morning, according to Rochester Police.

"We believe that he may be in danger and anyone with information is encouraged to call 911," Rochester Police wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that included a photo of Rantakari. The professor stands roughly 5-foot-11-inches and speaks with a Finnish accent.

According to Rantakari's family, he was last seen Friday between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. after arriving from Boston and checking into his Airbnb in Rochester.

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"We did find evidence that he was there, so we do know he did check into his Airbnb on Friday," Captain Greg Bello, with the Rochester Police Department, told reporters. "Now, it's a matter of what happened from there, and that's what we're trying to track down."

"Obviously, it's concerning that he flew here for a specific meeting, to teach a specific class or multiple classes, and has not shown up for them -- which, from what we're told, is far outside his norm," Bello added.

According to the University of Rochester, Rantakari, who was on partial leave this semester, is an associate professor of economics and management at the Simon Business School. He is also a visiting professor of applied economics at MIT's Sloan School of Management in Boston.

The University of Rochester released a statement, saying the community is "hopeful that he is found safe very soon."

Police said Rantakari did not have a car in Rochester and that the Airbnb was within walking distance of the university. Investigators have not released information on what they found in their search that has led them to believe the professor is in danger.

"He's got a family back in Boston, and obviously they're concerned about him as well, and that's what we're trying to resolve here and figure out what happened," Bello said. "We need that public assistance. We need that help getting the message out so we can confirm he's OK."