By TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A U.S. hiker who fell to her death during a savage attack in Germany and a friend who tried to protect her had just graduated together from the University of Illinois with computer degrees.
Rev. Mark Zhang of Living Water Evangelical Church in Naperville, Illinois, said Tuesday that 21-year-old Eva Liu and her parents attended the church and Liu’s parents told him that she had been killed.
“It’s a very tough situation,” Zhang said. “Our words are powerless. We just mourn together with them and pray for them. When one family suffers, our whole church suffers.”
Weihan Chang of Normal, Illinois, said that his daughter, 22-year-old Kelsey Chang, survived the attack. She was released from a hospital on Sunday and was on a plane bound for home Tuesday. He said he hadn’t had a chance to talk with her very much.
“She’s pretty damaged by the incident,” Weihan Chang told The Associated Press. “It’s life-changing.”
According to authorities, Liu and Chang were hiking near Neuschwanstein castle in southern Germany on the afternoon of June 14. The two women encountered a 30- year-old man from Michigan on the path. He lured them onto a trail leading to a viewpoint, according to police. At some point he attacked Liu. When Chang tried to help her the man threw Chang off a cliff. She fell almost 165 feet.
The man then apparently tried to sexually assault Liu before throwing her off the cliff as well. Mountain rescue teams were able to reach the women but Liu died in a hospital that night.
The Michigan man left the scene but was arrested nearby. A bystander said the man had scratches across his face but said nothing as police took him away to jail.
The man is suspected of murder, attempted murder and a sexual offense but prosecutors have said it may be three to four months before he’s indicted.
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Associate Chancellor Robin Kaler said in a statement late Monday evening that Liu and Chang both graduated from the school in May. Liu earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Chang earned a degree in computer engineering.
“Our University of Illinois family is mourning the senseless death of Ms. Liu and the attack on (her friend),” Kaler said. “Both had just graduated in May and should have been able to celebrate such an important accomplishment with the fear of such a tragic outcome.”
Barry Gin, another pastor at Living Water Evangelical Church in Naperville, said that Liu was a member of the church’s youth group before attending boarding school at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora as a sophomore.
Neuschwanstein, located in southern Bavaria close to Austria’s border, is one of Germany’s most popular tourist attractions.
It is the most famous of the castles built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria in the 19th century. Construction started in 1869 but was never completed. Ludwig died in 1886.