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GVSU advisor killed, friends say he was a mentor | News

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GVSU advisor killed, friends say he was a mentor

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - A Grand Valley State University advisor, found dead inside his westside home, is being remembered as a mentor who liked to help underprivileged youth, go to college.

Santiago Zapata, 50, had not been seen or heard from for several days. On Tuesday, his friends went looking for him. They asked Grand Rapids Police to check his house on Myrtle Street. When they went inside, they found his body and evidence of a struggle. Investigators say Zapata had traumatic injuries.

"It's freaky. Makes you think, who can you trust, who you can't," says Dave Zolenski.

Zolenski has known Zapata for over 10 years. He says Zapata was a big University of Michigan fan and enjoyed rock and roll, but most of all, he was a mentor.

Neighbor Shawna Stapler says, "I know he would help them, guide them in ways, make sure they were doing good."

Zapata was an advisor for the TRiO Educational Talent Search program at GVSU's Pew Campus. The program helps identify middle and high school students from diverse backgrounds who have the potential to succeed in college.

"He was laid back, care-free, just liked life," says Zolenski.

Police spent Tuesday afternoon going through Zapata's house. Later than evening, they found his black Chrysler Crossfire at an apartment complex on the city's northeast side. So far, no arrests have been made.

"Yeah, frustrated, more than sad. Because good people don't deserve that in life. He worked so damn hard in life," says Zolenski.