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(KTXL) — The family of former UC Davis student Catherine Serou is mourning after she was found dead in Russia.

“Very close as children,” said Marie Serou. 

Marie Serou and her older sister Catherine Serou grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. They were close as kids — even jokesters. 

“We started off sharing a bed and she would always complain that my toenails were too sharp because I would kick in the middle of the night,” Marie Serou said. 

Catherine Serou (Courtesy: Beccy Serou)

Marie Serou says her sister was always searching for the next adventure as she got older. 

“She did a tour in Afghanistan. She was load master for the Aerial Re-fueler Transport Squad 252,” Marie Serou said. 

After her time with the marines, Catherine Serou lived in Davis for a while before deciding her next move. 

“Got her bachelors degree from UC Davis and then got a masters in art history,” Marie Serou said. “She had an office job lined up and she just wasn’t very excited about it. And she was like, ‘I’ve always wanted to go to Russia.’”

In October of 2019, she moved to Russia to study law. 

More recently, Marie Serou says her sister was looking to try and start a business a Russia teaching English. Things were going well until Marie Serou says she felt the need to reach out to her sister four days before she disappeared. 

“I just reached out to tell that I miss you, I love you, let’s talk soon,” Marie Serou said. 

Marie Serou says her sister sent a concerning text to their mother on June 15. 

“She got three phone calls in a row and then the text message, ‘I’m in a car with a stranger, I hope I’m not being abducted.’ And then we didn’t hear from her since,” Marie Serou said. 

They are unsure of how she got into the car and under what circumstances. 

“The last time that her cell phone pinged it was in this forest in Russia,” Marie Serou said. 

Then early Saturday morning, the family got a call that her body had been found in a wooded area about 250 miles east of Moscow. As she tries to figure out what do next, Marie Serou says she wished she got the chance to have that talk with her sister. 

“I would just say I love you. I love you … Yeah,” Marie Serou said. 

One man has been arrested on murder charges and has been arraigned in a court in Central Russia.

The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help with funeral expenses and possible trips to Russia. 

A former professor of Catherine Serou’s sent a statement to FOX40:

I only knew Catherine for a few short months, but she left such an impression with her keen intelligence, warmth, and humor. She was so articulate, thoughtful, and kind—I cannot imagine a better unofficial ambassador for UC-Davis in Russia than Catherine. Her passion for Russian culture was deep and infectious. I am utterly heartbroken by her loss and send her family my most sincere condolences.

Jenny Kaminer, Associate Professor of Russian, UC Davis