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Bodies of Kochu, Gray found in Ohio River in West Virginia

| Thursday, March 26, 2015, 10:19 p.m.
Family members searching for missing nursing graduate Paul Kochu, 22, of the South Side issued a $7,500 reward for information leading to his whereabouts and put up posters seeking help in locating him. Kochu's body was found near Wheeling Island on Thursday, March 19, 2015.
The body of Andre Gray, 34, of Lawrenceville, who had been missing from his ransacked Lawrenceville apartment, was found near a barge in the river near Steubenville, Ohio, on Friday, March 20, 2015.
The body of Paul Kochu, 22, of the South Side was found floating in the Ohio River near Wheeling, W.Va., on Thursday, March, 19 2015. He was last seen on the South Side Dec. 16, 2014.

The hearts of the families of two missing Pittsburgh men were broken Thursday when they learned that bodies recovered from the Ohio River in West Virginia last week were those of their loved ones.

The deaths of Andre Gray, who had been shot to death, and Paul Kochu, who might have drowned, “are not related” and are being investigated separately, city police Cmdr. RaShall Brackney said at a news conference Thursday night.

“I'm thankful to God for bringing my son home,” said Gray's mother, Victoria Gray-Tillman, as she and other family members stood next to Brackney. “Now I can have closure. ... I knew all along the Lord had my son.”

Police announced Friday afternoon that Hubert Wingate, 30, who has been in the Allegheny County Jail since Feb. 21 on unrelated fugitive from justice charges, is a person of interest in Gray's death. Thursday night, City Public Safety Department spokeswoman Sonya Toler announced that Wingate had been arrested for the slaying of Gray.

Wingate, 30, was carrying a concealed handgun when city police picked him up on an outstanding warrant for an assault in Colorado, Toler said.

Police announced Thursday the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Charleston had identified the bodies of Gray, 34, reported missing from his Lawrenceville apartment Oct. 25, and Kochu, 22, last seen on the South Side during the early morning hours of Dec. 16.

“These are circumstances no family ever dreams of coping with,” according to a statement released by the Kochu family of Chester County.

“Though we are left with many questions, what we know for sure is Paul was the light of our lives and we will not be the same without him.”

An autopsy showed that Gray had been shot to death, and his death was ruled a homicide, Brackney said. She said no final ruling has been made on Kochu.

“The preliminary autopsy showed that the cause of death was drowning, but that is not by any means a final determination,” Wheeling police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger said. “We are waiting for the completion of toxicology and other tests.”

Gray-Tillman reported her son missing when she found his Lawrenceville apartment ransacked, blood on the sheets and a big blood stain that appeared to be covered with bleach.

His dog, Boss, and vehicle were missing. Police discovered the vehicle burned on the North Side and his identification and other cards scattered on a street in New Kensington. The dog has not been found.

“We are a loving and forgiving family,” Gray-Tillman said. “I have forgiven (anyone responsible) a while ago.”

Gray's body was found floating near a barge March 20 near Steubenville, Brooke County, W.Va., Sheriff Charles Jackson has said.

Kochu, an intensive care unit nurse at Allegheny General Hospital, was last seen by friends leaving a South Side tavern Dec. 16 around 1:30 a.m. He was spotted on surveillance video at 2:45 a.m. walking near the Giant Eagle on Wharton Street, not far from his apartment.

His body was found floating March 19 in some debris on the shore of Wheeling Island, Schwertfeger said.

Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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