Image: The site in Italy where the body of Allison Owens was found
Paolo Lazzeroni  /  AP
Italian police say they have found the body of 23-year-old Allison Owens in a canal beside a heavily trafficked road.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 10/5/2011 2:03:15 PM ET 2011-10-05T18:03:15

An Ohio woman found dead Wednesday in Tuscany three days after she was reported missing was likely the victim of a hit-and-run driver, Italian police said.

Carabinieri Col. Antonio Frassinetto told a news conference that the body of Allison Owens, 23, of Powell, outside Columbus, was found in a canal beside a heavily trafficked road in San Giovanni Valdarno.

Tests have been ordered to determine the cause of death, but investigators believe she had been jogging. Owens might have been using an iPod and not heard a car approaching, Frassinetto said. Police have not ruled out other possible causes of her death.

Image: Facebook page for Allison Rhea Owens who was missing in Italy.
Phaedra Singelis  /  Facebook
Facebook page for Allison Rhea Owens who was missing in Italy.

Owens was a guide for a tour company. She was last seen alive Sunday afternoon, and more than 100 police using dogs searched for her after friends reported her missing.

Stacy Lilly, a close friend of the family in Columbus, told NBC station WCMH that Owens' mother, Cindy Owens, arrived in Italy on Wednesday and was in shock over the news while trying to confirm the details of her daughter's death with Italian authorities.

Lilly, 38, said Allison Owens had been in her wedding and was "like my sister." She said friends and family were in disbelief.

"She was the most amazing, life-loving person I have ever met," Lilly said. "She had a love of life, she embraced life with open arms."

Owens decided to become a tour guide in Europe after touring Switzerland with her mother in 2010, a trip that was a graduation gift after the younger woman earned a degree in communications from Southern Methodist University, Lilly said.

Owens also was a student at Village Academy in Powell.

"She just fell in love with the outdoors and with adventure," she said. When Owens died, she was on her next-to-last tour of the season and was then due to return to Ohio, Lilly said.

'She's not replaceable'
Developments in the case were being posted to a page on Facebook. On Wednesday, one of the administrators posted a message saying, "We are thinking of the Owens family during this difficult time. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers."

Photos posted to the site show a smiling woman with long blond hair out with friends, waterskiing and posing with CNN's Larry King on the set of his old show.

"She was the most wonderful person you could possibly meet," Kimberly Carlson, a friend of Owens, told Dallas-Fort Worth NBC station KXAS-TV. "She loved life and she loved her friends. And she's not replaceable." The TV station said Carlson and Owens were former roommates and sorority sisters at Southern Methodist.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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