(DETROIT FREE PRESS) - His small room was in the basement of the Phi Rho Sigma co-ed medical society house in Ann Arbor, near the workout room in a quieter and less trafficked part of the house.
It's where Paul DeWolf, a 25-year-old medical student at the University of Michigan, lived while he worked toward an expected degree in the spring and a future as a doctor.
It's also where he was found dead.
A co-worker discovered DeWolf after checking on him at 11:30 a.m. July 24, when he failed to show up for work at the VA Hospital in Ann Arbor.
More than two months later, police and his family still don't know who made their way into that basement apartment in the 200 block of North Ingalls Street and shot DeWolf once in the neck. His death shocked many on the campus of more than 43,000 students and is the only homicide so far this year in Ann Arbor.
His family and friends say they can't comprehend who would want DeWolf dead or why.
"Obviously the question is: 'Why? Why did this happen?' " said his father, Thom DeWolf.
"And we may not get the answer to that one," said his mother, Kris DeWolf.
"Or 'Who?' " Thom DeWolf said. "Paul didn't have enemies."
Police say they've executed numerous search warrants, conducted extensive interviews and administered polygraphs, but so far - despite a $10,000 reward being offered in the case - no one has been arrested for DeWolf's death.
"We would definitely like to get this one solved," said Ann Arbor Police Sgt. Earle Fox.
The DeWolfs, who spoke to the Free Press at their home in Schoolcraft, south of Kalamazoo, hope sharing their story will generate new tips.
"I would hope that somebody would morally come forward and say something because they know that this is wrong," Thom DeWolf said.
A break-in next door
There were no visible signs of forced entry to Paul DeWolf's room.
The Phi Rho Sigma house, where a couple of dozen men and women who are attending medical school live, has shared space and a front door and a back door, along with individual rooms that have locks on the doors.
A day before DeWolf was discovered dead, a burglary was reported next door around 8:30 p.m., according to an online crime report and police. Police believe DeWolf was killed the night of July 23 or early on July 24.
"We are looking into that," Fox said of the break-in.
Fox declined to say whether there were any similarities between the two cases and wouldn't say whether anything was taken from DeWolf's room. Police said no firearm was found at the scene.
Beyond those few details, police haven't released more information about their investigation, but say a team of detectives is pursuing leads.
"These cases get solved a lot of times with public input," Fox said. "And it could be something very minor, something they don't think is important. And a lot of times that little piece of information is what can turn the case."
Early interest in healing
DeWolf's career goals were paved when he was just a kid.
He'd play doctor, using a stethoscope to check on his older brother, Joshua DeWolf, when he was sick.
Joshua DeWolf spent time in the hospital, paralyzed from a disorder that affects the nervous system, and Paul, then 11, got an up-close look as doctors treated him.
It was a turning point in Paul DeWolf's life, prompting him to pursue a career in the medical field.
"He wanted to do it all," said Thom DeWolf. "And he had a lot to offer, so it's very sad that someone would end his life at a time when he was just beginning to peak."
Paul DeWolf, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, had far-reaching goals: to serve his country, perform surgeries and take medical missions, his parents said.
Friends and family describe DeWolf - the middle of three children - as smart, driven, competitive, loving, athletic and musical. Joining the Air Force allowed him to pay for medical school and focus on his studies, they said.
DeWolf ran marathons, played volleyball, scuba dived and played several musical instruments, including the piano, French horn and more recently, the acoustic guitar. He began playing the piano when he was just 3 and started taking formal lessons in the second grade.
"Music has always been a very integral part of our family," said Thom DeWolf, whose wife is a music teacher.
Paul DeWolf shared that passion for the piano with Lindsey Gaston, a second-year medical student he once dated.
"He had a brilliant musical ear and could pick up things really effortlessly," she recalled.
When DeWolf's parents hear music at Berean Baptist Church, the reality of their son being gone hits them the hardest.
"Now when you start singing the songs, you filter them with a different set of lenses, and they take on a whole different set of meaning," Thom DeWolf said.
"It's not so superficial anymore," Kris DeWolf said
'Everyone is devastated'
DeWolf's death leaves a void in the lives of many, including those who attended medical school with him.
"We're all shattered over here," said Joe Duratinsky, one of DeWolf's closest friends and a fourth-year medical student. "It seems like everyone has been affected - people that knew him really well, people that he only saw in passing in the hallways - everyone is devastated about it."
Duratinsky said it doesn't make sense.
"I honestly do not have a good explanation, and that's one of the things that makes this so frustrating," he said.
Gaston said she knows nothing will bring DeWolf back, but if someone comes forward, it will help his friends and family gain closure.
"Ann Arbor is a pretty safe college town, and you just don't think that would happen to somebody, especially somebody you care about so much," Gaston said.
DeWolf's parents, who repeatedly praised the Ann Arbor Police Department, hope the case goes to trial so they can get resolution and start the healing process.
"Right now it's like an open wound, and you just keep scratching the scab off," Thom DeWolf said. "It just doesn't heal right now."
The family received an outpouring of support, ranging from letters from DeWolf's patients to neighbors mowing their lawn without being asked. Church, a big part of the family's life, is where the DeWolfs find their strength.
"This person, whoever did this, is going to have to face judgment," his father said.
A proper remembrance
Those close to DeWolf are working to honor him and keep his memory alive.
They're in the process of trying to get a scholarship in his name, as well as an honorary M.D. so he will be in this year's graduating class picture, Duratinsky said.
"He's sorely missed here in Ann Arbor, in the medical school community; he's sorely missed back home," he said. "It's a complete tragedy. It's a tragedy for all of us who knew him. It's a tragedy for everyone who would have known him in the future."
A spokeswoman said U-M also is trying determine the best way to honor DeWolf's memory.
"Our administration is partnering closely with medical student organizations and those who were closest to Paul, including his family. As plans become final, we'll share them broadly," spokeswoman Kara Gavin said in a statement.
Last month, DeWolf was remembered at an event medical students attended, Gavin said.
"Students invoked Paul's name ... reflecting on how much he is missed, and how the ripples of this tragedy further remind us of the fragility of life," the statement said.
His family keeps the American flag that was draped over his casket in the front room of the home, near the piano.
His headstone reads: "He's finished the race."
"This isn't the way it's supposed to be," his mother said.