A family located the bones while strolling on the island, across Narragansett Bay from Bristol. Yesterday, divers searched for further remains in the waters around the island.
Early in the investigation, Bristol police speculated that Nisenfeld, who reportedly was unhappy at the school, was alive and had simply run away. That seems less likely now, Capt. Joseph DaSilva said yesterday.
``But we can't be absolutely sure for a while,'' said DaSilva, noting that DNA tests of the bones were pending and that getting the results could take up to two months.
Nisenfeld's parents were expected to travel to Rhode Island to provide blood samples for the DNA test, police said. His father, Steven, said he had been informed of the preliminary identification by the state Medical Examiner's Office and Bristol police.
``Nothing is confirmed,'' Steven Nisenfeld told reporters from his home in Audubon. ``. . . More tests have to be done.''
The tentative identification was based on the examination of the shin bone, which belonged to a white male between 18 and 20 years old and between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 7 inches tall, DaSilva said. Bryan Nisenfeld was 5 feet 7 inches in height.
And a tan boot that encased the severed foot was similar to a pair the teenager owned, DaSilva said.
A high school honor student, Nisenfeld had trouble adjusting to his first semester at Roger Williams. He had no roommate, and peers described him as a loner. He disappeared leaving his guitar, glasses and bicycle in his dormitory and his money in a bank account.
Though family members said he seemed fine while home for Christmas break, he wrote in a letter to his father shortly before disappearing that he was homesick.
His mother, Marianne Brown, who also lives in Audubon, has said Bryan was on scholarship and ``under pressure to keep his grades up.''
After his disappearance, state and local authorities and the Coast Guard searched the woods and bay near the campus. Steven Nisenfeld repeatedly traveled to Rhode Island, plastering pictures of his son around the area.
University officials yesterday remained hopeful that the bones are not those of Bryan Nisenfeld.
``The whole campus is very disturbed by this,'' spokeswoman Dorothea Doar said.