MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A body recovered from the Mississippi River in Otsego Thursday afternoon was visually confirmed by investigators to be a 23-year-old Monticello man who had been missing since last Saturday.
The Wright County Sheriff’s Office says the body of Joe Brunn was found by volunteers in the river at about 11:30 a.m.
Joe was at a wedding Friday night and was last seen leaving the Boondox Bar in Otsego at about 2 a.m. Saturday. He was returning to the Holiday Inn Hotel just down the street, but never made it there.
Hagerty says Joe’s body, which was found about 30 feet from shore just south of the Highway 101 bridge, was taken to the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office for official identification and an autopsy.
Hundreds of searchers have been spending the last five days in the area looking for Joe. Over the last two days, the search effort covered about 10 square miles.
Joe’s parents and his uncle, Steve Brunn, thanked volunteers in person Thursday for all their help.
“Above all else, we just want to say thank you to the community, to all the resources that we’ve had made available to us,” Steve said.
Patty Brunn, Joe’s mother, held a prayer book in her hand as she addressed volunteers and the media.
“Today’s devotional, it’s so fitting for my son that I really, I read it to everybody because I think that’s what kept me from all the tears,” Patty said.
As the searches headed home, the disappointment and grief were evident on their faces.
“Just came out thinking, ‘What if it was one of our family members?'” volunteer Donna Stricklund said. “We had time off work and decided to come out and help and do anything we could.”
Volunteer Brittany Carlson says the only solace from Thursday’s discovery is that it provides closure for the Brunn family.
“It’s just very hard that we had to go through this as a community,” Carlson said.
Some had volunteered their time every day since Sunday.
“He had a thing for the number five,” volunteer Jamie Carlson said. “Today was the fifth day, so I’m glad we found him on today. He’s just back home with his family now, and he’s with the lord.”
The sheriff’s office has not released anymore details on what may have led to his death, or why he ended up in the river.
At a vigil held outside the Holiday Inn Thursday night, people held back tears as the song “Angels Among Us” played. As the Brunn family embraced, the crowd lifted up their candles in support.
“We don’t have words for all the support we have in this time,” Joe Brunn’s father told the crowd.
“I would like to think someone would do this for my family if we went through something, and it’s only right to do the same for them,” Amelia Utecht, the family’s neighbor, said.
More than 4,600 volunteers helped in the search effort to find Brunn, until his body was found Thursday morning.
“Joe was a great man, great person,” Steve Brunn said. “We are so glad that he is back with us.”
As Brunn’s favorite song played at the vigil, it gave people a moment to smile.
“It’s a good community,” Jerrod Feist, from Otsego, said. “There’s a lot of support.”
A GoFundMe page has raised more than $20,000 for Brunn’s family.