MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. (WCCO) — In dark times, prayer can be the light that guides people through the grief. It can help wipe away the pain, but also provide hope.

Those are just a few of the reasons dozens of people gathered for a vigil to honor Joseph Hernandez. The 35-year-old disappeared in late October only to be found dead in a marsh in Mendota Heights on Thanksgiving Day.

“It was a relief but as the same time Joey loved the holidays,” said his cousin Casandra Rolfer as she fought back tears. She was one of many who stood outside on a cold and windy night, candles in hand. “Everyone here loves Joey and Joey loved everyone here,” she said.

The vigil was held at the Mendota Heights Motel, the last place Hernandez was seen alive. His body was found about three miles away.

Even though Hernandez’s family and friends are glad they can give him a proper burial, they still feel that are too many unanswered questions.

“What happened, how did he get where he got? Somebody knows something, he didn’t just wander there,” said Rolfer. “We’re asking for help.”

Police aren’t saying if his death was criminal, but they also haven’t closed the investigation. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension as well as the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office is helping with the case.

While Hernandez was missing, his relatives often organized search parties to find him. Many of those same people were at the vigil.

“I know Joey’s looking down and he’s smiling and he’s just so thankful for all the love and support and everyone not giving up,” said Rolfer.

Hernandez’s family said that if people would like to make a donation to help play for his funeral services, they can do so by visiting TCF Bank locations while donating to the “Bring Joey Home Memorial” account.

Hernandez’s visitation is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 1 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in St. Paul. Visitation is at 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. with the funeral service to immediately follow.

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