Skip to main content

Body confirmed as missing NDSU student; hundreds gather for vigils

  • Author:
  • Updated:

Police in Moorhead, Minnesota, confirmed Tuesday evening that the young man found dead in the city Tuesday morning is 18-year-old Thomas Bearson, a student at North Dakota State University in Fargo who went missing early Saturday morning.

Bearson, of Sartell, Minnesota, was a freshman at NDSU and had only been on campus for a few weeks. He was last seen around 3:40 a.m. on Saturday at a friend's house located near the NDSU campus. The extensive ground search launched Monday focused on the blocks between the friend's house and Reid Hall, the dormitory where Bearson lived.

Bearson's body was found lying on the ground in an industrial park in south Moorhead, which is more than a five-mile walk and on the other side of the Red River from where he was last seen, the Fargo Forum reports.

Lt. Joel Vettel of the Fargo Police Department said cellphone tracking and tips from citizens led police to search for Bearson in Moorhead, although authorities didn't release any more information about how he may have gotten to that location.

Fargo Police Chief Keith Ternes said at an afternoon news conference it was too soon to be able to determine the cause of death. Ternes said there is no information indicating the public is at risk.

The Minnesota Bureau of Apprehension is assisting in the investigation.

Vigils held in Fargo, Sartell

As word spread of Bearson's death, family and friends mourned his loss at vigils in both Fargo and Sartell on Tuesday night. Several hundred people showed up at each location, according to the St. Cloud Times, even those who did not know Bearson or his family.

Bearson was a four-year letter winner on his high school basketball team and was described as a competitive, naturally gifted athlete, according to the Forum. One former coach described him as a "great young man."

NDSU President Dean Bresciani urged the community to withhold speculation as the investigation begins.

“My hope would be as a tight knit campus and local community, that out of respect for the family that we’ll be careful to do that. That we limit conversations, and we’ll not try to imagine what possibly did or did not happen," he said.

The Bearson family released a statement which read:

"Dear family and friends and community: It is with deepest sadness of heart that I write this message. Words cannot express our pain for the loss of our son, Tom, and our gratitude for your outpouring of prayers, love and support for our family. ... Please continue caring for us and all those who have lost a loved one. If possible, please reach over and hug your children for us. The Bearson Family."

This embed is invalid

Next Up

Stillwater Prison

Investigation after inmate found dead in cell at Stillwater prison

Drug paraphernalia was found by officers inside the cell.

2 (3)

Focus is on family fitness at this year’s Twin Cities Marathon

Don’t miss out on the running, racing and all the fun things to do for the whole family

Screen Shot 2022-08-18 at 2.29.47 PM

Family's tributes to mother killed by partner in St. Paul murder-suicide

The 30-year-old was killed by her partner, who then killed himself.


Eagan man killed after crashing into traffic signal

The 30-year-old crashed into a traffic light early Wednesday morning.

Melvin Carter

What's in Mayor Melvin Carter's budget proposal?

Here's what the St. Paul mayor is putting his focus on for the upcoming year.

WCCO building

Digital, streaming employees at WCCO-TV vote to unionize

The 15 employees will join on-air talent and producers as members of the SAG-AFTRA union.


Police arrest man suspected of sexual assault, weapons threat in Eagan

The investigation prompted a SWAT response in an Eagan neighborhood on Tuesday.


Minnesota's COVID-19 update for the week ending Tuesday, August 16

The latest reporting period averaged just under 1,300 new cases per day.


Jason and Carly Zucker sell Edina home for $4.18M

The property was bought in 2020, months after Jason Zucker was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins.