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Body confirmed as missing NDSU student; hundreds gather for vigils

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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."

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