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Cause of death of missing Sebeka man still a mystery

How a missing Sebeka man got down to the banks of the Mississippi River, just blocks south of where he was last seen at Essentia Health St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd continues to be a mystery.

Brainerd police Saturday found the body of Richard Ernest Paquin, 79, on the west bank of the river by the BNSF Railroad Bridge, located between the Washington and Laurel Street bridges.

Brainerd Police Deputy Chief Mike Bestul said Monday that Paquin’s body was found in about 12-18 inches of water.

Bestul said details on how Paquin died will not be known until the autopsy results are complete. However, police still believe that foul play was not a factor in the case.

“Hypothermia is a concern we have with how he was dressed when he left the hospital,” said Bestul. “But we won’t know for sure how he died until the autopsy results are in. From the time he went missing (on Wednesday) to when his body was found, we don’t know what happened.”

Bestul said a volunteer came forward Saturday wanting to help look for Paquin. The investigator told the person the missing man’s family organized a search for Paquin and that he could help them or do what he wanted to do in the search. Bestul said the man searched underneath the Washington Street bridge and found some personal identification items of Paquin. Bestul said authorities then searched the area from the bridge, traveling south and found the body about 200-300 feet away from where the personal items were found. Bestul said police conducted aerial searches Thursday and Friday in the area the body was eventually found but did not find anything.

About 20 law enforcement authorities helped in the search Saturday, including firefighters, State Patrol and the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office. Bestul said the family was not near the location when the body was found. The family was searching the river bank area behind the hospital.

Paquin was reported missing around 2:20 p.m. Wednesday after he was discharged from Essentia Health. He was supposed to be picked up by a relative, but was nowhere to be found.

Brainerd Police said a relative and Paquin had a telephone conversation earlier Wednesday that he would be picked up from the hospital. Paquin had his vehicle parked between Brainerd and Sebeka and the relative was going to take him from the hospital to his vehicle. The vehicle was still at that location.

According to the hospital’s surveillance cameras, Paquin walked out of the hospital around 12:35 p.m. Because he suffered from a medical condition in which he became easily confused and disoriented, several searches were conducted for Paquin along the Mississippi River shortly after his disappearance.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at or 855-5851. Follow me on Twitter at