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Missing man's death ruled a drowning

It was learned Tuesday that the 79-year-old Sebeka man, who went missing Wednesday after leaving Essentia Health St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd, died as a result of a freshwater drowning.

Brainerd Police Deputy Chief Mike Bestul said the provisional autopsy results confirmed the drowning death of Richard Ernest Paquin. Bestul said the autopsy also confirmed that foul play was not involved. Bestul said a final autopsy on Paquin wouldn’t be complete for another four to six weeks.

Paquin’s body was found Saturday on the west bank of the river near the BNSF Railroad bridge, located between the Washington and Laurel Street bridges. Bestul said Paquin was found face down in about 12 to 18 inches of water. Bestul said hypothermia may have played a factor in the death as Paquin had shed his clothing.

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.

According to the hospital’s surveillance cameras, Paquin walked out of the hospital around 12:35 p.m. It was reported that Paquin suffered from a medical condition in which he became easily confused and disoriented.

Bestul said a lot of manpower went into the search, which began immediately after he was reported missing. The police had two leads, which resulted in nothing. A volunteer found personal identification items from Paquin underneath the Washington Street bridge, and authorities then searched the area from the bridge, traveling south, and found the body about 200 to 300 feet away from where the items were found.

Bestul said police conducted aerial searches Thursday and Friday in the area the body eventually was found, but they were unsuccessful.

About 20 law enforcement authorities helped in the search Saturday, including firefighters, State Patrol and the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office.

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