BIG RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Police believe they have located the body of Fred Byrne, a missing Big Rapids man, in a Missouri national forest.
Byrne, 49, disappeared after dropping his son off at Hope College in Holland on Feb. 12. The next day, his car was found in the Mark Twain National Forest in southern Missouri.
On Sunday, a police search crew was training in the woods with police dogs. While the training was not conducted specifically for Byrne's disappearance, police decide to concentrate their training in the area where his car was found.
That's when they located the body about a two-tenths of a mile from where Byrne's car was located.
Police believe the body is that of Byrne because the clothes found on the body match the description of what he was last seen wearing, according to Det. Brian Miller with the Big Rapids Department of Public Safety. However, an autopsy, which will be performed on Tuesday, still has to provide a positive identification.
There were no signs of foul play, Miller said. It could have been a suicide.
"But at this point, again, I want to clarify we are not calling it a suicide necessarily, until we have conclusions of autopsy," Miller said.
Byrne was well known in Big Rapids; He was a lawyer former and former assistant city attorney. He was also on the local parks board and his wife Diana leads the school board.
Family and friends spent the last four months doing whatever they could to find him, and so did law enforcement, Miller said.
"'I'm just thankful that law enforcement, the team of cadaver dogs never stopped searching," he said.
The following message was posted on the "Find Fred Byrne" Facebook page shortly after 11 a.m. Monday:
"Message from Fred's family:
On Sunday, June 23rd a group of search and rescuers aided by dogs found the body of a man. It is believed to be the body of Fred Byrne who has been missing since 2/12/13. Fred's car was found on 2/13/13 not far from the location where the body was found.
BRDPS Detective Brian Miller met with Fred's wife and son on Sunday and they are now in Holland with family await ing autopsy results. The autopsy is being performed today in Missouri.
Diana Byrne wishes to thank BRDPS for their kindness, compassion and professionalism and all other agencies, searchers, family, friends and many others who have reached out in support. Arrangements will be made for a celebration of life service and published in the Holland Sentinel and Big Rapids Pioneer."
Stay with woodtv.com for updates on this story.
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