Exposure and drugs or alcohol likely caused the deaths of two men who had been reported missing before they died, authorities said Thursday.
Joseph Michael Hernandez died of exposure and a meth overdose, the Dakota County Sheriff's Office said.
Hikers found the body of Hernandez on Thanksgiving Day in a wooded area of Friendly Marsh Park off Hwy. 110 and Dodge Lane. Hernandez, 35, had been reported by family and friends as missing on Nov. 7. He was last seen Nov. 11 leaving a nearby motel on foot after arguing with a friend.
Authorities had investigated his death as a possible homicide. Over the past few months, detectives from the Sheriff's Office and the Mendota Heights Police Department conducted numerous interviews, reviewed surveillance video, executed search warrants, drafted subpoenas, and processed available physical evidence as part of the investigation.
"Enormous effort has been put forth into determining the circumstances involving Mr. Hernandez's death," Sheriff Tim Leslie said in a statement. On Thursday, the sheriff's office and the Hennepin County medical examiner concluded that "Hernandez died from exposure to the cold and rainy weather, and that acute methamphetamine toxicity was also a factor in his death."
Seth Juedes, 22, of St. Cloud, died from "environmental cold exposure with ethanol intoxication as a significant condition," the Midwest Medical Examiner ruled.
Juedes' body was found in a ditch near the intersection of County Road 33 and Hwy. 10 in Benton County.
He was last seen at 2:10 a.m. on Dec. 6 walking alone in a parking lot in the 500 block of NW. 66th Street in Rice, Minn. He had been at a bar that night, according to the Benton County Sheriff's Office.
Juedes' girlfriend reported him missing. Juedes was found Dec. 7 by St. Cloud police investigating his disappearance.