A man found dead inside a vehicle parked outside an Eden Prairie elementary school was its principal.
Police acting on a request to check on Joe Epping's whereabouts found the 67-year-old from Chaska about 9:15 p.m. Monday at Cedar Ridge Elementary School on Braxton Drive. The school had a regular day of classes Monday as nearly 10 inches of snow fell in blizzard-like conditions.
Police Lt. Matt Sackett said Epping's death appears to be from natural causes. Results of an autopsy by the Hennepin County medical examiner's office are pending.
Epping came out of retirement to become the school's interim principal for what was intended to be just this current academic year, said school district spokeswoman Jaclyn Swords.
But because Epping was such "a powerful figure," Swords continued, the district extended his interim tenure for a second year.
"His gift was making connections here," Swords said. "He was one of those people who was beloved at Eden Prairie."
Epping had a 27-year history with the district. He retired at the end of the 2013-14 school year after leading Central Middle School for 14 years. Before being a principal, Epping served as a special education teacher, dean of students and assistant principal at Eden Prairie High School.
Epping took over for Jodi Markworth, who left to become principal at Neill Elementary School in Crystal.