Local authorities confirmed Friday that the skeletal remains found in a popular Lakeville park are the body of a 50-year-old man who vanished nearly two years ago.
Lakeville police said the man was Christopher Bellino, of Lakeville, according to the Hennepin County medical examiner's office. His remains were found Thursday near a picnic area in Ritter Farm Park.
A group of high school students out on a "field orienteering exercise" found the man's skull in "fairly remote section" of the 340-acre park, said Capt. Kevin Manias, a Lakeville police spokesman.
In a subsequent search of the area, investigators found "additional skeletal bones believed to be associated with the skull," police said.
"Everything we located was surface, or covered by vegetable material," Manias said at a news conference on Friday. "The area that we searched, there were [bones] located probably 100 to 200 feet away from where the skull was at."
Bellino was last seen when he went to dinner with his daughters on July 29, 2012, according to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons Database. He was reported missing four days later by his mother.
His car was discovered on Aug. 26 of that year in the parking lot of the Target in Lakeville, less than two miles from where his remains were discovered, Manias said.
At the time of his disappearance, police described Bellino as an "endangered person," which means that due to any number of circumstances a law enforcement official had determined that he was at risk of injury or death.
An autopsy was performed Friday, the results of which have not yet been released, the police captain said. There was no indication of foul play.
"Until we've received a formal report from the medical examiner's office," Manias said, "in terms of manner and cause of death, I'm not going to speculate."
Libor Jany • 651-925-5033 • @StribJany