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Police confirm body found in Lake Irving was Matt Pulis; family asking for privacy

BEMIDJI -- The Ramsey County medical examiner’s office confirmed Friday that the body of a man found in Lake Irving was that of Matt Pulis, missing since Oct. 20, 2012.

Pulis’ mother, Betty Pulis, expressed her gratitude to members of the Bemidji Police Department who, with the help of a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter pilot, found her son’s body Thursday afternoon.

“They are a wonderful, dedicated, compassionate group of people,” she said of Bemidji Police Chief Mike Mastin’s department. “They are heroes.”

Dental records confirmed the identity, according to a news release, and the examiner’s report showed the cause of death to be drowning.

The aerial search resulted in the spotting of an object floating in Lake Irving just before 2 p.m. Thursday. It turned out to be Pulis’ body, which was taken to shore by emergency personnel just behind a cabin at 710 Woodland Ave SW.

Pulis’ disappearance sparked a massive search in October of last year. Bemidji police conducted a door-to-door search of 200 homes in the immediate aftermath of the 31-year-old’s disappearance. They also scanned lakes Bemidji and Irving, as well as other woodland areas with sonar-equipped boats and by air, covering 500 acres. Nothing turned up. The search Thursday came as a result of spring weather, Beltrami County emergency management director Beryl Wernberg said. Iceless lakes and snow-free ground presented an opportunity for spotting something.

In the release, Wernberg recognized the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the United States Border Patrol, the Bemidji Citizen’s Patrol, the Headwaters Violent Crime Task Force and the Minnesota State Patrol for their assistance in the search.

“The Bemidji Police Department thanks all law enforcement agencies and the public for their assistance in this investigation,” Wernberg wrote. “We wish to express our condolences to the Pulis family and ask that their privacy be respected.”

On the “Help Us Find Matt Pulis” Facebook page, operated by Betty Pulis, members of the  community expressed their condolences, in many instances asking for prayers for the family.

A post on the Facebook page said: “We thank everyone for all of their prayers & support through the past months. We ask that you continue those prayers a little while longer, while our family goes through this period of grieving. Thank you and may God Bless you all for your kindness & respect of our family.”

Pulis was last believed to have been walking north on Beltrami Avenue Northwest from downtown Bemidji. The search that followed was conducted by Bemidji police on what would have been Pulis’ route home.

“We would like people to respect our privacy, and we would like people to give us time to grieve for the loss of our son, brother, cousin, nephew and friend. A friend of God,” Betty Pulis said. “The heroes in this situation are the Bemidji Police Department. They are wonderful people.”

Justin Glawe
Reporting on crime, courts and Beltrami county government. Follow me on Twitter @JustinGlawe.
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