On September 30, 1982, a 3-year-old child, Kevin Jay Ayotte, went missing from his family's residence in Sugar Bush Township, located in eastern Beltrami County.
At that time, 29 years ago, an exhaustive search and investigation was undertaken by then Sheriff Tom Tolman and members of the Sheriff's Office with assistance from other state and federal agencies. That investigation did not succeed in finding Kevin or even determining the exact nature of his disappearance. This case has continued to haunt the Ayotte family, retired law enforcement officials involved in the investigation and active members who have come on the Sheriff's Office since.
A few weeks ago, Beltrami County Sheriff's Investigator Scott Hinners reexamined the Kevin Jay Ayotte Missing Person case from 1982 and began running names from the case file through investigative databases. During this search, the investigator located an individual in Michigan using the same name, date of birth and Social Security number assigned to the missing Kevin Jay Ayotte from Beltrami County. Additional assistance was sought by Hinners from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, Va. As Hinners continued his investigation he learned that Kevin's mother and father also were living in Michigan in a town in the same region as the person using Kevin Jay Ayotte's name.
Last week, Hinners, accompanied by a special agent from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, travelled to Michigan and began searching for the subject. With the help of local Michigan authorities, Beltrami County investigators located an individual who had stolen and assumed the identity of Kevin Jay Ayotte and used this new identity for financial purposes.
As it turned out, this suspect was known to local authorities in Michigan. The suspect was interviewed by law enforcement authorities and admitted to the identity theft. The identity theft investigation was left in the hands of Michigan authorities and remains under investigation. Beltrami investigators returned to Bemidji after they made contact with Kevin Ayotte's parents in Michigan to discuss these developments in the case. Investigators determined it was a coincidence that Kevin's parents were living in such close proximity to the suspect in the case.
This Missing Person Case remains open and under investigation with ongoing assistance from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.