Family suspects foul play in case of missing Carlton County man
Lucas Dudden's father said searches have been called off for deer hunting season. Dudden grew up in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
CARLTON, Minn. — It's been nearly two weeks since Lucas Dudden was last heard from, and frustration is growing for family members who have found few answers.
"It's gut-wrenching not knowing if he’s OK or if he suffered terribly," his father, Don Dudden, said on Monday, Nov. 7. "It just eats at me."
The family considers Lucas' disappearance highly suspicious, Don said, but they've received no new information over the past several days as searches have been called off due to deer hunting season.
Lucas Dudden, 38, was last in touch with his brother Oct. 26, and he was reported missing to authorities Oct. 31. His truck was subsequently found on a remote road near Rat Lake, north of McGregor, in Aitkin County, according to Don Dudden.
Lucas had been renting a room at a house in Carlton while working for the past year as a pipefitter at the Superior refinery rebuild project, his father said. He had never before missed a day of work, and he was on the job as of Oct. 25.
Don Dudden said it would have been highly unusual for his son to ditch work and drive an hour west — having no connections in that area — especially in the middle of a workweek.
"It's not like Luke just to park his truck on a remote gravel road and just take off hiking," the father said, also describing his son as an avid outdoorsman who would not get lost in the woods. "Especially in that area, which isn't even good hiking."
Don said he's been told that Lucas' phone last pinged around 8 p.m. Oct. 26 near where his truck was found in Aitkin County, and that his credit card was apparently last used for a $19 purchase at the nearby Sather's Gateway Store on State Highway 65.
Searches were conducted by air, land and water in the vicinity of the truck for several days, Don Dudden said, but efforts were suspended after Thursday due to safety concerns related to the deer firearms season. Several family members also have traveled to the area to conduct their own searches.
The father, who lives in western Nebraska, said he's not sure his son is even in the same area of the truck and he relayed information to investigators about suspects who could be involved in his disappearance.
"It's totally out of Luke's character to just leave his truck and go off the grid," he said. "I believe in my heart that his truck was planted out there to throw them off on looking anywhere else. Stuff just doesn't add up."
Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake indicated all investigative avenues are still open.
"We continue to follow up on any information we have and haven’t ruled out anything yet," she said in an email Monday night, "but currently do not have any evidence to point to foul play at this point."
Don Dudden said his son was born in Nebraska and grew up in the Fargo-Moorhead area. He said he has no reason to believe he would have been suicidal or involved in any nefarious activities. Court records confirm he has not had any major run-ins with Minnesota law enforcement in the past 15 years.
"He's got a boy that just adores him, and he loves him to death," Don Dudden said. "His son lives out in Nevada with his mother, but he said his goal was to work enough to move out there and be close to his son."
A news release last week indicated the Aitkin County Sheriff's Office and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension also are assisting in the investigation. Searches were also aided by the St. Louis County Rescue Squad, Aitkin County Search and Rescue, Fond Du Lac Police Department, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and State Patrol.
Duluth News Tribune reporter John Myers contributed to this report.