A volunteer search team found the bodies of two young brothers encased in ice on the Red Lake Indian Reservation Sunday, more than four months after they disappeared, authorities said.
Tristan Anthony White, 4, and Avery Lee Stately, 2, had been missing since Nov. 22. The two boys, who lived on the reservation near the Canadian border, disappeared while playing outside their home.
“Today our worst fears were confirmed,” said FBI agent Ralph Boelter.
The boys were found about a half-mile from where they lived. Authorities have not determined whether foul play was involved, Boelter said.
The lake was initially searched by divers in November as part of a massive search in the days after their disappearance. That search was called off five days after the boys vanished, and Boelter said rescuers resumed on Sunday in hopes the warmer weather would help.
Police dogs picked up a scent on the southern portion of the lake on Sunday morning and the boys were found in the northern portion of the lake near a beaver dam, Boelter said.
Authorities don’t know what happened to the brothers. One theory is that the boys wandered from their home about a quarter-mile to the southern edge of the lake, then walked across the partially frozen water before falling through the ice, Boelter said.
Alicia White, the mother of the boys, and Jeff Stately, the father of Avery, have both said previously they believed someone abducted the children.
Authorities plan to conduct an autopsy on the boys in the coming days, which Boelter said could help them determine exactly what happened.
Messages seeking comment were left Sunday night with Red Lake Chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr. and the Red Lake Tribal Police Department.
The Red Lake reservation is the same place where 16-year-old Jeff Weise killed his grandfather and grandfather’s companion on March 21, 2005, then went to the high school and killed seven more people, including a teacher and a security guard, before killing himself.