A man searching for deer antlers in the woods of Missouri discovered human remains identified as those of missing amateur mixed martial arts fighter David Koenig, police said.
The grisly discovery ends the nearly two-year search for Koenig, who was 25 when he was last seen in a motel in Branson in February 2020.
The remains were found Dec. 22 in the woods near the 3700 block of Fall Creek Road in Branson, in the Ozarks region, local police said Monday in a news release.
The man who found them called authorities, who determined that the remains were human.
Investigators from the Branson Police Department and the Taney County Coroner’s Office conducted a “meticulous search” of the area, “recovering most of the remains and several other personal artifacts," police said.
Officials determined Monday that the human remains were those of Koenig.
A forensic pathologist determined that “there was no trauma and that the death did not appear to be the result of foul play," the police statement said.
Investigators had spent thousands of hours looking for Koenig, including conducting several searches of properties in Taney and Stone counties in Missouri, as well as Boone County, Arkansas, police said.
“Our department and the amazing group of volunteers never stopped in our efforts to find Mr. Koenig,” Branson Police Chief Jeff Matthews said. “While this is not the ending we hoped for, we offer our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Koenig."
The circumstances around his death remain unclear. His mother, Tracy Koenig, has said he may have been in distress.
In July 2020, Tracy Koenig told “Dateline NBC” that her son was friends with the owner of the Peach Tree Inn in Branson, where he had stayed for a couple of nights before he vanished.
“He messaged a few of his friends asking for help,” she said at the time. “He thought he might be in some sort of trouble. But by the time they read the messages and tried to respond to him, he had stopped messaging. There was no answer from him.”
His family reported him missing to Branson police in March 2020, and a joint investigation was launched with the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
“He’s just not someone who would disappear. And he’s not a guy that someone could just take down,” Tracy Koenig said in the “Dateline” interview. “He’s a force to be reckoned with. He’s a big, strong guy — but also with a big personality and big heart. He would do anything to protect his family."