MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. (KMSP) - Authorities have identified the body found by hikers Thursday as that of Joey Hernandez, 35, of West St. Paul, Minnesota who had been missing since Nov. 7.
Hikers found Hernandez's body in a marsh area on the north side of the Dodge Nature Center in Mendota Heights.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner determined Hernandez had been dead since 2 p.m. on Thursday. The cause of death remains under investigation.
Hernandez was last seen by his girlfriend at the Mendota Heights Motel. He was reported missing on Nov. 7, but family members say they had not seen him since Oct. 26.
Approximately 40 of Hernandez’s friends and family members gathered outside the Mendota Heights Motel on Sunday to pray.
“There’s a lot of people that feel that his spirit is still around and we just want him to go, just go home, everybody loves you, everybody cares about you, you’re forgiven for everything, just go be happy and go be healthy, and be at peace with yourself,” his cousin, Vanessa Hernandez, said at the vigil.
Vanessa describes Joey as a loving and caring man. He had a teenage daughter and was his mother’s only son.
“He was a good guy,” Vanessa said. “He put people before himself. He was funny. He’d be there to help you if you needed it at any time.”
But, Joey had run into trouble in the past. Family members told Fox 9 he was released from jail only days before he went missing.
Joey’s funeral is set for Thursday at Our Lady of Guadalupe in St. Paul. A memorial fund for Joey has been established at TCF Bank.