- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

SARTELL, Minn. (AP) - Family and friends of a North Dakota State University student found dead after being missing for three days mourned him in separate vigils in Fargo and in his Minnesota hometown.

The body of 18-year-old Thomas Bearson, a freshman nursing student, was found Tuesday morning outside a recreational vehicle store in Moorhead, Minnesota, which neighbors Fargo. He had last been seen at a party about 3 a.m. Saturday in Fargo, about six blocks from his dorm.

Police have not said how he might have died or whether foul play is suspected.

“Words cannot express our pain for the loss of our son, Tom, and our gratitude for your outpouring of prayers, love and support for our family,” Bearson’s family said in a statement. “Please continue caring for us and all those who have lost a loved one. If possible, please reach over and hug your children for us.”

The statement was read at a candlelight service Tuesday night at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Sartell, Minnesota, where Bearson was a standout high school basketball player. His parents and sister did not attend in person, but about 500 others gathered for the half-hour vigil, according to the St. Cloud Times (http://on.sctimes.com/1yqlXvW ).

Hodari Johnson, 18, graduated with Bearson and last saw him about three weeks ago, before Bearson left for NDSU.

“He was the best. Great athlete. Better friend. Even better brother,” Johnson said. “He always kept a positive attitude, and whenever I needed him, he talked to me. He was my best friend.”

A vigil also was held Tuesday night at NDSU. Many of students who attended did not personally know Bearson but said they were still deeply affected by his death.

“Everyone at NDSU’s a family,” said junior Chris Kading. “Everyone’s going to miss him.”

The Fargo, Moorhead and NDSU police departments are investigating Bearson’s death.

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Information from: St. Cloud Times, http://www.sctimes.com

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