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Family says father of 5 was murdered

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DEVILS LAKE, ND — He was rushing to the hospital to be with his ailing son, but the boy’s dad never made it--his family thinks it’s because he was murdered.

It was Monday, June 25th, just before 10 o'clock in the morning. Joseph Bruce hung up the telephone with his family after they told him his son was flown to a Minneapolis hospital after suffering a medical emergency.

Joseph Bruce told them he was leaving Devils Lake immediately, but he never made it to his son’s bedside.

Since then, Joseph Bruce was never heard from again.

“Crazy, horrific, just knowing that something happened and we can't find him or his body,” said Joseph Bruce’s girlfriend, Miranda Patnaude.

That's how the family of 38-year-old Joseph Bruce sums up the past 2 months.

WDAY asked Joseph Bruce’s daughter, JoLyn, if she thinks her father is alive.

“No,” said JoLyn Bruce.

Joseph Bruce is a Grand Forks father of 5. We featured him back in 2008, when Make-A-Wish provided a special bed for the 3-year-old who has daily seizures.

It was a round of seizures that sent him to that Twin Cities hospital back in June.

“He was the best dad, his kids loved him, they are so lonesome for him, his kids cry every day wondering where his dad is,” said Patnaude.

Joseph Bruce has had several run-ins with the law over the years—at the time he went missing, a warrant was out for his arrest for domestic violence and child neglect.  

His ankle monitor was cut off.

“I know people think he is a bad guy who just took off and everything like that, they don't realize he will never leave his kids,” said Patnaude.

WDAY met with a Devils Lake Police Department Detective and asked if Joseph Bruce could be hiding because of his criminal history and pending charges.

“We don't know for sure, since we aren't positively sure what happened with him. Is that a possibility? I suppose it could be. But it is highly unusual he has not contacted his family,” said Devils Lake Police Department Detective, Sue Schwab.

Desperate for answers, family and friends of Joseph Bruce have spent every weekend searching for answers.

Their focus is on the 245 thousand acre Spirit Lake Reservation--that’s where the family minivan, with keys in the ignition, was found near a slough in the Fort Totten area.

At the time Joseph Bruce went missing, he was in Devils Lake visiting relatives.

We asked Bruce’s family what it’s been like each time they’ve gone out searching.

“Sad, hopeless, angry—and it feels like we haven't done anything, because we haven't even covered half of that reservation,” said Patnaude.

Devils Lake Police, the Bureau of Indian affairs, and the FBI say they check out tips that are constantly pouring in,

“We focus a lot on this case,” said DLPD Detective, Sue Schwab.

That includes nearly 50 people--Police say some have been cooperative, and others have not.

“He's somewhere and I want to know what happened,” said Detective Schwab.

“Help us find his body. Help us bring him home. Help us have a proper burial for him,” said Patnaude.

Police and a family frustrated as they look for closure.

There are several rewards offered for information in the case, and a GoFund Me page has been set up to help the family bring in resources for their search efforts.

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