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RED LAKE, MINN.: FBI -- Brothers found dead

RED LAKE, Minn. -- The bodies of two young brothers missing since Nov. 22 were found Sunday morning encased in ice in a lake about half a mile from the boys' home on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, an FBI agent said.

RED LAKE, Minn. -- The bodies of two young brothers missing since Nov. 22 were found Sunday morning encased in ice in a lake about half a mile from the boys' home on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, an FBI agent said.

At a 9 p.m. news conference Sunday in the Minneapolis office of the FBI, a special agent said a team of six volunteers from the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office based in Duluth, using three search dogs, found the boys' bodies late in the morning. They were "partially floating" near a beaver dam in First Thunder's Lake, just south of the town of Red Lake, where the reservation is headquartered.

Brothers Tristan White, 4, and Avery Stately, 2, went missing Nov. 22 and had been the subject of extensive searches by several local, state and federal agencies and hundreds of volunteers in the last days of November.

Discovered before noon, the boys' bodies weren't recovered until about 8 p.m. because of the conditions and equipment needed, FBI agents said.

Sunday night, the boys' parents and other family members gathered in the community center in Red Lake to mourn.

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About 9:30 p.m., Alecia and Jeff White went to the hospital to identify the boys' bodies.

"Devastating, just devastating," said one woman at the family gathering.

The site where their bodies were found is about half a mile north of the boys' home in the heavily wooded Walking Shield neighborhood of the Red Lake Indian Reservation, which is about 30 miles north of Bemidji.

An FBI agent familiar with the investigation made a preliminary identification of the boys late Sunday "by sight," the FBI's Special Agent in Charge Ralph Boelter said at the news conference. "The clothes were consistent," Boelter said. "It was two boys, about 4 and 2, and the facial characteristics" matched the boys' appearance.

"Today, our worst fears were confirmed," Boelter said.

The area had been searched heavily in the days after the boys disappeared because there is a path through the woods from their home to the site, said FBI spokesman Paul McCabe. It's entirely plausible that the two bodies remained undiscovered until the spring thaw changed things, McCabe said. At the time the boys went missing, First Thunder's Lake had a thin coat of ice, with some open areas near shore, McCabe said.

While foul play never has been ruled out, there's never been any indication of it, and the FBI has operated with both that possibility, as well as the theory that "they just wandered off," McCabe said.

Because of spring thawing, the search Sunday had been scheduled as "a logical time to go back" and resume searching, Boelter said. A search dog "hit on a scent" near the lake that led to finding the boys' bodies, he said.

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Autopsies will be conducted this week on the boys' bodies.

Earlier Sunday, family members told news reporters that the bodies of the two brothers had been found.

A short item on the Red Lake Net News Web site, www.rlnn.com ., first reported that the bodies of Tristan and Avery had been found in an area "where junk cars are stored."

Ginger Stately, whose husband, Roman Stately is a grand-uncle to Avery, the younger of the two boys, told the Herald her husband was called about 5:30 p.m. and was told the boys' bodies had been found near a dump ground of some sort, near a body of water.

All of the televisions in the casino in Red Lake were turned to the news of the FBI news conference.

Family members and friends said they were shocked by news of the searchers' find because many still held out hope the boys would be found alive somewhere.

"There were a lot of tears, that's for sure," said a woman working at the casino. "Quite a few of the employees here that kind of broke down and had to be sent home."

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237, (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or slee@gfherald.com .

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