By T.J. Pyette
After nearly four months of silence, Russell Turcotte's mother still had hope that her son would call home.
"Happy birthday, Russ! Please call my cell phone ... or call your dad .... We love you!" Lynda Flynn's voice said on her answering machine in Wolf Point.
Turcotte's body was identified by authorities through medical and dental records on Wednesday near Devils Lake, N.D. North Dakota law enforcement agencies are investigating the death as a homicide.
Turcotte had been missing since July 12, when he called his mother from the Grand Forks, N.D., area to ask for money for a train ticket. Flynn wired the money the following day, but Turcotte didn't pick it up.
The body was found by a rancher looking for lost cattle at 10 a.m. Tuesday in a shelter belt 12 miles northwest of Devils Lake, Ramsey County Sheriff Steve Hamre said today.
The Ramsey County coroner, Dr. Anthony Rayer, estimated the body had been there since late July or the beginning of August.
Rayer added that the body had "obviously been dumped there."
Turcotte's father, William Turcotte of Havre, said investigators have not developed any suspects.
"All we know is they are conducting a homicide investigation," he said.
"The investigation is at such a preliminary stage, made more difficult because of the time lapse, and there were no clues, no clothes found at the scene," he added.
Turcotte said he doesn't think the wooded grove will reveal anything further.
"The way I understand it, the shelter belt is easily accessible. You could drive right into it, dump a body and drive right out," he said.
The investigation is being led by the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office and the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Hamre said that because of the advanced state of decomposition it was difficult to see any specific injuries or wounds. Investigators would not speculate on a specific cause of death, pending autopsy results.
Hamre said he's not aware of any similar cases in the area.
"We will be submitting this case to the Mid-States Organized Crime Information Center to see if there have been any similar cases anywhere else," he said.
Devils Lake is about 90 miles west of Grand Forks on U.S. Highway 2.
Hamre said he expects to have preliminary autopsy reports in the next day or so.
The state medical examiner's office has said it will not be able to release the body to family members until at least early next week.
A Texas-based national organization conducted a search for Russell Turcotte last month in the Grand Forks area, using volunteers on foot, horseback and in the air.
William Turcotte, who was optimistic about his son prior to the search, said today that he is "just totally numb."
Russell Turcotte, who has been described by friends and family members as a free spirit, was hitchhiking back to Montana from a Rainbow Gathering in Michigan at the time of his disappearance. The Rainbow Gathering has its roots in the hippie movement of the 1960s and was the second such meeting Turcotte had attended.