Missing man found dead in lake
November 18, 2022
Suicide and foul play were ruled out after the body of a missing 38-year-old Carlton County man was recovered late last week. Authorities from Aitkin County located the body of Lucas Dudden early in the afternoon on Friday, Nov. 11, in shallow water on Rat Lake. The body was recovered within a half-mile radius of where the man's unattended truck had been found.
Dudden was reported missing Oct. 31 after he failed to show up for work in Superior.
"We had good reason to believe he was by himself," Aitkin County Sheriff Dan Guida said, describing the initial autopsy report along with several days of search operations.
The autopsy listed the cause of death as drowning, the sheriff said, but Guida suspected hypothermia was also a contributing factor. The autopsy of the body confirmed there were no signs of foul play, the sheriff said. A separate toxicology report could take up to a month to determine if there were any mind-altering substances in the man's system.
Dudden's body was located among weeds and in shallow water roughly 75 yards from shore. He appeared to work his way to the lake through the woods and swamps after parking his truck along Rat Lake Trail, a snowmobile trail in the vicinity of the lake.
Rat Lake is located in central Aitkin County, just southwest of the more prominent Big Sandy Lake.
"We worked away from his truck to the lake," Guida told the Pine Knot. He said authorities recovered a reusable water bottle belonging to Dudden that confirmed they were on the right path.
Once on the lake, searchers used a cadaver dog to assist in narrowing the search, the sheriff said, beginning in the center and along the edges of the lake and radiating inward from there. The body was underwater but visible.
Dudden's social media posts regularly featured scenes of his lakeshore photography, Guida said. The man had been renting a home in Esko.
Guida said there was no self-inflicted harm detected.
"It wasn't suicide," Guida said, alluding to a case of "fundamental mistakes" made by the man.
A report from a Duluth media outlet last week said foul play was suspected. Guida said the sensationalized report served to hinder the investigation, causing authorities to devote time to far-fetched leads which interfered with the search. Authorities pulled surveillance video showing Dudden traveling alone to the Rat Lake area, and his online activity also suggested he had not been in danger.
Guida described an intensive days-long search involving up to 30 people. The search broke for two days at the start of the firearm deer season, before resuming the following week.
"My guess is there was something he liked about the lake and he was looking for a spot he hadn't been to before," Guida said.
The Aitkin County Sheriff's Office was assisted in its operation by the Carlton County Sheriff's Office, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, St. Louis County Rescue Squad, Aitkin County Search and Rescue, Christian Aid Ministries Search and Rescue, Fond du Lac Police Department, St. Louis County Sheriff's Office, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota State Patrol.