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Police say missing 29-year-old found dead in northwestern ND

Police work to recover a pickup truck from the Little Muddy River Thursday evening in Williston. The truck belonged to Brandon Barnes, a 29-year-old man who had been missing since Wednesday. Police recovered a body nearby and say it was Barnes. Jamie Kelly / Williston Herald

WILLISTON, N.D.—The discovery of the body of 29-year-old man who had been missing since Wednesday, June 6, has his family wondering what happened.

Members of Williams County Underwater Search Recovery, along with Williston police and Williams County Sheriff deputies, retrieved a 2009 Ford F-350 from the Little Muddy River on Thursday evening. The truck belonged to Brandon Barnes, who was reported missing Thursday morning and hasn't been seen or heard from since early Wednesday. A body, which police said they believe was Barnes, was found near the truck.

On Friday afternoon, police said they believed Barnes' death to be accidental, but that they were waiting for the medical examiner to determine the cause of death.

"At this time, it does not appear that foul play is a factor in this investigation," Sgt. Detective Danielle Hendricks of the Williston police said.

Barnes mother, Kara Krause, and his brother, Anthony, drove in from northern Montana Thursday evening. They were met en route by a sheriff's deputy who informed them of what police in Williston had found.

Anthony Barnes remembered his brother as someone who was quick with a joke.

"That was his best quality," he said. "He knew how to make people laugh."

Cortney Gajewski, the girlfriend of one of Brandon Barnes' close friends, agreed. His co-workers enjoyed his company and his attitude.

"He didn't work at (Patriot Well Solutions) long, but he made an impact on everyone," she said.

Brandon was also a hard worker, his brother said. Right out of high school he started working with contractors in Kalispell, Mont., where he grew up.

"He was always the hardest-working dude I've ever shaken hands with," Anthony Barnes said.

Krause is still trying to piece together what happened after Brandon Barnes disappeared.

He had been out with a friend that evening and apparently got home around 1 a.m. Wednesday. He sent a message to someone in Glasgow, Mont., and police said he was also seen by a neighbor.

Another friend got a voicemail from him around 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

A friend contacted Krause Wednesday evening after Barnes didn't show up for work. Wednesday was her birthday and Krause said she thought it wasn't like him not to be in contact.

On Thursday, before Barnes' truck and body were discovered, Facebook posts went out from friends and family trying to find him.

Krause said she was amazed at the response. She is planning a memorial service for him and said she hoped to thank those who shared or posted.

"It was a horrible ending and it was the worst one humanly possible, but I'm super grateful all these people came together," she said.