Death of two Merrill teens still under investigation
BY TINA L. SCOTT
The death of two Merrill teens who went missing on Sunday, April 16, 2023, and whose bodies were found in the Oneida County Forest on Monday, April 17, is still under investigation. Press releases issued by both Oneida County and Lincoln County Sheriff’s Offices on Tuesday confirmed the deaths of Aiden Grefe, age 17, and Dakota Brown, age 16, and in a press conference Tuesday, Oneida County Captain Terri Hook said she would not go into detail but exposure was likely a factor in their deaths.
“Obviously, everybody knows what the weather was like this weekend, it went from being really warm to really cold and they got caught in it,” she said. She added that at this time there doesn’t seem to be any foul play involved.
“You can see that this is a very vast forest and without these resources it would have been even more difficult that it was [to find them],” Hook said Tuesday, indicating on a map the area where the teens were found and thanking all those who helped in the search..
“We know where they started and then we believe we had some other information that was kind of leading us in different directions, and that’s why we had such a vast area to search,” she said. “You can see, some of these are trails and some are logging roads, so there is a lot of area out there. And they’re young people and can walk well.”
The circumstances surrounding the deaths of the two teenagers remains an active investigation.
Lincoln County Coroner Valerie Caylor confirmed forensic autopsies were conducted on April 18 at UW Madison Hospital. “I am awaiting the formal results of those examinations,” she said. “Toxicology samples, which is a standard post mortem investigation tool, have been sent off to our independent lab for analysis; consistently it takes several weeks for those results. In the meantime, I continue to meet with Sheriff’s investigators in order to aid them as needed.”
“Once toxicology and formal results have been received, I will meet with investigators, families, and then a formal statement will be released to the media,” Caylor said.
Additional counselors have been available to assist students at both Merrill High School, where Aiden and Dakota attended, and Prairie River Middle School, where siblings of the teens attend.
Funeral services were held this past Monday, April 24, in the Merrill High School Auditorium for Aiden Grefe, and on Tuesday, April 25, for Dakota Brown at the Taylor-Stine Funeral Home.
More information will be shared as it becomes available.