On Monday, the Anoka County medical examiner's office identified the remains of Lewis James Wilczek, whose body was recovered Saturday in rural Mille Lacs County.
His death is being investigated as an apparent homicide, Little Falls police said. But the autopsy results as to how he died have not been released.
At 21 years of age, Wilczek had already found his calling.
Just a few years out of high school and armed with an automotive service technician degree from Central Lakes College in Brainerd, Wilczek had opened his own business, Performance Exhaust & Metal Fabrication, in his hometown of Little Falls.
Working on vehicles was what Lewis Wilczek had always wanted to do, said his sister, Norine Wilczek.
"That was his passion, that was his calling," Norine Wilczek said. "He really could do anything involved with putting a vehicle together. He could do so much."
He was also close with his family, Norine Wilczek said, and when Lewis Wilczek hadn't called his family after he said he was making an April 29 trip to St. Cloud, they became worried.
The Wilczek family's worst fears were strengthened Saturday when law enforcement officials investigating Lewis Wilczek's disappearance reported they had found a body in a shallow grave in Mille Lacs County.
"He really could do anything involved with putting a vehicle together. He could do so much."
Mother of Lewis Wilczek
In an interview earlier Monday before autopsy results were released, Norine Wilczek said her family was prepared for the worst.
"We know he's up there looking down on us, holding out hope for us, making sure everything is OK and watching over our backs," Norine Wilczek said. "He was just an awesome person. He helped out with everything, he was here for family functions, he loved his family. He was all around a great person, a great big brother and he'll be missed by everybody so much."
Little has been released to the public of what might have happened to Lewis Wilczek. The Wilczek family and law enforcement officials declined to discuss details of the case because it is an active investigation.
Jeremy Jason Hull
What is known is that on April 30, the Wilczek family informed the Little Falls Police Department that Lewis Wilczek was missing and hadn't been heard from since the day before. Norine Wilczek said that it was uncharacteristic for her brother not to have daily contact with family or friends, even when he traveled out of state.
Lewis Wilczek was supposed to meet an acquaintance April 29 in St. Cloud, police said. Neither the Wilczek family or police would comment on who Lewis Wilczek was supposed to meet, or if he had arrived in St. Cloud to meet that person.
On Wednesday, St. Cloud police received a tip from Lewis Wilczek's sister, who had seen her brother's Ford F-350 pickup in north St. Cloud, Edblad said. After the pickup was stopped by police officers, the driver identified himself as Lewis Wilczek. It was later learned the driver was actually Jeremy Jason Hull, 24, St. Cloud.
He was arrested for providing false information to police and on outstanding warrants. He is being held in the Stearns County jail.
While no criminal charges have been filed as of Monday against Hull in connection with Wilczek's disappearance, Little Falls Police Chief Mike Pender said in a statement that Hull remains a person of interest in the case.
Hull had a previous conviction in 2004 in Sherburne County for driving while impaired. Edblad said Hull also had about six outstanding warrants from across the state of Minnesota for various forms of identify theft, including an attempt to obtain a credit card using the identity of a deceased person.
"It was all misdemeanor type stuff, kind of petty theft, fraud and identity type crimes," Edblad said.
Further inquiries about the case were directed to Pender, who didn't return calls Tuesday.
Norine Wilczek said her family has received numerous calls from family and friends offering condolences and support. She said Lewis Wilczek, a 2004 graduate of Little Falls High School, still had many friends in the city and made many more after he opened his business.
Norine Wilczek wants her brother to be remembered for his accomplishments in life: as a businessman, a handyman with vehicles, an Eagle Scout, an avid wrestler through high school and for years spent serving Mass at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Little Falls with his little sister.
"He was a great big brother," Norine Wilczek said. "He was just awesome."
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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