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Answers still elusive 7 years after NDSU student's death

Shrouded in mystery, Tommy Bearson's death by homicidal violence in September 2014 is still being actively investigated, according to Moorhead police.

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NDSU freshman Tommy Bearson was found dead in a Moorhead RV lot in 2014. Many details about his death are still unknown. File photo / Forum News Service

FARGO — The father of a college freshman who died seven years ago this week is again making a plea to those responsible to identify themselves because a guilty conscience is a heavy burden to carry.

Greg Bearson, father of 18-year-old Tommy Bearson, told The Forum the only way those involved can overcome guilt is by coming forward and telling everyone what happened.

“Until then, you will never find peace in your life,” he said.

Tommy Bearson went missing sometime in the early morning hours of Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, after leaving a house party near the North Dakota State University campus.

A cryptic tweet, posted at 1:23 a.m. on Bearson's Twitter account by one of the people he may have been with, hinted that someone might be in danger.

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Bearson’s body was found three days later, on Sept. 23, on the ground of an RV dealership parking lot in Moorhead, about five miles from the house in Fargo.
His cellphone and the left tennis shoe he had been wearing were never located.

NDSU students gathered in the darkness on campus that night for a candlelight vigil for Bearson.

North Dakota State University students gather near the Babbling Brook on campus for a candlelight vigil in memory of freshman Tom Bearson on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. Forum News Service file photo
North Dakota State University students gather near the Babbling Brook on campus for a candlelight vigil in memory of freshman Tom Bearson on Sept. 23, 2014. Forum file photo

Jake Wenzel, a high school classmate of Bearson in Sartell, Minn., lived in the house where the party was held along with Cody Mead, who reportedly met Bearson for the first time that night, according to previous Forum stories.

Wenzel is believed to have sent the tweet from Bearson’s phone and tagged Mead in it.

“... dude it’s jake come pick us up. We are so lost and we are going to die. Just get somebody,” the tweet read.

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Wenzel has not responded to The Forum’s repeated requests for comment over the years. Mead has said police have what they need from him, and that “it’s better to let them do their job and not compromise anything with their investigation.”

Early on, the only explanation given for Bearson’s death was that he was a victim of homicidal violence. He did not die from an overdose of drugs or alcohol, either, police said.

His death record, obtained by The Forum in 2019, revealed Bearson died of asphyxia, meaning he was somehow deprived of oxygen until he died.

A forensic investigator said death by accident, suicide or natural causes could be ruled out.

Police officers from Fargo, NDSU, Moorhead and investigators with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension all worked on the case initially, but the Moorhead Police Department became the lead agency because of where Bearson's body was found.

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Police investigators gather in an RV dealership lot in Moorhead after the discovery there of NDSU student Tommy Bearson's body on Sept. 23, 2014. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

“Here we are seven years later. … It’s still an active, ongoing investigation,” said Moorhead Deputy Chief Tory Jacobson.

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Jacobson said he’s not working on the homicide case directly but has been the public spokesperson for it since the beginning.

That helped limit the amount and type of information released, he said, a necessity for protecting the details that only the person or persons responsible might know.

“Unfortunately, at least publicly, we don’t have this break we’ve all worked so hard toward,” Jacobson said, adding that he hopes those answers are coming.

Investigators still hold team meetings about the case and remain in close contact with Bearson’s family, Jacobson said.

A few officers who did a lot of the early work have retired or moved on to other jobs but remain accessible and dedicated to seeing the case resolved, he said.

Tommy Bearson’s father said it’s been a tremendously difficult seven years, but he’s confident a resolution is coming for his son.

“The day of reckoning is drawing nearer,” Greg Bearson said.



Tommy Bearson podcast from the Forum archive:

First podcast episode of ‘Who Killed Tommy?’ available now
‘Who Killed Tommy?’ podcast episode 2 available now
LISTEN: 'Who Killed Tommy?' episode three available now
Latest podcast episode of 'Who Killed Tommy?' available now on Inforum, iTunes



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