LAWRENCE, Mass., Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Authorities in Massachusetts said the decapitated body of a young man was found in the Merrimack River in Lawrence by a woman walking her dog.
The body, found Thursday on the riverbank of the 117-mile-long river near Lawrence's Boys and Girls Club, has not yet been identified. The victim's name will not be released until the state medical examiner conducts an autopsy on Friday, Essex District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Carrie Kimball Monahan said.
But friends and family said they fear the body is that of 16-year-old Lee Manuel Viloria-Paulino, who disappeared mid-November.
"They haven't told me anything yet. I hope it's not my son," Lee's father, Carlos Viloria, said. "I've been out here before. This is the last place they saw him. He was with another kid. The kid said he just left him here."
Lawrence police Chief James X. Fitzpatrick said authorities "believe this is an isolated incident, and that the community is safe."
The Lawrence community has been working in recent weeks to locate Lee. His family posted flyers and posted messages on Facebook asking for his safe return.
When he first heard of the incident, Lawrence City Councilor Marc Laplante said he feared "that it had to do with the young man."
"We'll have to find out what the ultimate result is. If it's not the young man, it's certainly tragic. It's a tragic loss of life in our city in a way that is clearly beyond the pale," Laplante said.