BY TINA L. SCOTT
The Merrill community is grieving the loss of two teenagers who died this past weekend.
Aiden Grefe, age 17, and Dakota Brown, age 16, both of Merrill went missing early Sunday morning, April 16, 2023. Aiden’s mother last heard from him at approximately 8:00 a.m. and witnesses indicated they had seen the two teens walking into the woods near State Rd. 17/Single Mill Rd. in the Town of Harrison in Lincoln County. At that time Aiden was believed to have been wearing a sleeveless white shirt and sweatpants, and Dakota was last seen wearing a bright pink sleeveless body suit, light blue ripped jeans, and either black high top Converse or white Vans shoes. She may also have had a gray zip-up hoodie sweatshirt with her. She did not have her phone or other electronics with her. This information was provided by family and friends on Facebook.
The weather changed dramatically on Sunday, starting with rain and transitioning to sleet, freezing temperatures, snow, and high winds as the day wore on and into Monday morning.
Family and friends searched for the missing teens to no avail.
A formal search ensued on Monday, April 17, led primarily by Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) and Oneida County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) with assistance from the Wisconsin National Guard, multiple fire departments, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin Emergency Management, the Oneida County Forestry Department, the Oneida County Land Records, the Rosewood Barn, and Derek’s Town and Country. At that time, the LCSO asked that all private search efforts be halted, as they would interfere with the organized search.
On the evening of April 17, the OCSO issued a press release saying “two deceased persons were found in the Oneida County Forest in the town of Enterprise.”
“The deaths are being investigated jointly by the OCSO, the LCSO, the Oneida County District Attorney, the Lincoln County District Attorney, and the Oneida County Medical Examiner’s Department. At this time, due to the limited information that we have, no more information will be released,” the release said.
While neither the OCSO nor the LCSO would confirm the “two deceased persons” were Aiden and Dakota, Aiden’s mother, Rachel Grefe, made the confirmation on her Facebook page Monday evening, saying: “As some of you may know and are aware, my son Aiden and his friend Dakota were found this evening deceased. I want to thank all the volunteers and friends and family and the community as one that has come together for my child and Dakota.”
“Please keep my family and Dakota’s family in your prayers as we have lost our beautiful babies and need love and strength to help get us through,” her message said. “Again thank you all who have sent love through messages or showed up out on the searches! Much love from myself Aiden’s mother, his sister Molly, and brother Evan and the rest of Aiden’s close family!”
Additional counselors were available at Merrill High School on Tuesday, April 18, to help students.
The deaths of the two teenagers are considered an active investigation. More information will be shared as it becomes available.