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Forum staff reports, Published January 10 2014

VIDEO: Police release ID of homeless man who likely died of exposure

FARGO – Police identified the man whose body was found here Thursday afternoon as 48-year-old Randy Lee Lafontaine.

LaFontaine had no permanent address.

LaFontaine, who was found in the 1900 block of Second Avenue South, about four blocks from the Gladys Ray Shelter, was a frequent user of the homeless shelter, said police Lt. Joel Vettel. Gladys Ray is the metro area’s only facility that takes in homeless people who have been drinking alcohol.

“He had been there a number of times within the last several years,” Vettel said, adding that LaFontaine had been at Gladys Ray within the past two weeks.

Jan Eliassen, director of the Gladys Ray Shelter, did not return messages seeking comment about LaFontaine on Friday.

On Thursday, she said no one had been turned away from the shelter, which was open 24 hours a day during the recent extreme cold weather.

John Roberts, shelter operations director for Churches United for the Homeless, said he was not familiar with LaFontaine.

Police suspect LaFontaine most likely froze to death, Vettel said, although they can’t be sure until an autopsy is performed.

Officers who responded to the scene where LaFontaine was found saw no signs of trauma and do not suspect foul play.

According to North Dakota court records, since April 2011, LaFontaine was cited five times by the city of Fargo for consuming alcohol in public, a misdemeanor, and twice for violating park hours, which is also a misdemeanor charge.

LaFontaine is the first person in six years who has died of exposure in Fargo. The last known area death due to exposure was in January 2008, when the body of 43-year-old Vernon Weigand was found on the sidewalk in front of the bishop’s residence at St. Mary’s Cathedral on Broadway.