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Body recovered from river identified as Fargo man

Authorities respond Thursday to a body discovered by two canoeists in the Red River between downtown Fargo and Moorhead. David Samson / The Forum

Authorities on Friday identified the body of a man recovered from the Red River on Thursday as 37-year-old Brian Patrick Habiger of Fargo.

Preliminary autopsy results from the state medical examiner in Bismarck determined the cause of death to be drowning.

Fargo police said a full autopsy report, including toxicology, won't be available for several weeks.

Foul play is not suspected, Lt. Pat Claus said.

West Fargo police received a missing person report at 10:05 p.m. Thursday. According to the dispatch log, the caller said her brother hadn't been heard from since Sunday, had been depressed lately and was an alcoholic. She said he had been staying at the Gladys Ray Shelter in Fargo but ­hadn't been there all week.

Two canoeists discovered Habiger's body in the river near the railroad bridge along Fargo's Fifth Avenue North. Authorities from both sides of the river recovered the body around 5 p.m. Thursday.

"It gives the family some sense of closure, but certainly it doesn't mitigate their grief," Claus said.

Investigators believe the body had been in the river 48 to 72 hours, he said.

Habiger had spent time in treatment for alcoholism within the past year and was recently working part time in Fargo's industrial park, said his uncle, Kenneth Habiger of Casselton, N.D.

Brian Habiger was the younger brother of David Habiger, a well-known anti-abortion activist who died June 9, 2009, at his Casselton home at age 49.

Their mother, Margaret Habiger, died in 2007. Brian Habiger also was preceded in death by a sister, Laurie, and brother, Ralph Jr., who died in 2002.

"Life was difficult for him," his uncle said. "He was struggling with trying to hold everything together."

Brian Habiger held a number of jobs in the Fargo area over the years and also worked at David Habiger's auto repair and salvage business near Amenia, his uncle said.

"He always liked to work with David on cars and stuff," he said.