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Rescue team describes 'somber' discovery of remains of missing WI mother

On Monday, the Pine County Sheriff's Office confirmed the remains found Saturday morning belong to Ashley Miller Carlson.

PINE COUNTY, Minn. — In a Facebook post Monday afternoon, the Pine County Sheriff's Office confirmed that remains found on Saturday belong to Ashley Miller Carlson, a 33-year-old mother of four who was last seen in September. According to the post, the body was positively identified by the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office.

Ashley's remains were first discovered by Minnesota Search & Rescue Christian Aid Ministries on Saturday morning. 

After weeks of futile search efforts by authorities and other volunteers to find Ashley, search and rescue volunteer Japheth Stauffer said his team got a call from the Pine County Sheriff's office.

"They called us and asked, 'Would you consider coming in?'" said Stauffer. 

Stauffer is part of Minnesota Search and Rescue - Christian Aid Ministries, a non-profit comprised of around 40 men of Mennonite faith who see it as their mission to aid during times of crisis. The self-funded organization is equipped with drones; command and staging trailers; and GPS mapping and tracking software. They're trained in search and rescue tactics and help in situations from storm recovery to missing persons.

"It’s a faith thing for us," said Stauffer. "In our faith, we believe that Christ went searching for us when we were lost, and it’s our ability now to be his hands and feet in a very physical way to other people when they’re lost."

Stauffer said the group's worked with Pine County before, and this time, Miller Carlson's family also connected with them.

"In fact, it was at their request that we came specifically this weekend, because they wanted to try and cover as much ground before the snow came," Stauffer said. "Wintertime does hard things to evidence, and that’s why they wanted to cover as much ground as they could to try and find Ashley."

RELATED: Remains found near Hinckley, believed to be of missing Wisconsin mother

Stauffer, who wasn't able to make it out on the search this weekend, said about 12 members of the team started Friday, and more joined Saturday. In the morning, they made the discovery in a wooded area near Lake Lena, about 25 miles East of Hinckley. Her remains were discovered two-to-three miles from where her car was discovered, according to private investigator Justin Terch.

"The family was there during our debriefing...and shared with us what it meant to them," Stauffer said. "It was consoling to them. It was a sense of relief, but at the same point, a real grief. It was finality."

Stauffer says for the search and rescue team members, it can also be mixed emotions.

"We want to be there for the family, and sometimes that’s through just listening, sometimes that’s through praying with them, it depends on what they want and what they need during that time," he said. "It is pretty somber."

Stauffer says his team is bound by law enforcement to keep the details of the discovery private.

"Because we want to be trustworthy," he said. "They have an investigation still ongoing, and we want to be respectful of that.

For now, he says his team is thankful they could help bring closure in some way.

"This is the time when we draw on our faith and the Lord Jesus Christ to give us the strength," Stauffer said. "He knows the pain that we feel in times like this. So He’s able to give us comfort, so we’re able to give others comfort as well."

The Pine County Sheriff’s Office is the lead agency in the investigation of Ashley’s disappearance. 

RELATED: 300 volunteers search for missing Wisconsin mother of four