Noll found in Half Moon Lake

Aaron Vehling

After nearly five months of wondering and hoping, the family of UW-Eau Claire junior Michael Noll finally has some answers to the student’s disappearance.

A couple spotted Noll’s body sticking out of thin ice on Half Moon Lake in Carson Park around 6 p.m. Tuesday and alerted authorities, Eau Claire Police Deputy Chief Gary Foster said.

Noll’s wallet was found in his pocket, and none of its contents were missing, Foster said.

“We know now where Mike is,” said Noll’s father, Jeff. “It really hit us hard, but it gives us a direction now.”

The Rochester, Minn., native had been missing since Nov. 6, his 22nd birthday. He left a Water Street bar and was last seen entering a residence near his home at 1020 First Ave.

Senior Kim Lucas, a friend of Noll, said the discovery was a relief. Lucas said, however, she was surprised that Noll’s body was in the lake, because most of the search had focused on the Chippewa River.

“I am absolutely just shocked,” Lucas said. “Half Moon Lake was just out of the question.”

The lake had been checked following Noll’s disappearance, but Eau Claire police and fire officials had focused on the river due to certain “logistical steps,” Foster said.

This included the indications from cadaver dogs that seemed to pick up Noll’s scent in the stretch of the river near his home during initial searches.

Foster would not comment Wednesday on the possibility of foul play. Authorities have not suspected foul play to this point.

Preliminary autopsy results released Wednesday list the cause of death as “probable fresh water drowning.” Noll’s body showed no sign of trauma, according to the report.

Lucas, however, isn’t so sure.

“I honestly doubted (foul play) up until yesterday,” she said. “(Now) I’m definitely questioning it.”

Finding Noll’s body there doesn’t make sense, she said, because Half Moon Lake is so far from both his house and the Water Street bar area.

In addition to her questions, Lucas also is remembering Noll. Looking through pictures Tuesday night, she recalled his sense of humor.

She said she laughed looking at pictures from Halloween, just a week before Noll’s disappearance. He dressed as the Incredible Hulk and painted his face green.

Jeff Noll said he remembers his son as an enthusiastic student, athlete, outdoorsman and artist. Michael Noll was close to his brother, Patrick, a senior at Rochester Mayo High School. They enjoyed fly-fishing together, Jeff Noll said.

“It’s going to be difficult (for Patrick) not to have his brother out in the stream,” he said.

Noll had been taking an art class at Eau Claire. A piece he had been working on will be displayed in April at a student art show, Jeff Noll said.

Michael Noll’s uncle, Jim Noll, said the family wants to thank the university and Eau Claire community for their support throughout the search.

“Our family can’t say enough about the caring, professional people we’ve had the opportunity to work with,” he said. “We want to thank everyone for their prayers and support and for the outpouring of sympathy.”

Noll’s funeral will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at Resurrection Church, 1600 11th Ave. S.E. in Rochester. Visitation will precede the service beginning at 10 a.m. A meal and fellowship will follow the service.