Loren Ronald Reed

The family of Loren Ronald Reed, a 29-year-old Kelso man missing since Feb. 22, is asking the public for help finding him.

The body of a man found in Lake Sacajawea on Thursday afternoon is that of Loren Ronald Reed, a 29-year-old Kelso resident who had been missing for nearly a month, members of his family said Friday.

Authorities say they won’t positively identify the body until an autopsy is completed Friday night, but a chaplain and Longview Police Det. Charles Meadows broke the news to Reed’s parents at their Kelso home Thursday night, said Loren Reed’s sister, Nora Reed of Kelso,

Investigators have yet to determine cause of death, how long Reed had been in the lake or how he got there. An autopsy was scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday.

Nora Reed said authorities have given the family no insights or speculation about his death and disappearance.

“You don’t know if foul play is involved. There are so many things you don’t know,” Reed’s mother, Marjie Reed, said Friday afternoon.

His family is anxiously awaiting a call from the coroner. “I pray to God he went right out to heaven you know, (that) he didn’t experience any pain at all,” said Mike Reed, Loren Reed’s dad.

Reed’s body was found several feet from the lake bank on the Nichols Boulevard side near 18th Avenue. Police say the body had been in the water at least two days. Family members say Reed was heavily tattooed, but they didn’t know if his tattoos were the key to identifying him.

Reed had a history of drug abuse and was last seen between 2:30 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. Feb. 22, when he walked away from a home in the 400 block of 18th Avenue, not far from where his body was found Thursday. His parents said it was unlike their son to just vanish. The family had canvassed the Longview Highlands neighborhood with thousands of flyers after his disappearance.

Reed began using drugs as a teenager, his parents said. He attended Kelso High School but did not graduate, and he had fought a long battle against methamphetamine and, more recently, heroin. He had overdosed before and served 10 years in prison for kidnapping and assault convictions when he was 18.

Their son wasn’t a bad person, but he struggled to handle his emotions, the Reeds said.

“Loren had such an emotional heart he couldn’t handle how to cope with it, and that’s when he turned to drugs,” according to his mother.

His father added: “He could just talk to anybody. Everybody that met Loren or was around Loren, they were just his friend.”

While in prison, Reed published a Christian newsletter and learned welding. He managed to stay clean for some time after his release, his parents said. He had worked at a Kelso fabrication shop and a Woodland-area trucking company. He saved his money and bought a mobile home and a truck and was making payments on a Harley Davidson motorcycle, his parents said.

But a relapse into drug use left Reed unemployed. Three days after he disappeared, he was due to report to a drug treatment program in Sedro-Wooley, Wash.

It would have been his second stint in rehab. He had numerous “clean” friends and relatives ready to help with his recovery, his mother said.

“We all had our hopes up about that.”

Marjie Reed said her son suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder related to deaths in his family and his time in prison. She says more mental health help should have been made available for her son when he was released from prison more than two years ago.

“That’s probably what hurt us the most, is he was gone for almost 10 years,” she said. “It’s like he never came home.”

Mike Reed said drugs turned his son into a different person, and even he had difficulty talking to him when he was high. Heroin and meth, he said, “have destroyed our family and taken our child.”

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Justin Pittman covers Longview and Kelso school districts, Lower Columbia College and Columbia County (Oregon) for The Daily News. Reach him at 360-577-2523 or jpittman@tdn.com