HUDSON LAKE — Police suspect hypothermia is to blame after a 70-year-old man was found dead Wednesday morning not far from his home.
The man's dog reportedly waited by his side throughout the overnight hours, police said.
At about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, a deputy with the LaPorte County Sheriff's Department arrived at Vernon Ringler's home in the 7500 block of East Tulip Lane for a report of a missing person, police said in a news release.
Ringler's caretaker, who is also his cousin, told police she last checked on him at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, but she could not find him in his home Wednesday morning and his dog was missing.
A LaPorte County Sheriff's deputy used his police dog, Ago, to see if he could initiate a track from the home.
A short time later, the deputy found a knit hat and flashlight on the ground roughly 150 yards from Ringler’s home, police said, and Ringler's dog was also nearby.
The dog and items were at the top of a steep, brush-and-thicket-covered slope that led to a pond. Upon checking further, the deputy located Ringler’s body in the pond, partially in the water, according to the news release.
Detectives determined Ringler most likely walked away from his home late the night before, police said.
"Ringler had recently had cataract surgery and would have been wearing dark sunglasses. Relatives also explained that he had recently driven from his home and ended up lost in South Bend," police said.
"Although not diagnosed, relatives suspected that Mr. Ringler may have been in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease," police added.
Detectives reported there was no trauma to the body and no foul play is suspected.
While an official cause of death has not been determined, hypothermia is suspected.
The LaPorte County sheriff’s office was assisted by the New Carlisle police and fire departments, LaPorte County Emergency Medical Service and the LaPorte County coroner’s office.