A somber time for people of Weiland’s town

Published 11:00 am Thursday, April 15, 2010

A community is mourning the loss of one of its own today, ending several months of uncertainty for the family and friends of Jon Weiland.

Although the discovery of Weiland’s body Tuesday night in a wooded area off of Winnebago County Road R34 and 430th Street one mile north of Thompson has many residents saddened, others are relieved the discovery means closure for his family.

“When I heard, I thought how wonderful it is they found him,” said Phyllis Steinberg, Britt resident and employee at Unicover. “I really hope the family can pick up and go on with their lives now.

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“I just hope everything works out for them.”

Police found Weiland’s body at 5:50 p.m. Tuesday after Rose Villela of Thompson discovered his red 2002 Dodge Dakota pickup in a stand of evergreen trees off of R34.

A news release from the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office indicated Weiland likely was traveling southbound on R34 when he left the road on a curve. He apparently lost control and hit several trees.

Weiland’s body was found some distance away, on the edge of the wooded area near a field.

Weiland, 43, had been missing since Dec. 19, 2009. He was last seen at Rathai’s Roadhouse Bar & Grill in Walters.

He had three children with estranged wife Janelle Weiland.

Steinberg, who said she knew Weiland during her years working at the cooperative in Britt, said he was an intelligent and talented individual.

“I really enjoyed working with Jon,” Steinberg said. “This is a great loss.”

Skip Miller, owner of Miller & Sons Golf Cars, said he and his brother, Jim, were good friends of Weiland, who often did work for Miller & Sons.

“You always hope for the best,” Miller said. “You feel regret that it has to be this way, but you have got to pick up and keep going.”

Miller said he hopes the discovery will help answer some lingering questions for Weiland’s family.

“This will help them,” he said. “They are really nice people — it’s really too bad this had to happen.”

Body and truck of Jon Weiland found

BWhere is Jon Weiland?

Jon Swenson, owner of Swenson’s Do It Best Hardware, said he was shocked no one found Weiland before now, considering how close the accident occurred to Britt.

“I was surprised where they found him and that no one saw him,” said Swenson, who knew Weiland as a customer at his store.

Swenson also said he hopes this will give both the family and the community closure.

“We don’t have to sit and speculate anymore,” Swenson said.

Britt Mayor David Mitchell said although the news of Weiland’s death is a “tragedy for the entire community,” everyone can now attempt to move forward.

“It takes time to heal everything,” Mitchell said. “When someone loses a loved one, though, it’s the most tragic thing that can ever happen.”

Weiland’s body was found when Villela of Thompson spotted something red in the evergreen trees when she was coming home from work.

She didn’t think much of it until she stopped in a grocery store, then decided to go back to the area. She also called her son.

They went into the evergreens and found Weiland’s red truck lying on its top, buried in the thick spread of trees.

“My son looked to see if he was in the truck,” she said. It was empty.

Weiland’s body was found some distance away on the edge of the wooded area near a field.

“There’s a bunch of evergreen trees there that are really, really thick,” Villela said.

“It was flipped upside down and the front end was facing north. There was pieces of mirror hanging in the tree. It was a long ways back in there.”

She said a driver was killed on that road several years ago after losing control of a car on a patch of icy blacktop and the vehicle went airborne.

“I’ve been by there at least 100 times in the last four months,” Villela said.

After reading an Albert Lea Tribune story about the continuing search for Weiland in Monday’s Globe Gazette, she said she checked a drainage ditch near her home.

“I don’t know why I had a weird sense that it was close by me,” she said.

“It was just a freak thing that I noticed that red. I’d never seen that before.”

Villela said she was glad she could give Weiland’s family some closure and comfort.

“I just felt really bad for his son and his daughter and stuff. I know that they felt like police had put it on the back burner.”