Family, Friends Mourn 16-Year-Old Found Decapitated

The DA says its office hopes to have a positive ID later Friday

The decapitated body found along the Merrimack River in Lawrence, Massachusetts, on Thursday has been identified as a missing 16-year-old.

Lawrence resident Lee Manuel Viloria-Paulino was last seen on the evening of November 18.

Friday night, friends and family gathered for a candlelight vigil outside Lawrence High School, where Viloria-Paulino was an honors student.

"This is a tragic loss for his family and friends," Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said. "We are working tirelessly to determine the person or persons responsible for Mr. Viloria-Paulino's death."

Police were called to the Merrimack River at McCabe Court around 2:45 p.m. Thursday after a woman walking her dog found the body. The teen's head was found roughly 30 feet away from his body. For hours, crews in boats and on land searched for the victim's hands.

Officials have said little about the case, concerned that any information that is released could negatively impact their investigation.

Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera said at a press conference Friday that "rumors and innuendo" surrounding the case were causing concerns about public safety.

"I share everyone's frustration and anger, about the incident itself, about the lack of information currently available and, frankly, about how this can happen in our community," he said.

Rivera and Blodgett have said there is not much they can say without jeopardizing the investigation except that it is not believed to be a random act.

Rivera said he does not know if the killing might have been connected to drug or gang activity and urged people not to believe everything they are reading about the incident on social media.

"I live here, I work here and I'm concerned about this," he said. "This is a serious matter in a very big city with a lot of people."

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