Body found is that of missing man

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Police have confirmed the body found under the Trout River bridge around 7:15 a.m. Monday morning is 39-year-old Vernon Stephens.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office was joined by a medical examiner who arrived around 9:15 a.m. to assist with identifying the body, but Sgt. Jay Farhat said investigators found some form of identification on the body and the clothing matches the description of what Stephens was last seen wearing.

Farhat acknowledged the fact that the bridge is about three miles from where the body was found and that the currents of the St. Johns and Trout Rivers have been strong recently.

Up until this discovery, Stephens' disappearance had been a mystery since Friday night.

Family members of Vernon Stephens addressed the media Sunday to talk about his disappearance and plead for witnesses to come forward.

"This is my only child and I want to know if anybody has seen anything or know anything. That's a big bridge and somebody had to have seen something," said the Stephens' mother, Yvonne Golden.

According to JSO, a car was traveling over the bridge when it hit a broken down vehicle in the outer westbound lane around 11 p.m. The driver of the moving car was taken to the hospital with minor injuries, but there were no signs of Stephens.

JSO and family members were not sure if Stephens abandoned the vehicle or if he went into the water.

JSO's Air Unit and Marine Units searched the water for Stephens over the weekend. On Sunday family and friends formed their own search party. The group met at Arlington Marina and set out on boats to search the waters of the St. Johns River for the Washington D.C native.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family," Farhat said. "They've asked for some time to come to grips with this."


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