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Body found, believed to be that of missing man

The two-month-long search for a missing 24-year-old man apparently has ended with the discovery of a decomposed body in a secluded area in an Amherst park, authorities said.

Investigators from at least three police agencies had been looking for Matthew Stevens, a former Amherst and Tonawanda resident, who disappeared after he put a suicide note in his cousin's Buffalo mailbox Jan. 23.

Late Thursday morning, someone checking on the property in Natureview Park found a body in some brush under a tree, a long way from the road. A similar note was found near the body.

Amherst police suspect it's Stevens' body.

"We found some ID, and the clothing matches, but we're still waiting for results from a forensic dentist to be 100 percent sure," Detective Lt. Joseph LaCorte said.

Family members are resigned to the fact that it's Stevens' body.

"It was just heartbreaking, the end of all hope," said his aunt, Barbara M. Winkowski of Buffalo. "I'm glad he's found, but we had been hoping that he was distraught and would eventually contact one of us."

Authorities have found no signs of any foul play or trauma to the body. Following an autopsy in the Erie County medical examiner's office, the cause of death has been labeled as pending, awaiting toxicology results. Some liquor bottles were found at the scene, and sources said that investigators are eyeing the possibility that the man believed to be Stevens may have taken some drugs or been drinking and could have died from exposure.

On Jan. 23, a relative found the suicide note in the mailbox from Stevens, who most recently worked as a computer analyst in North Carolina. Amherst police later found his car on Glenhaven Drive in Amherst, but they found no sign of him.

Relatives have since learned that Stevens had packed his clothes in crates in his North Carolina home, destroyed his cell phone and wiped his computer's hard drive clean before leaving there.

Investigators, after searching the area near his vehicle, tried contacting known acquaintances and attempted to find any record of his having used a credit card.

"We notified other agencies, we tried to track him down, and we never could find him," Amherst Assistant Police Chief Timothy M. Green said.

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com

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