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Body of decapitated teen found on Merrimack River bank

LAWRENCE — State and local police are investigating after a decapitated body, believed to be that of a teenage boy missing since last month, was found Thursday on the banks of the Merrimack River.

“Police have recovered the head,” Carrie Kimball Monahan, a spokeswoman for the Essex district attorney’s office said in a statement released Thursday night.

Carlos Viloria, 44, of North Andover, said he is the father of the victim, whom he identified as Lee Manuel Viloria-Paulino, 16. He said his son attended Lawrence High School and he was not aware of any problems the boy was having.

“Not that I know of,” he said in a brief interview. “Not that I know of.”

Viloria walked down to the riverbank as police cleared the crime scene around 8 p.m.

He retrieved a black sweatshirt, but it was not clear if the clothing belonged to his son.

“I’ll let you guys deal with this,” he told reporters. “I got to get out of here.”

Authorities said they could not confirm the identity of the victim. His name will not be released until the state medical examiner conducts an autopsy Friday, Kimball Monahan said.

The headless body was found at about 2:40 p.m by a woman walking her dog along the river bank near McCabe Court. She made a 911 call to Lawrence police, authorities said.

McCabe Court, a narrow lane off Water Street, remained sealed off with yellow police tape until about 8 p.m. Investigators were visible down the road, shining flashlights and deploying canine units in search of evidence.

Lawrence police and the State Police detectives unit are assisting in the investigation. Police said in a statement they believe this is an isolated case and there is no threat to the community.

The crime scene, near a thoroughfare that includes businesses, apartments and the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence, drew many of Viloria-Paulino’s friends and family members.

A young woman wiped tears from her eyes. A man with her said she was a family member of the victim. She declined to speak to a reporter.

“I’m sorry,” she said before walking away.

“We don’t want to talk,” a male companion said softly.

Some shared pictures of a flier posted on Facebook indicating that Viloria-Paulino had gone missing on Nov. 18.

“It’s terrible,” said Hector Mendoza of Lawrence, who said he used to be a pastor at a church attended by the teen’s grandfather.

Dalfry Lopez, 15, said Viloria-Paulino was in his sophomore class at Lawrence High School. Over the past week, Lopez said, pictures of Viloria-Paulino were put up in school saying that he had gone missing.

“I feel bad, because he was really friendly,” Lopez said. “Who would do something like that to him?”

He said Viloria-Paulino sometimes sold sodas to other students at school and also enjoyed playing pickup basketball. “He was a friendly kid,” Lopez said.

Correspondent Olivia Quintana contributed. Travis Andersen can be reached at Travis.Andersen@globe.com.