Human remains found in the Sacramento Delta are not those of a Concord man, a huge relief to the friends and family of David Kempker, 27, who has been missing since March 12.
Dismembered body parts, in a plastic bag, were found by a fisherman in the Mokelumne River on Sunday.
The Sacramento Sheriff's Dept. is investigating the discovery as a homicide.
"We went through 36 hours of trauma to the entire family, waiting to hear if that was David," Anita Descalzo told KTVU, outside the Concord home of her sister Janis, David's mother. "We're holding up as best we can, we're very sad, we're upset we haven't been able to find him yet."
Kempker's face is on posters, along Highway 160 near Sherman Island.
He drove out there with a friend, supposedly to go fishing, but his aunt has doubts.
"No, he doesn't have a license, no pole, I don't think he was fishing," said Descalzo, "but we don't know why they were there."
At some point, the men got separated,
Later, Kempker's Toyota truck was found abandoned, with no sign of him, and no contact since.
"He was the life of the party, a very happy-go-lucky person," said longtime friend Ayla Peters, who has helped organize volunteer search teams to scour the marshland, in addition to the search efforts conducted by the Sacramento Sheriff's Department.
"We're trying to remain calm and hopeful and positive," said Peters, admitting their optimism was shaken when the remains were found not far from where Kempker went missing. "We also feel for whoever family member that is, because it could have been ours."
The remains are unidentified, as DNA testing will be needed.
Knowing they're not David's renews the resolve of his searchers.
"Somebody knows something, you can't just disappear out of thin air," said Peters, "and this is the worst possible feeling, not knowing."
Kempker and his sister grew up in Concord, and he split his time between his mom's home and Truckee, where he worked as an electrician.
A candlelight vigil for Kempker last month in Concord drew hundreds of people.
"I've never seen him at odds with anybody. Just a great guy," said longtime neighbor Adrian Morse, "and I'd like people to know this is a special and compassionate guy, not a trouble maker."
As Kempker's loved ones hugged each other outside the family home, Morse described the emotional upheaval of ruling out the remains. "It's a sad story but at the same time, it has kept our hope alive."
Morse was also unnerved by something a Delta land-owner was overheard saying.
"That they find bodies out there all the time, and I was like 'what, how is that possible?' Is this our Las Vegas desert out here that we don't know about or something?"