10 years and counting in search for Joshua

Posted by on Nov 12, 2012 | No Comments

It has been 10 years since Joshua Cheney Guimond disappeared without a trace from the campus of St. John’s campus in Collegeville. Joshua, the only son of Brian Guimond and Lisa Cheney, was a 2000 graduate of Maple Lake High School and a star student. He served as president of his class, was the student council representative to the school board, and was voted Most Likely to Succeed by his classmates. In the early morning hours of Nov. 10, 2002, Joshua, a 20-year-old junior, disappeared after leaving a gathering of friends to walk back to his dorm.

There was speculation by local law enforcement that Joshua had stumbled into a nearby body of water, but no trace of him was found. Friends and neighbors from Maple Lake traveled to Collegeville to join in the search, whether through official or unofficial efforts. Joshua’s disappearance occurred in the same two-week period after three other young Minnesotans went missing, which prompted national attention and searches of the St. John’s campus that involved the National Guard, the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department and numerous volunteers. When the official searches ended, the private efforts began, with a bloodhound and divers brought in several times to search the St. John’s campus and surrounding lakes. The family of missing University of Minnesota student Christopher Jenkins connected the Guimond family to a dog handler and her bloodhound. An uncle of missing University of Wisconsin-Ear Claire student Michael Noll accompanied a group of divers to help in the search for Joshua on the frozen lakes at St. John’s.

The Trident Foundation, which assisted in the search for Erika Dahlquist of Brainerd, brought in state of the art equipment to search and clear three St. John’s lakes. However, Dahlquist disappeared under different circumstances than the three young men and the bodies of Jenkins and Noll were found early in 2003, with their deaths attributed to accidents that occurred after heavy drinking. But in 2007, the persistent efforts of the Jenkins family resulted in the reclassification by the Minneapolis Police Department of the death of Chris Jenkins from an accident to a homicide. The possibility of criminal activity or a serial killer as the cause of the deaths was rekindled in 2006 when St. Cloud State student Scot Radel disappeared after a night of drinking in St. Cloud and his body was later found in the Mississippi River. After Radel’s death, the Criminal Justice students of SCSU professor Lee Gilbertson analyzed 40 cases of young men who disappeared nation-wide in the last decade. The highly publicized results of the study showed more than half of those cases occurred within close proximity to I-94, prompting speculation about an “I-94 killer.”

In the July 2007 Cosmopolitan magazine, those findings were repeated in a story entitled “Why Are These Young Guys Dying?” Although Joshua Guimond was not mentioned in that article, his photo was used and that drew a protest from Brian Guimond, who said the bodies of the other young men were found, but no trace of his son has ever been found.

In 2008, the I-94 killer became the “Smiley Face Killer” when two retired detectives from New York when public with the results of their investigation and attributed the drownings not to a single serial killer, but an organized group of killers. The “Smiley Face Killer” label arose because the detectives often found spray-painted variations of a smiley face near where the victims went into the water. Those reports were aired by Twin Cities media and in a May 2008 issue of People Magazine. For the seventh anniversary of Joshua’s disappearance in November of 2009, rallies urging further investigation of the case were held on the St. John’s campus and at the Stearns County Law Enforcement Center in St. Cloud. Crews from Twin Cities television stations covered the gathering and a petition with 461 names was presented to Stearns County detective asking that St. John’s University and the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department fully disclose all information about Joshua’s disappearance and all information about past crimes against students at St. John’s.

In May of 2010, Fox 9 News aired a story on the background of the case and what a technical expert found in a search of Joshua’s computer hard-drive. The investigation found that two days after Joshua went missing, someone accessed the computer and appeared to forward and delete hundreds of e-mails, using an Internet washer to clean items off the hard-drive. There was also evidence that someone had been using the computer to make fake IDs for other students. And an Internet search Joshua conducted about two weeks before he disappeared focused on sex abuse by some monks at St. John’s. More information, reports over the past 10 years and messages concerning the case can be found at www.findjoshua.com.

At the time of the ninth anniversary of Joshua’s disappearance in 2011, Lamar Outdoor Advertising provided two billboards west of St. Cloud at no charge to the Guimond family that featured Joshua’s picture and encouraged anyone with information to call authorities. Lisa Cheney said at times over the years, media outlets have expressed interest in the case, but hit a wall when they try to contact the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department. “They get to a certain point and they can’t get any information out of Stearns County,” she said. “It seems to happen every time.” She said the relationship with the sheriff’s department was bad almost right from the start. “Of course we were upset, our son was missing,” Lisa said. “You would think they would have handled that better than they did.” St. John’s used to send a letter to the family on each anniversary of Joshua’s disappearance, but that stopped after the fifth year. She said St. John’s did allow the family to bring a blood hound and drivers to the campus for searches, but there was so much more they could have done. “Josh was one of their own,” Lisa said. “They have the money and the power to do much more than Brian and I could do.”