One year later, Joshua is gone but not forgotten

Posted by on Nov 5, 2003 | No Comments

Joshua Guimond left a party on St. John’s campus late in the evening of November 9, 2002, and disappeared without a trace. A year later, there are still no clues and no news. The only thing that his family and friends know for sure is that Joshua, a 21-year-old St. John’s junior from Maple Lake, is still missing.

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, was voted Most Likely to Succeed by his classmates, and won the Security State Bank scholarship awarded annually to Maple Lake’s top senior student.

His disappearance, coming after the disappearance of three other young Minnesotans within a two-week period last year, 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 from Maple Lake and the St. John’s student body.

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 selected lakes. The family of missing University of Minnesota student Christopher Jenkins introduced the Guimond family to dog handler Penny Bell and her bloodhound, Hoover. An uncle of missing University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire student Michael Noll accompanied a group of divers to help the search for Joshua last winter. The Trident Foundation, which assisted in the search for Erika Dahlquist of Brainerd, brought in sophisticated equipment to search three St. John’s lakes in May. However, Dahlquist disappeared under different circumstances than the three young men, and the bodies of Jenkins and Noll have been found.

It is Joshua who is still missing with no clues as to his whereabouts and his parents who have endured a heart-breaking year of uncertainty, frustration and disappointment as the work to find their son.

Lisa Cheney said she knew right away that something was terribly wrong when Joshua was first reported missing from the St. John’s campus.

“He was just totally gone,” she said. “I thought right away that someone took him. He was physically not there.

“We just didn’t know what to think. Maybe we’d find him on campus hurt or dead or maybe we’d find him alive somewhere just five miles down the road. “You just don’t know.”

Brian Guimond said the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department is not doing enough to find Joshua. “Like I said from the minute I got up there, someone grabbed him. Why aren’t they looking for him? ‘Nope,’ they said, he’s still in the water.”

And communication has been another issue. “It’s been frustrating not knowing anything at all,” Lisa said. “And we get no information from the college or the sheriff.

“At first they would tell us a little bit until we met with the County Attorney and she said they were giving us too much information because it could compromise the investigation. “It’s frustrating because you can’t get anything out of them. And then there are the politicians who are elected by the people and all they say is, ‘I’m sorry, we can’t help you.’ “These are the people you think would be able to help you.”

Brian summed that situation up in three words. “It’s nobody’s department. “Everybody says they can’t do something. There’s got to be someone who can do something.”

Lisa said it was ironic that politicians have done nothing to help and Joshua had his mind made up to become a politician when he graduated from college.

There have been numerous search efforts coordinated by the Guimond family with assistance from friends and volunteers, including members of the Maple Lake Fire Department. And an underwater camera purchased with money from the Find Joshua Fund at Security State Bank and used in the search was donated to the fire department earlier this year.

Brian and Lisa have also been conducting their own investigation, doing research, making contacts and following leads that they hope will help find Joshua.

“Over the last year, we’ve learned who to talk to and who’s actually there to help or who’s willing to help,” Brian said. “There’s been no body found, so that means Joshua could very well be alive somewhere.”

In addition to the private search efforts, Brian and Lisa have traveled extensively to keep media attention on their son’s disappearance. They have appeared on Good Morning America, Fox Cable News, CNN, and in local television and radio coverage of the search for Joshua.

But the media attention has steadily decreased with the passage of time. “If they find a dead body and suspect it might be Josh, then they contact us,” Lisa said.

Another issue has been Joshua’s age. “When they’re over 18, it’s not good because they say he’s an adult,” Lisa said. “They throw that in your face all the time.”

And Joshua’s disappearance has not been classified as a crime. “He’s a missing person,” Lisa said of her son’s status at the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department.

“They haven’t done nothin’ from day one and they aren’t about to start now,” Brian said. “They’re still saying he’s in the water. They say the turtles ate him.”

The family of Chris Jenkins also feels they have not been well served by police officials, criticizing the efforts of the Minneapolis Police Department in the search for their son. And the Jenkins do not feel their son’s death was an accident.

A television show called “P.I.” on the FX cable channel recently aired a program on the efforts of the Jenkins’ private investigator, Chuck Loesch. In the program, Loesch contends that there is a connection between the Jenkins and Guimond cases as two of 11 disappearances of young men along the Interstate 94 corridor through several states and he speculates it is the work of a serial killer.

But Brian said the family of Michael Noll has nothing but praise for police efforts to find their son.

Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner said there is no change in the status of Joshua’s disappearance as a missing persons case and no reduction in the commitment of his department to solve the case.

“We understand the family’s frustration,” he said. “There are a lot of unanswered questions although we put a tremendous amount of resources and funds into this case without achieving resolution and that’s also frustrating for us.”

Sanner said that theories about a serial killer are speculation. “As far as looking at the possibility of Joshua’s disappearance being connected to something much larger, that’s something we did early on,” he said. “Speculation is one thing and actual proof is quite another. Whenever there is new speculation, we need to support that with fact.”

Although the Trident Foundation did not find any trace of Joshua in the three lakes it investigated, Sanner said that doesn’t rule out that possibility. “We felt more comfortable in looking at other possibilities after the Trident search,” Sanner said. “But that’s not to say that Josh didn’t walk into a heavily swampy area and sink into the mud.”

Sanner said one aspect of the investigation that was not publicized in the past were polygraph tests administered to selected individuals. He said news reports or sharing such steps and other leads his department pursues with the family could compromise the investigation.

But Sanner said the publicity generated by the anniversary of Joshua’s disappearance might have a beneficial effect. “Publicity surrounding the anniversary date might bring someone forward with information that we can react to and legitimize,” he said. “We remain deeply committed to this investigation. We hope and pray that we can resolve this, but we need to do it based on evidence and fact.”

And then there is the relationship between Joshua’s family and St. John’s. Brian said he is not welcome on the St. John’s campus, but that didn’t stop him from walking a one-man picket line and passing out flyers before the football game on Parents’ Weekend. Lisa said no attempt was made to remove Brian from the grounds. “They knew he’d make a scene,” she said.

Michael Hemmesch, St. John’s Director of Communications, said that the Guimond family is free to visit St. John’s. “They’re more than welcome, just like any other parents, to come to campus,” he said, noting that search activities are another matter. “We maintain that since the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department is leading the search for Joshua, that they coordinate all search activities. “Certainly, St. John’s is committed to continuing to help in any way possible to find Joshua,” Hemmesch said. “Our deepest prayers and thoughts go out to Joshua’s family. One can only imagine what they’ve gone through. It’s a sad state of affairs that we don’t have any answers one year later.”

It’s been a year you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, but Lisa said the support from the Maple Lake community has been amazing. “From the time it happened, I couldn’t believe the number of people that Josh knew,” Lisa said.

Joshua’s friends and the people of Maple Lake have hosted fund-raisers to continue search efforts and have provided their time and talents to create the Find Joshua website, distribute flyers, make buttons, tie yellow ribbons around town and help out in a variety of other ways.

“I wouldn’t have expected so much giving and caring,” Lisa said. “I was shocked. “I’d like to thank the people of Maple Lake and our family and friends for all they have given and for their continued support in finding Joshua.”

But she said it’s been hard not having any information to share. “That’s sad,” she said. You see people around town who ask if there’s any news. And you have to tell them the same thing every time.”

However, life for Lisa and Brian will never be the same. “You never forget,” Lisa said. “It’s always in your mind. Work, I guess, is a good distraction. “And you don’t care about things. I don’t care if I wash my clothes or if they pile up. I don’t care what my house looks like.”

“There’s only one thing that matters,” Brian said, “and that’s finding Joshua. Everything else can wait.”

There are several events planned to mark the November 9 date of the disappearance of Joshua Guimond.

Dan and Jerry’s Poinsettias are on sale at Security State Bank, the Maple Lake Messenger, or from Katie and Sheila Benson to help raise money for the Find Joshua Fund. The choice of red or white plants are available in 6.5-inch or 8-inch sizes for $12 and $16 respectively and plant will be available for pick-up during Thanksgiving week.

At 11:30 a.m. on November 9, a tree will be dedicated to Joshua in front of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Maple Lake.

At 6 p.m. on November 9, a prayer service for Joshua will be held in the Great Hall on the St. John’s campus. Everyone is welcome to attend. As part of the prayer service, there will be an open microphone session for people to share stories about Joshua.

Students at St. John’s are also holding an all-night vigil on November 6 to make signs, ribbons and t-shirts for the weekend events and on November 7, Joshua’s friends will be passing out ribbons to students in bus-stop lines. At Saturday’s football game, they will also unveil a large banner that will read “Keep Hope Alive and Find Joshua.”


1/5/2003 3:26:00 PM
One year later, Joshua is gone but not forgotten
by Theresa Andrus