Three years later, there is still no sign of Joshua Guimond, the St. John’s University student who vanished from campus shortly after midnight on Nov. 10, 2002.
All of Guimond’s family members, friends and acquaintances remain baffled by his disappearance. Some are frustrated and even angry the investigation has come to an apparent dead-end and that so many people have virtually forgotten the incident.
Guimond’s father, Brian, who lives in Maple Lake, carries with him a spiral-binder notebook filled with notes, correspondence and calling cards – all pertaining to his son’s disappearance.
In Guimond’s opinion, both St. John’s University and the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department have dropped the ball on the investigation by being unreasonably certain that Joshua fell into a campus lake or a swamp and drowned the night he disappeared.
That lake “theory,” Guimond said, has precluded the possibility of an abduction. It also, he added, continues to give the public the impression that there was no foul play involved in the vanishing.
In an Oct. 23 interview with the Newsleader in Maple Lake, Guimond said he strongly thinks his son was abducted and that he is still alive, being kept somewhere against his will, perhaps under the influence of mind-altering drugs.
For more than two years, there has been a type of restraining order against Brian Guimond, who is not allowed to visit the St. John’s University campus unaccompanied.
According to the complaint, university officials said Guimond had acted hostile and threatening to campus personnel.
“The reason they have that order is because I asked questions they didn’t want to hear,” Guimond said. “They have their lake theory or their swamp theory, and they won’t go beyond that. They refuse to admit an abduction might have taken place.”
After the lake was thoroughly checked several times for Guimond’s body, a theory developed he might have fallen into a swampy area on campus.
That theory makes Brian Guimond angry.
He contacted the Soil and Water Conservation Service, and an expert there wrote Guimond a letter stating there is no such thing as “quicksand” in the wetlands on the campus where Guimond’s body could have sunk from sight. Guimond said even if his son had fallen into a wetland area, his body would have easily been seen by volunteers who scoured the entire campus in the days after his disappearance.
Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner said he is equally frustrated as Guimond’s loved ones are about the inability to solve the disappearance.
Sanner said the case is still classified as a “missing person” incident, adding that anything is possible, including an abduction. However, he added there is “absolutely no physical or circumstantial evidence” that any kind of crime had been committed the night Guimond went missing.
There have been no new developments in the case, Sanner said.
The sheriff’s department is currently checking into the possibility that new, state-of-the-art technology might be used that could perhaps locate remains in a lake or swampy area. At this point, however, it is not certain whether such a technological method would be effective, he added.
Sanner said even though he has never himself experienced the trauma of the disappearance of a loved one, his heart goes out to those who are living with such anxiety and grief.
The Guimond case file remains open as a high priority. A Stearns County detective examines and re-examines the disappearance on a daily basis. Sanner said he would like nothing better than to be able to solve the case, and the department will immediately look into any tips that may come forth.
If anyone has any information, they should call Sanner at 259-3700.
Lisa Cheney of Maple Lake is Joshua’s mother who works at a medical company in Maple Grove. She and Brian Guimond had only one child, Joshua, before they divorced 12 years ago.
“You just keep hoping the truth will come out,” Cheney said in an Oct. 24 telephone interview with the Newsleader. “There are lots of theories, but we have said from the very beginning someone took Joshua.”
Dealing with law enforcement has been, for the most part, a frustrating experience, Cheney said.
“They keep telling us there was no evidence of an abduction,” she said. “They thought he was in the lake, then they thought he was in the swamp. We were also told he might have been eaten by turtles. That’s ridiculous. Wouldn’t there have been bits of clothing or some other evidence found?”
Cheney said she had become ill and still has sleepless nights, wondering and worrying about her missing son.
“I don’t know what happened to him,” she said. “I just don’t know. Sometimes I’ve thought somebody killed him, put him in the trunk and buried his body maybe on the campus or close to it. But I just don’t know.”
A Stearns County detective told Cheney he keeps the Joshua Guimond file right on his desktop and looks into it once a week. Cheney e-mails messages to the detective from time to time.
For instance, one time she received a bogus ransom note from another country, asking money for Guimond’s safe return. One lady in Michigan contacted the Guimonds through their Web site to claim she saw Joshua living in her apartment building.
Cheney shared such “tips” with the detective, but even bogus tips are few and far between. They still receive offers from “psychics” who claim they might be able to solve the case.
Cheney acknowledges her communications with law enforcement have been strained because she and Brian adamantly insisted from the beginning their son had been abducted. They both still think law enforcement should have checked deeper into the possibility of foul play.
“Law enforcement doesn’t tell us anything,” she said. “They (law enforcement) told Brian and I we were too emotional about the case. They kept telling us they know how we feel. But they don’t know how we feel. Our son is missing. Theirs are safe at home. If their son went missing, they would be emotional, too, and they wouldn’t give up. We do know this – that somebody knows something. I just wish they’d call law enforcement or us and let us know what they know.”
After Guimond’s disappearance, they requested the sheriff’s department have the lake searched by the Trident Foundation of Colorado, a group of underwater experts who search for missing people. Brian Guimond and Cheney had to meet twice with the Stearns County Board of Commissioners before a Trident search was permitted, with money raised by a “Find Joshua” foundation.
They have also contacted TV shows that feature missing cases, but they were told there wasn’t enough solid information available to do a feature story on their missing son.
Both Cheney and Brian Guimond said they were very close to their only son. One of the theories advanced by some people is that Guimond might have purposely “disappeared” by leaving the campus and setting up an anonymous life somewhere else. Such a theory is “ridiculous,” Cheney said.
All who knew Guimond said he was not depressed or withdrawn.
In fact, he was very connected and active in all school activities and had many friends.
Friends and campus acquaintances have described Guimond as brilliant, outgoing and friendly, inspiring, musically talented and fun to be around.
“He wanted to get a law degree at an East Coast university, and then come home and hopefully be elected as a legislator to represent the people in our county area (Wright County),” Cheney said. “Joshua didn’t have any enemies. The only reason I think he might have made some people mad is because he was very vocal and critical of how past cases of sexual abuse by some clergy had been handled at St. John’s.”
Cheney added she does not think her son’s outspoken views led to any kind of foul play.
Without a trace
Guimond, a political-science junior at St. John’s University, left his dormitory (St. Maur House) and went to play cards the night of Nov. 9, 2002 with friends at Metten Hall, a three-minute walk across the campus from his dorm.
There was some drinking of alcohol that evening, although friends there have said Guimond was not inebriated before he left.
Shortly after midnight, he said he was going to walk back to his St. Maur House. He never arrived there.
The next day, fellow students and friends sounded the alert because they knew it was not like Guimond to be unaccounted for.
For days, volunteers and law enforcement searched the entire St. John’s campus and woodlands. Stumpf Lake was carefully checked. Not a trace of Guimond was found.
“The idea Josh fell into a lake is ridiculous,” Brian said. “It was just thick with brush at the edges. He couldn’t have ‘fallen’ into that lake if he’d tried. And the so-called swamp they claim he might have fallen into is way far away from where he walked between the two dorms. In fact, I still don’t know where that so-called swamp is supposed to be.”
Joshua Guimond is 6-feet tall, 175 pounds, with blonde hair. He was last seen wearing a gray “St. John’s” T-shirt and blue jeans. He would currently be 23 years old.
There is a Web site (findjoshua.com) devoted to the life and disappearance of Joshua Guimond.
The site features many photos of Guimond that vividly show a well-rounded young achiever dedicated to his friends and family and active in politics, music and sports.
The site also contains moving messages from a close friend and from his mother, whose letter closes with these words:
“Remember how I would always tease you about taking care of me when I got old? How you would have a big mansion and I would live in the west wing? Well, I’m still counting on you to take care of me. I want you to know how much I love and miss you every day. I will always have hope that we find you and bring you home. I pray every day for your safe return. God Bless and I love you, Mom.”
Parents frustrated no developments in son’s vanishing
By Dennis Dalman
Thursday, October 27, 2005 5:12 PM EDT