ST. CLOUD, Minn., Nov. 16 ? Joshua Guimond, 20, an honor student at St. John’s University, stepped away from a card game in a campus apartment shortly after midnight last Saturday, walked down the hall, and vanished.
The campus, 75 miles northwest of Minneapolis, is so tranquil that some of the 1,850 students joke about the “pine curtain” that separates them from the outside world: 2,500 acres of woods and lakes. No one worried. It was not until Sunday night that Mr. Guimond’s friends and roommate called the police.
Mr. Guimond was the fourth young person to disappear since Oct. 30 in Minnesota and Wisconsin in circumstances that family members say are similar. Law enforcement officials say they have not ruled out a connection, but have found no evidence of any.
Erika Marie Dalquist, 21, who worked at a telemarketing company in Brainerd, Minn., 127 miles northwest of Minneapolis, was the first to disappear. Ms. Dalquist was last seen leaving the Tropical Nites, a downtown bar popular with students from Central Lakes College, in the early morning of Oct. 30.
Sgt. David Holtz of the Brainerd police said Ms. Dalquist was waiting for a taxi after the bar closed at 1 a.m., when she saw a man she recognized. She told her friends, who did not know the man, to cancel her cab, Sergeant Holtz said, “and she walked away with this man.”
Next was Christopher Jenkins, 21, a senior and co-captain and goalie of the lacrosse team at the University of Minnesota. Dressed as an American Indian, he had gone to a Halloween party at the Lone Tree Bar and Grill in downtown Minneapolis.
Cyndi Barrington, a Minneapolis police spokeswoman, said Mr. Jenkins left the bar alone in the early morning of Nov. 1. He had been drinking and may have been thrown out, Ms. Barrington said, although some witnesses said he left on his own and was not allowed back in.
Michael J. Noll, a student at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, disappeared on Nov. 6 after celebrating his 22nd birthday at the Nasty Habit Saloon, a bar popular with students on weekends.
Mike Rindo, a university spokesman, said Mr. Noll left the bar alone and intoxicated and subsequently walked into the house of a neighbor, who told him to leave. Mr. Noll’s baseball cap was found on her lawn.
The police and firemen believe Mr. Noll may have fallen into the Chippewa River, which is near his home. On Nov. 12, dogs seemed to have found his scent near the water several hundred feet from his house, but a search found nothing.
“What’s unusual about this,” said Sheriff Jim Kostreba of Stearns County, who is handling the search for Mr. Guimond, “is that we have four young people missing within a relatively small area. They’re all about the same age, and they all disappeared at night.”
Families and friends have helped the authorities search, have offered rewards, held prayer services, set up Web sites and pasted posters “from Iowa to Fargo,” as Mr. Guimond’s girlfriend, Katie Benson, put it.
In Brainerd, the police have tried to interview everyone at the bar the night Ms. Dalquist vanished, as well as people who know her. On Nov. 12, some 160 volunteers canvassed the city to no avail.
The police say no money has been taken out of any of the bank accounts of Ms. Dalquist, who grew up in nearby Cushing.
“Erika is very outgoing, bubbly person and can make friends easily,” said her mother, Colleen Dalquist. The Minneapolis office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation has sent information about all four cases to its behavioral science unit in Washington for analysis and has been helping local law enforcement agencies, said an agent, Paul McCabe.
Paul Cheney, Mr. Guimond’s uncle, said he saw similarities in the disappearances. “Josh and Chris Jenkins look a lot alike,” Mr. Cheney said. “The three boys have the same build, same height, same coloring. Josh is about 5 feet 10, 170 pounds, with an athletic build. All were well-known on campus, outgoing, bright kids with good grade point averages.”
Mr. Cheney pointed out that these three disappearances were “just off Interstate 94.”
Kim Lucas, a senior at the University of Wisconsin, said Mr. Noll was studying to be a teacher and “loved helping kids,” adding, “He was an awesome guy, the kind of guy who everybody likes.”
Kent Pederson, 21, Mr. Noll’s roommate, said on Friday that he had been searching for his friend every day. More people are coming over the weekend to continue the search, Mr. Pederson said.
If nothing is found, said Lt. Karl Fisher of the Eau Claire police, “we’ll probably send the dogs out again Monday.” The police do not believe that the Noll case is linked to the disappearances of the other students, Lieutenant Fisher said.
Friends and relatives of Mr. Jenkins held a candlelight vigil for him and hired private investigators.
More than 200 volunteers have searched the banks of the Mississippi River and others asked downtown businesses for permission to view their surveillance tapes from the night Mr. Jenkins disappeared.
Some of the families are offering rewards, from $5,000 to $50,000, which has been put up by Steve and Jan Jenkins of Burlington, Wis., the parents of Mr. Jenkins, for information leading to their son.
Web sites have been set up for three of the missing: www.findchris jenkins.com; www.erikasmissing .com; and www.csbsju.edu for Mr. Guimond.
Mr. Guimond was writing a paper for his history class on the day he vanished, said his roommate, Nick Hydukovich, and when he stepped out to play cards that Saturday night, he did not bother to take a coat or a case for his contact lenses.
“I came home late,” Mr. Hydukovich recalled. “He wasn’t back. I thought he was at someone else’s place.”
More than 250 volunteers, including students and friends from Mr. Guimond’s home in nearby Maple Lake, helped the police search the campus on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, 100 National Guardsmen searched until dark. The sheriff brought dogs and then divers to search the dark waters of Stumpf Lake, which divides two areas of campus housing.
By Friday night, Mr. Guimond’s friends, red-eyed from exhaustion, had crowded into his apartment to cut pale yellow ribbons to hand out “so people won’t forget about him,” Ms. Benson said. Signs on the windows read, “Find Joshua.”
Young People Are Missing; Authorities Are Baffled
By JO THOMAS with JODI WILGOREN
Published: Sunday, November 17, 2002