A teenager at Indiana University disappeared without a trace after sending cryptic text messages to his sister’s phone and then disappearing. Just days later, his body was pulled from a nearby lake, but the discovery prompted more concerns than answers. The first half of the Still a Mystery: Indiana Unsolved episode on Investigation Discovery focuses on the mysterious circumstances surrounding Joseph Smedley’s death and the events that occurred before his death. If this interests you too, don’t worry; We’ll cover you.
How did Joseph Smedley die?
Joseph Smedley II had a cheerful, bright, and outgoing personality as a young boy growing up in Indianapolis, Indiana. His parents divorced when he was a child and he has not been in contact with any of them since. On the other hand, Joseph maintained a close relationship with his sister Vivianne Bernas and communicated with her almost daily. In 2015, the person, who had just turned 20, was a sophomore at Indiana University. He planned to get a degree in biochemistry and lived off campus with some other students who were in the same fraternity.
On September 28, 2015, Vivianne made the decision to report Joseph missing after being unable to reach him by phone or text. The night before she had spoken to her brother for the last time. At around 11:30 p.m. on September 27, 2015, word reached the family that Joseph had been seen for the last time by his roommates. The following day, October 2, 2015, a fisherman discovered Joseph’s body in the water at Griffy Lake in Indiana. He had all his clothes on and binoculars around his neck. The coroner’s verdict was that Joseph committed suicide by drowning himself and that this was the way of death. According to the complaint, Joseph carried a bag on his back that contained about £66 worth of pebbles.
Was Joseph Smedley murdered in any way?
According to the show, about a week before Joseph Smedley’s disappearance, Vivianne had received a call from his former landlord regarding some debts he owed, and he had until September 28, 2015 to settle them. This all happened about a week before Joseph Smedley disappeared. Vivianne had an interview with Joseph on the evening of September 27th and during their interview he promised to deliver the check the next day. On the other hand, that never happened. Vivianne received a worrying text message from Joseph’s phone around 4 a.m. on September 28.
The message reads: “Viv, I love you. I have decided to leave the nation. I ensure your safety and protection by not explaining why. Do not try to call this number to contact me as it will not go through. I cannot contact you until I am settled abroad. I am so grateful to you Viv and I will always love you. And I’m sorry about that.” Since he didn’t even have a passport, Vivianne initially thought it was a joke about something else. However, she began to worry when she was unable to reach the young student the next day.
The family later found that Joseph had failed to show up for school on September 28, and his roommates said they saw him before they arrived the night before. Smedley’s handwriting was found on a note lying on Joseph’s bed, addressing him to leave the nation. However, Vivianne was convinced that her brother was not the author of the play. She claimed that Joseph didn’t like it when people used his last name, although their handwriting didn’t match.
Then, in a tragic turn of events, the body of Joseph was discovered in Griffy Lake, ending the search but raising even more concerns. The coroner determined the death to be a suicide almost two months after the body was recovered. However, the autopsy was performed by an independent forensic pathologist at the family’s request. The results were shocking to say the least. According to the show, Joseph had bleeding down his back and the doctor speculated that an accident or unidentified cause of death may have caused Joseph’s death. Vivianne also mentioned that authorities would not share information with the pathologist, making it more difficult for them to get the answers they were looking for. In addition, Joseph’s relatives believed that it was highly unlikely that he attempted suicide by crushing himself with stones.
Information from Joseph’s smartphone indicated that he was in a vehicle at the time. Vivianne claims he did not own a working car, suggesting that he may have been in the company of someone else before his death. In addition, the data showed that between 11:00 p.m. on September 27 and 4:00 a.m. on September 28, Joseph’s phone only had outgoing calls talk to mobile devices.
Government officials insist that Joseph committed himself, but Joseph’s family does not believe them. They have campaigned for the investigation to be reopened and a petition has been drawn up with over 100,000 signatures calling for the investigation to be reopened. In July 2020, Vivianne stated, “We still care about Joseph. We have gone no further and will not stop seeking justice for him as long as we feel that what happened to him has not received the attention it deserves.
When Joseph left
On September 28, 2015, Joseph’s sister Vivianne reported that she could not find him. She received a strange text message from Joseph’s phone at 4:15 that morning, saying that he loved her and was about to leave the country. The message was sent from Joseph’s phone. Furthermore, the text advised her not to make any attempts to get in touch with him, as he would be in touch with her once settled in his new country. She initially felt he was probably just joking, but when he didn’t respond to her attempts to get in touch with him, she became concerned and called the authorities.
When investigators questioned Joseph’s roommates, who were also his fraternity brothers, the roommates said they last saw Joseph late September 27, 2015, the night before. As they relate, they went to Griffy Lake with Joseph to try and view a lunar eclipse known as the “Blood Moon,” but because of cloud cover, they couldn’t see much of anything, so they returned to their brotherhood home to try again the next evening. According to the other occupants of the house, each went to their own rooms well before midnight, and it was the last time any of them saw Joseph.
After Joseph’s room in the fraternity house was searched, it was found that most of his belongings were still there; however, his mobile phone had been stolen. There was also a handwritten note with a message quite similar to the cryptic text Vivianne had received. It said that Joseph was leaving the country and that his roommates should not try to contact him. Joseph’s fraternity mates said they most often referred to him as “Smedley,” which was the name signed on the slip.
Upon viewing the note, Vivianne expressed her opinion that the handwriting did not appear to be Joseph’s. She observed that although Joseph was right-handed, it appeared to be written by a person writing with the left hand. Also of note is that Joseph did not have a known passport at the time, which would have made international travel difficult for him at the time. Also, according to Vivianne, it was uncharacteristic of Joseph to skip commitments such as attending college and paying the rent he owed on a previous apartment for which Vivianne had co-signed the lease. Vivianne said that because Joseph co-signed the lease for the previous apartment.