Thursday, October 26, 2023

Joshua Guimond: Missing Since November 9th, 2002

20-year-old Joshua Guimond, a promising student at St. John's University in Minnesota, was last seen leaving a party at a friend's apartment on the night of Saturday, November 9, 2002. The walk back to his dorm shouldn't have taken more than three minutes, but Josh never made it home.

Born on June 18, 1982, in Redwood Falls, Joshua Cheney Guimond grew up to be an extremely ambitious young man. The well-spoken, and intelligent class president at Maple Lake High School had big plans for his future. Voted by his fellow students as the most likely to succeed, Josh dreamed of a career in politics and law, with hopes of following the footsteps of his grandmother, who had served two terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives. Attending St. John’s University in Collegeville, majoring in Political Science, was a natural choice for the young man who already used the title "Senator Joshua" in his email address. It made very little sense to Josh's loved ones that the conscientious and responsible young man would one night walk into the cold Minnesota night without his coat, wallet, glasses, or car keys and disappear without a trace.

November 9, 2002, started like any other day on the campus of Saint John's University. Josh woke up that morning, did his homework, used his computer, and visited the library before heading to his friend's poker party at another nearby dormitory called Metten Court. It was a typical Saturday night for the college kids, who liked spending time together listening to music, drinking a bottle or two of beer, and playing Texas Hold'Em. The party wasn't big by any means, and Josh, who arrived around 11:15 pm, knew most, if not all, of the other attendees.

Nobody really paid attention when only about 30 minutes later, Josh suddenly got up from his seat and left the apartment without mentioning where he was heading. Perhaps they assumed the 20-year-old was simply going to the bathroom — but Josh didn't return to his friends that night and was never seen again.

Josh's roommate and best friend, Nick Hydukovich, got back home at Maur House around 2:45 in the morning, just to find the room empty. While a bit strange, it wasn't until Josh failed to show up the next day for the Pre-Law Society's mock trial practice that his friends began to worry — it was highly unusual for the standout student to miss such an important school function. After realizing nobody had seen Josh since the night before and he wasn’t answering anyone’s messages or calls, his friends reported him missing to SJU Life Safety Officers that afternoon. When the search for Josh Guimond began, it was found out the young man had scanned into his dorm room for the last time at 11:06 pm before leaving for the party, meaning he had not even visited his home later that night. Yet, it didn't seem likely Josh had had plans to go anywhere else: he had left without a jacket, credit card, and the keys to his car. But what could have happened to the young man during the short, 3-minute walk back home? Soon, a young couple came forward telling the authorities they had seen a young man matching Josh's description on the footbridge between 12:15 and 12:30 am on November 10.

The bridge was located on the route between the two dorms, so it did seem like Josh had indeed been heading home after leaving his friend's party. Over the next few days, the authorities and volunteers searched the 16-square mile area on and around the college campus on foot, horseback, and by helicopter — but there were no signs of Josh. Sniffer dogs, however, traced Josh's scent to the bridge over Stumpf Lake, where the trail went cold. This pointed in two directions: either Josh had got in the car there or went in the water. Josh getting insensibly drunk at the party and accidentally wandering into Stumpf Lake was one of the earliest theories of what may have happened to him. But when multiple drag teams and diver teams searched the lake using sonar technology to scan the waters, no traces of Josh's body or any of his belongings were found. It was anyway unlikely that Josh could have tripped and fallen over the four feet high concrete wall into the lake - no matter how intoxicated he may have been. Of course, there was the possibility that the young man jumped, but knowing how excited Josh was about his future his friends and family were sure that wasn’t the case. And then, while the authorities continued their search for Josh, two other young male students at colleges in the region, also disappeared within an 11-day time frame. While there was no immediate connection to Josh's case, it was highly unusual for several young people to vanish in the same area in such a short period.

One of these missing students was 21-year-old Chris Jenkins, whose family brought in a private K-9 unit — the dogs ended up tracing Josh's scent at Saint John’s Abbey, a monastery on campus, opening a new line of investigation. What made the connection to Saint John’s Abbey worrying, was the fact that around the time of Joshua Guimond's disappearance, St. John’s University reached a settlement of "several allegations of abuse against the abbey." As many of 18 of the Catholic monks at the Abbey have been credibly accused of sexual abuse throughout the years — some of which supervised Josh and his friend's dorm. It's known that Josh was aware of the monks' terrible actions - he talked about the subject with his mother and grandparents on multiple occasions. Josh was frustrated that the accused monks were allowed to live on campus and the young man was angry that Abbey would cover up their crimes.

Several people told the authorities Josh was writing a paper about the abuse in Saint John’s Abbey, but the authorities were unable to confirm their claims. The fact that the monks initially refused to let the police inside to track Josh's scent further, didn't help to dispel suspicions that the monastery had something to do with the young man's disappearance. However, when the authorities finally conducted a wider search inside the monastery, no evidence was found to prove something had happened to Josh in Saint John’s Abbey. There were also reports of a series of attacks, stalking’s, and attempted abductions of college men in the area. Just a night before Josh disappeared, a man was jumped by random men in St Joseph, and another young man was tricked into a vehicle and driven into the woods where he was sexually assaulted. Could it be Josh ended up as one of the victims of these men preying on college students?

In the end, the bodies of the other young men, including Chris Jenkins, were found in the bodies of water making authorities believe there was no connection between Josh's case and the other disappearances. Over time, without new leads to follow, the case started to go cold. That was until the development of technology made it possible for the authorities to further analyze Josh's computer's hard drive. In 2008, after six long years without much progress in the investigation, it was revealed someone had used an internet washer program on Josh's computer soon after his disappearance. It took another few years for the police to find out what exactly had been removed: in addition to searches relating to the accusations against the monks, the investigators now recovered several user accounts for Yahoo! personal ads and chat rooms. After taking a closer look, the investigators realized Josh had been using these accounts impersonating a woman while chatting with men.

This revelation led to a new theory: perhaps Josh had set up a meeting on the night of November 9, 2002. Based on the material found on Josh's computer, it was possible the young man was exploring his sexuality - which would explain why Josh didn't tell anyone where he was going. Meeting someone and getting in their car would also explain why Josh's scent vanished in the middle of the footbridge. But again, no further evidence was found to confirm the theory and we can only continue to speculate whether someone Josh met on a dating site is responsible for his disappearance. In 2022, the police released a collage of 28 photos - headshots of 28 men - apparently found on Josh's computer asking for the public's help to identify these individuals. Could it be that one of these men holds the answer to the question that has been haunting the young man's loved ones for over two decades: What happened to Joshua Guimond?

Anyone with information related to Josh's disappearance or the identities of those pictured is asked to contact Investigator Struffert with the Stearns County Sheriff's Office at 320-259-3700 or submit a tip online.

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