Joshua Guimond, a junior at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, went to a party with a few of his friends on the evening of Saturday, November 9, 2002. It was a small gathering of less than 10 people, and it was held in a Metten Court dorm room. Josh left the room shortly before midnight, and his friends assumed he was going down the hall to use the bathroom. When he didn’t return after 15 minutes, they wondered if he had decided to return to his on-campus apartment. They tried calling him there; when they got no answer, they thought he was already asleep. Josh wasn’t asleep, though, and he never made it back to his apartment. He was never seen again.
Josh grew up in Maple Lake, Minnesota. He was a political science major at St. John’s, and he was a popular student with a lot of friends. St. John’s was a fairly small school, with about 1850 students. Located 75 miles northwest of Minneapolis, it provided a quiet and tranquil learning environment. Surrounded by acres of woods and a number of lakes, students would often joke that they were separated from the rest of society by a pine curtain. They viewed their campus as a utopian place and rarely thought about safety.
Josh planned on a future in politics after graduation. He was the treasurer of the pre-law society and the co-captain of the university’s mock trial team. An honors student, he was considered responsible, logical, and very organized. He tutored other students and loved to spend hours debating political and legal issues. His grandmother had served two terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives, and Josh wanted to follow in her footsteps. He even used “Senator Josh” as his email name.
Josh spent the afternoon before the party working on a paper he was writing about Alexander Hamilton. He then relaxed with a couple friends at his apartment for a few hours, drinking beer and talking about the future. Around 11:00 pm, the group decided to meet up with a few other friends, so they left Josh’s St. Maur House apartment and walked the short distance across campus to Metten Court. There, they continued drinking beer and played a couple card games. Friends saw Josh leave the room about 30 minutes after arriving, and assumed he was just going off to use the restroom. No one reported seeing Josh leave Metten Court, and no one would recall seeing him walking back to his apartment. His movements once he walked out of his friend’s room are completely unknown.
Josh was going to a meeting about a mock trial the next day at 2:30 pm. Someone from his team tried to call him at home when he didn’t show up but got no answer. When Josh didn’t show up for any meetings, his friends knew right away that something was wrong. They realized that no one had seen Josh since the night before after going over their notes again. It looked like nothing was missing from his apartment, and his car was still in the spot that was meant for it. They told campus police that they thought Josh was missing because they were worried.
The police on campus weren’t worried at first. Josh was a 20-year-old college student, so it was unusual for him to disappear. They thought he had just gone out with some friends and then gone home for the night. That night, they quickly searched the campus but couldn’t find any signs of where Josh might have gone.
People who knew Josh hoped that he would come back to school the next day with a good story about where he had been. They knew something was wrong when he didn’t show up for class on Monday morning. They told the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department that Josh was missing. During that day, deputies searched all 2400 acres of St. John’s campus and 700 acres of nearby woodland in a huge effort to find Josh.
They brought in search dogs to try to figure out where Josh might have gone after he left Midten Court. To get back to his apartment in St. Maur House, Josh would have had to use one of two bridges to cross Stumpf Lake. When tracking dogs picked up Josh’s scent near a culvert at the east end of Stumpf Lake, deputies thought he might have fallen into the lake. Water temperatures were just a few degrees above freezing, but the water was pretty calm. Josh would not have been able to stay alive for long if he had fallen in. A thorough search of the lake did not find any signs that Josh was in the water, but police would keep an eye on the area.
Using infrared radar, a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter flew over the campus but didn’t find anything that was important to the search. Deputies on horses searched the wooded areas around the campus, and volunteers helped search the campus itself. All the hunters who had been on a controlled deer hunt near campus on Sunday afternoon were called by the police, but none of them had seen anything strange in the woods.
When Josh’s parents got to college on Monday afternoon, they begged for help in tears to find out what had happened to their son. Brian Guimond would sleep in his son’s apartment for the next few nights, talking to students about Josh and getting ideas for possible search areas. At a number of news conferences, he made an emotional case for people in the area to search their homes for clues about where Josh was. He was sure that Josh had been taken away.
The police didn’t find any signs of foul play, and they thought it was most likely that Josh had drowned after falling into the lake. According to them, Josh had been drinking before he went missing, so he might have fallen into the water and been too drunk to get out. His friends, on the other hand, said that Josh didn’t seem at all drunk that night. Even though they said he had about 10 beers, he had done it over six hours and looked completely sober on the walk to Metten Court, which was less than an hour before he disappeared.
On Wednesday, members of the National Guard were sent to the campus. They searched the whole area again to make sure they didn’t miss anything during the first search. In addition, the university let police into all campus buildings, such as dorms, classrooms, and the abbey. Normally, a search warrant would have been needed to look through the private living quarters of the priests who lived in the abbey. However, the school let deputies go there without any problems and worked with the investigation into Josh’s disappearance. There was no sign that Josh was being held anywhere on campus.
A 20-square-mile area was searched several times over the course of three days, but nothing was found. The police were more and more sure that Josh would be in one of the campus lakes. They worked with university officials to lower the lake’s water level. The water was very cloudy even though the lake was not very deep. Divers were sent in several times, but they couldn’t find anything. So, after the water level was lowered, the lake was dragged. To say it again, nothing was found that showed Josh was in Stumpf Lake. A week later, divers were sent back in. This time, they had side-scan sonar gear with them, which let them see the bottom of the lake in more detail. They couldn’t find any proof of Josh.
Detectives talked to Josh’s family, friends, and classmates, but they didn’t find any evidence that he would have planned to go missing. Many people on campus knew him to be responsible and calm, and he did well in all of his classes. His computer was searched, but nothing was found. His search history did not show anything suspicious, and he mostly used humor websites and political discussion groups. They found some articles he had downloaded the day before he went missing. All of them were related to his research paper on Alexander Hamilton.
Josh’s parents were still sure that he had been taken from campus, but police were more likely to think that he had fallen into a lake and drowned. They knew that the weather would be very important in their efforts to find his body if he had ended up in the water. They thought he could float to the surface in a day or two if the air temperature stayed the same. Nevertheless, if the temperature dropped, ice would form on the lake’s surface, and his body could stay there until the spring thaw.
The lake had frozen over by the second week of the search, but police kept looking around it because they were sure Josh would be there. During the Christmas break, not much was done. When deputies returned to campus on January 8, they sent a dive team into Gemini Lake, which is close to where Josh was last seen. Josh would have gone from Metten Court to St. Maur House on foot and crossed a bridge near a culvert that led from Stumpf Lake to Gemini Lake. Since detectives had looked all over Stumpf Lake but couldn’t find Josh, they thought it was possible that he had fallen and ended up in Gemini Lake. Sadly, this search didn’t turn up anything, just like the others.
It was time to look for Josh again in April. His dad took some time off work and prayed while kayaking on the campus lakes for hours. He still thought Josh had been taken, but he was keeping an open mind because he knew the lake might finally tell him the truth. Every day, he carefully checked the water temperature, but even when it was warmer, there was no sign of his son.
The Trident Foundation came to campus in May to search the lakes on their own. These people were sure they could find Josh if he was in the water because they were the best at water search and rescue in the country. They sent divers into the lakes for days, using special gear to help them find the body. They cleaned up all of campus’s bodies of water one by one and found that Josh wasn’t there. The head of the group told the police that he thought the search should go in a different direction because Josh had not fallen into one of the lakes.
The Trident search only proved to Josh’s parents what they already knew: Josh was not on campus. It’s possible that he had an accident that night that kept him from getting home. The police didn’t know what to do. They talked to everyone on campus the night Josh disappeared, but no one said they had seen or heard anything strange. They were sure that Josh hadn’t faked his own disappearance, and now it didn’t seem possible that he had drowned in one of the lakes either. Even though they didn’t have any proof, they were willing to think that foul play might have happened. The investigation came to a stop.
On the campus that was far away, St. John’s students didn’t feel as safe as they used to. There were a lot of rumors going around about what might have happened to Josh. One was about the priests who lived on campus in the abbey. Some of them were known to drink a lot, and some students thought that one of them was coming back to campus when Josh was walking back to his apartment and hit him by accident. They then hid the body to avoid being charged with drunk driving. Even though the rumor spread like wildfire, police found no proof of a hit-and-run. Usually, a crash that is violent enough to kill someone leaves behind only small amounts of evidence. There was no blood or car parts that would have shown that Josh had been hit.
Despite the efforts of family and friends to keep the investigation going, the case eventually went cold. Sporadic searches continued to be conducted whenever any new tips were called in, but nothing brought police closer to locating Josh. In 2011, Lamar Outdoor Adventures donated two billboards to the Guimond family, and they were placed along Stearns County highways to remind people that Josh was still missing. A few tips trickled in, but nothing that advanced the investigation.
There has never been any activity on Josh’s credit cards and his bank account remains untouched. Detectives monitor his social security number, and it has never been used. His disappearance remains one of the great mysteries of Minnesota, but police believe there is someone out there who knows what happened to Josh and can provide the information needed to solve this case and give the Guimond family some long-awaited closure.
Joshua Guimond was 20 years old when he went missing in 2002. He has blond hair and blue eyes, and at the time of his disappearance he was 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighed approximately 170 pounds. He has a 4-inch long scar on his shoulder, and normally wears glasses or contact lenses. He was last seen wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans. If you have any information about Josh, please call the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department at 320–259–3700.