A young student at Indiana University mysteriously vanished after leaving text messages on his sister’s phone. Just days later, his body was discovered in a nearby lake, raising more questions than answers. The first half of Investigation Discovery’s ‘Still a Mystery: Indiana Unsolved’ focuses on the mysterious de*ath of Joseph Smedley and the events leading up to it. So, if you’re interested in learning more, we’ve got you covered.
How Did Joseph Smedley Die?
Joseph Smedley II was a bright, funny, and upbeat child who grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was estranged from his parents after they divorced when he was young. Joseph, on the other hand, was close to his sister, Vivianne Bernas, and spoke to her almost every day. The 20-year-old was a sophomore at Indiana University by 2015. He was pursuing biochemistry and lived off-campus with some fraternity brothers.
Vivianne reported Joseph missing on September 28, 2015, after she was unable to contact him via phone or text message. She had last spoken to her brother the night before. The family learned that Joseph was last seen by his roommates on September 27, 2015, around 11:30 p.m. Then, on October 2, 2015, a fisherman discovered Joseph’s body in Griffy Lake, Indiana. He was fully dressed, with binoculars around his neck. The coroner ruled that Joseph drowned and that the cause of de*ath was suicide. According to the report, Joseph was carrying a backpack containing approximately 66 pounds of rocks.
Was Joseph Smedley Ki*lled?
According to the show, Vivianne received a call from his former landlord about a week before Joseph Smedley’s disappearance about a balance he owed, and he had until September 28, 2015, to clear it. On the evening of September 27, Vivianne spoke with Joseph, who stated that he would drop off the check the following day. That, however, never occurred. On September 28, around 4 a.m., Vivianne received a distressing message from Joseph’s phone.
“Viv,” the message said. I adore you. I’m going to leave the country. I’m keeping you safe and protected by not telling you why. Please do not attempt to contact me at this number; it is inoperable. I’ll contact you once I’m set up overseas. Thank you for everything viv, I love you. And I’m sorry.” Vivianne initially thought it was a joke because he didn’t even have a passport. But she began worrying when she couldn’t reach the young student the following day.
The family discovered that Joseph had not attended classes on September 28, and that his roommates had seen him before going to bed the night before. A note on Joseph’s bed mentioned his departure from the country and was signed Smedley. However, Vivianne was adamant that it was not her brother who wrote it. The handwriting didn’t match, and she asserted that Joseph didn’t like using his last name.
Then, in a tragic turn of events, Joseph’s body was discovered in Griffy Lake, effectively ending the search but raising new questions. The coroner ruled the de*ath a suicide about two months after the body was discovered. The family, on the other hand, had an autopsy performed by an independent forensic pathologist. The results were shocking. According to the show, Joseph had hemorrhaging on his back, and the doctor suspected an undetermined or accidental de*ath. Vivianne also stated that the authorities refused to share information with the pathologist, causing their search for answers to be hampered. Furthermore, the family believed that Joseph would not have weighed himself down with rocks in order to commit suicide.
Joseph’s cellphone data indicated that he was driving around. He didn’t have a working car, according to Vivianne, so he could have been with someone before his de*ath. The data also revealed that Joseph’s phone was only used for outgoing communication between 11 p.m. on September 27 and 4 a.m. on September 28. Vivianne continued, “Now, for you guys that like to use your cell phone, that’s a long time to not say anything.”
The authorities maintain that Joseph committed suicide, but the family is not convinced. They have pushed for the investigation to be reopened, with a petition garnering over 100,000 signatures. In July 2020, Vivianne stated, “We still care about Joseph.” We haven’t moved on, and we’re still looking for justice for him because we don’t believe it received the attention it deserved.”