MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A student at a Minnesota Catholic college vanished in the middle of the night. This week marks 15 years since Josh Guimond went missing from St. John’s University.
A standout student, the 20-year-old had a bright future ahead. That all changed Nov. 9, 2002. Guimond’s disappearance would later face extra scrutiny, both for the clergy sex-abuse scandal and for the investigators assigned to the case.
A decade and a half later, WCCO’s Liz Collin went back to talk to a family still waiting for answers, the investigators trying to find them and to the friends who last saw Guimond before his trail went cold.
There is a certain Minnesota modesty when Brian Guimond describes his son — class president of his Maple Lake High School, voted most likely to succeed by his peers, planning for a future in politics and law.
“Oh yeah honor rolls and all that,” he said.
Raised Catholic, Brian made sure his son was in a pew each Sunday. Another reason Josh’s choice to attend St. John’s University made perfect sense. He was a junior in college and that November weekend of 2002 marked deer opener. Instead of taking part in the annual hunting tradition with dad, homework kept Josh in Collegeville.
We now know that Saturday night, Nov. 9, Josh met up with friends to play cards. The next day, his dad discovered Josh hadn’t been seen since.
“I got home about 8 o’clock and one of his buddies calls and right then it’s like you get a pit in your stomach. I knew something was wrong,” Brian said.
On campus, Nick Hydukovich was likely the closest to Josh. They were roommates, in music groups and mock trial together.
“I was trying to stay optimistic but I was definitely worried,” Hydukovich said.
The search for Josh first centered around Stump Lake. Josh’s get-together was at Metten Court on the north end of campus. Shortly after midnight, those last to see him said he left to take the three-minute walk home to Maur House.
“I came home one that night and he wasn’t there,” Hydukovich said.
That is essentially all we know about the night Josh Guimond disappeared. The timeline not exact, the details still few. But it does seem Josh didn’t have plans to go anywhere else that night since he left his room without a jacket, credit card or the keys to his car.
As an investigator for the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office, Zach Sorenson took over the Guimond files two years ago.
“I have nothing,” Sorenson said.
He told WCCO he is still taking a look at it weekly to determine what they may have missed for so long. We asked if this department had no reason to suspect foul play from the very beginning.
“I don’t believe so. I wasn’t there at the time. Just reading through it if it was a missing person at the time, it’s still a missing person at this point,” Sorenson said.
Sorenson calls such a case an extra challenge with little help from 2002 technology. No security cameras, no cell phones.
“No evidence at all, no investigation. But he’s in the lake? No,” Brian Guimond said.
Grieving and frustrated, Brian formulated his own theories, butting heads with Stearns County and St. John’s University early on.
“Their main thing: hour one, day one, he’s in the lake. Therefore, what’s the first thing anyone thinks when they see it? He’s dead already so nobody is looking for him. Exactly what they wanted,” Brian said.
One month before Josh went missing, St. John’s was in the headlines. The college announced a major settlement of a dozen cases of abuse by monks at the Abbey on campus. Josh’s father would also learn that monks, who were credibly accused of past abuse, supervised both his son’s dorm and the one where he was last seen.
He never knew of the school’s history before.
Brian’s persistent questions and trips to campus were met with a restraining order by St. John’s. The college denied WCCO’s request for an interview. But, in a statement said there is “no evidence linking the abbey” to Josh’s disappearance and including the monks in our report is “journalism by … rumor.”
WCCO asked the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office if it thinks St. John’s had something to do with his disappearance.
“We have no hard evidence that leads us to believe or not to believe that anyone is involved or not involved in the reason Joshua is missing or what happened to Joshua,” Sorenson said.
Guimond’s roommate admits whatever may happened to his friend soured his relationship with his alma mater.
“Had there been some kind of accident like you hear about or still do hear about with college students he would have been found by now,” Hydukovich said. “It’s always tough this time of year.”
As Hydukovich went on to live the dream of practicing law that he and Josh once shared, a friend and a father focused on answers for 15 years.
“Every day I think of him,” Brian said.
He has started a Go Fund Me account to hire a private investigator to help find Josh.
The same team that first handled Josh’s disappearance led the Jacob Wetterling kidnapping investigation. The new Stearns County investigator told WCCO he’s aware of the criticism they received in the past. But he says, looking at the prior work done in Josh’s case, he doesn’t see much he would change.
There is a prayer service scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Holy Cross Church in Maple Lake. It’s open to the public.