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Case of missing IU student found dead now a death investigation

The discovery of missing Indiana University student Joseph Smedley's body in Griffy Lake last Friday evening is raising even more questions for his family and for police.
Joseph Smedley

The discovery of missing Indiana University student Joseph Smedley's body in Griffy Lake last Friday evening is raising even more questions for his family and for police. In fact, police are now calling the case a death investigation.

Smedley's family says he was last seen by members of his fraternity Sunday night.
"They went to meet with his fraternity to find out what was going on and apparently that was the last people that he was with," revealed Vivian Brown, Smedley's sister.

Four days after he was reported missing, Smedley's body turned up about a 45-minute walk from campus in Griffy Lake. Police say a fisherman discovered the body floating in shallow water.

His family says Joseph was a very good swimmer.

"Trying to determine how he may have gotten to that location," said Bloomington Police Captain Joe Qualters.

Smedley's sister told Eyewitness News her brother had promised to take care of something  for her Monday morning and that the 20-year-old had invited a female friend to hang out that upcoming Thursday. All of it happened before she received a bizarre text saying he was "leaving the country."

"It doesn't make sense. The roommates had found a handwritten letter on his bed saying that...pretty much the same thing he said to me. The detective sent me the letter so I can see what it look like and it's not his handwriting," said Brown.

"Those unanswered questions are all part of the investigations that we will pursue, whether that be messages, whether that be handwritten notes, and that type of thing," said Qualters.

Smedley's sister also says his phone was shut off sometime Sunday night near the site of several popular off-campus hangouts.

"(Police) had search locations from the text message he sent to me at 4 a.m. The location was Seventh and Walnut before the phone turned off," she said.
Smedley's family says the idea of him leaving the country was simply uncharacteristic.

"We've been trying to find closure during this tragedy, but it's difficult to do so when there are so many unanswered questions. We're not leaving any stones unturned. We're working diligently to get to the bottom of Joseph's death and appreciate all the thoughts and prayers from the community," Smedley's parents said in a statement.

"The only way we can provide closure to the family and friends is if people will step forward and speak with us about what may have happened in this case. Nothing has been ruled out at this point," added Qualters. 

Police are asking anyone with information about Smedley's disappearance and death to contact the department.

Family memories

Smedley's father shared memories of his son in the following statement, released Monday evening: 

Joseph has always been multi-talented. He attended pre-school and Kindergarten at The Orchard School in Indianapolis. He has always been a good and responsible student. When he got his first pair of glasses, we referred to him as "the little professor." 

Joseph attended The Oaks Academy where he excelled in math and reading. His hobby then was martial arts, probably because he enjoyed the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." At 9 years old he was presented with a Yellow Belt and Certificate from Gospel Martial Arts Union, Junior Kai Program where he received simultaneous training in mental, physical and spiritual discipline. He received training under Executive Director/Master Instructor Kyoshi Johnny R. Russell, Jr. who was a 7th Degree Black Belt. Joseph also played on the soccer team for the Old Northside Neighborhood in Indianapolis. He attended Craig Middle School where he became interested in band. Joseph chose to play the trombone.

About this time he also took an interest in cooking. He was soon asking for cookbooks and began cooking special recipes for the family. He so impressed a friend of his father's that the friend purchased a chef's jacket and hat. "Chef Joseph" was inscribed on the jacket. Joseph went to Lawrence Central High School where he continued in band. He soon specialized in the Jazz Band and participated in numerous concerts, including solos. The Jazz Band recorded at least one CD. In addition to band, Joseph became a wrestler. He began wrestling varsity during his sophomore year. He was also an excellent swimmer. Like most teens, Joseph liked game systems and technology. Soon, his technical knowledge exceeded that of his dad. Dad swallowed his ego and sought Joseph's advice when he encountered a "technical problem" with his phone or computer.

Joseph was simultaneously both a great "little brother" to his older sister and older brother, and great "big brother" to his younger sister who looks up to him and adores him. We will always love and miss him.

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