Overview of Joshua Guimond
Joshua Cheney Guimond was preparing for success and anticipating a promising future.
Raised in the small town of Maple Lake, MN, Josh had made a big impression as a standout student by the time he was in high school. Well-spoken and poised, he had already won a successful petition to amend the teen curfew rule in his town by the age of 16, and his detailed research coupled with his persuasive arguments foreshadowed his choice of a profession in law and eventually politics. In November of 2002, the 20 year old junior and rising star on campus vanished without a trace from St. John's University in Collegeville, MN, a private Catholic men’s college where he attended classes as a political science major. Confident and popular, yet keenly focused, Josh was clearly going places. His extracurricular activities included serving as treasurer of the pre-law society, and co-captain of the university’s mock trial team, which provided the opportunity to sharpen and demonstrate his debating skills. Well-liked among his peers, he was an honors student who enjoyed tutoring other students. He planned on becoming an attorney and eventually following in the footsteps of his grandmother, who had served two terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives. In fact, he even used “Senator Joshua” in his email name. He was also outspoken and passionate in defending his positions and beliefs, and he backed those beliefs up with painstaking research into subjects that might be considered by some to be controversial.
Josh is described as conscientious, responsible, logical, and very organized. It is unfathomable that anyone who was as meticulous a planner as Josh would have left a campus party and walked out into the freezing Minnesota night wearing only a sweatshirt - without his glasses or contacts - to venture anywhere but directly back to his on-campus apartment, just a short distance away. His credit cards were left behind and his car was undisturbed when he vanished.
On November 9, 2002 - as college kids everywhere do - Josh and some friends spent Saturday night hanging out.
They listened to music, goofed around on the internet, drank a little beer, smoked a cigar or two, and somewhere between 11:00-11:15 pm walked approximately 3 minutes over to a friend’s dorm to attend a card party, where they played Texas Hold’Em. It was a small gathering by any campus’ standards, and Josh knew most, if not all, of the other attendees. As it neared midnight that Saturday evening Josh got up and left the party, without telling anyone where he was going. A few surmised he was just going to use the restroom, but no one actually recalled seeing him leave. An eyewitness later claimed to have seen Josh walking the path from Metten Court to his own apartment in Maur House, passing behind some dormitory buildings that no longer exist on campus today. He was also allegedly observed crossing an intersection to the left of Stumpf Lake onto the main campus and then continuing, crossing a culvert towards a bus stop on the exit route to I-94. These are the last reported sightings of Josh to this day.
When Josh failed to show up the next day for mock trial practice, it was considered highly unusual by those who knew him. Teammates, roommates, and friends began comparing notes, eventually realizing that no one had seen Josh since the prior evening. They grew so concerned by this uncharacteristic behavior that they alerted SJU Life Safety Officers, reporting that they believed their friend to be missing. Officers conducted a cursory search, but they were not overly concerned for the student’s safety and believed he had likely just taken off with friends. They were confident he’d be back in class on Monday morning. They notified Josh’s parents that he could not be located, and when Josh did not appear in class the following day, the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department was called in. Wide-scale searches began on foot, horseback, and by helicopter, covering the enormous campus as well as the massive wooded areas behind the “pine curtain”, which was how students and faculty referred to the woods surrounding the campus. In the days and weeks that followed, the National Guard arrived and combed the prairies and woods near the campus. Volunteers - many from Josh’s hometown - and search dogs joined in the effort. Multiple swampy areas and lakes, specifically Stumpf Lake, near where Josh was last observed, were searched by dive teams, yet nothing yielded any trace of the missing student, though a search dog named Hoover repeatedly hit on Josh’s scent. In addition to alerting near both Stumpf and East Gemini Lakes, the bloodhound had also alerted to an area near the back of St. John’s Abbey, which was where the monastic community of the University resided. However, searchers - including Hoover - were eventually thwarted in their efforts when they were denied entrance to the abbey by University authorities, supported by the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department. Volunteer searches led by Josh’s father Brian Guimond continued until mid-January 2003, when it was announced Hoover could no longer participate in these searches. Further, they must gain the approval of both Abbot John Clausen of St. John's and the Stearns County Sheriff's Department prior to conducting any search efforts.
It surfaced that at around the same timeframe that Josh had vanished, three other young people - two who were also college students at Midwest universities - had also gone missing under similar circumstances after leaving a bar or party.
The father of Chris Jenkins, one of the missing students, had teamed up with Brian Guimond in an attempt to recover their missing children. In fact, he is the person who hired Hoover, and the search dog had hit on both Josh’s and Chris’ scent in the area of the abbey. The fathers were staunch, outspoken advocates for their sons, and while they weren’t completely sure the disappearances were connected, they were convinced that foul play was involved in both incidents. The Stearns County Sheriff’s Department had been pushing the theory that Josh had been intoxicated that evening and fallen in the lake, yet searches by dive teams had revealed no clues that this had occurred. Nor did anyone at the card party recall Josh being impaired at any time. Moreover, the path Josh took was bordered on one side by a road, and on the other side by woods, and it would have been easy for someone to have abducted him either in a car or by dragging him into the remote wooded area. It later emerged that only the day before, an incident exactly like that had occurred, when a student was tricked into entering a vehicle and became a victim of an attempted sexual assault. Another similar event occurred in the same timeframe not on campus, but in the town surrounding the University. In late February and early March, the bodies of two of the other students - including Jenkins - were discovered floating in Midwest area waterways, ruling out any connection to Josh’s disappearance. The third missing young person was also discovered to be the victim of a homicide. Throughout the spring of 2003, numerous independent, volunteer searches were conducted, revealing no trace of what might have happened to Josh after he left the card party. Non-profit groups such as the Trident Foundation participated in these searches, with no results. In early June of 2003, the Guimond family received a letter from St. John's University officials stating that the Stearns County Sheriff's Department had recently confirmed that the campus had been satisfactorily examined and that no further searches were planned.
Whispers about rumors and theories abounded.
A search of Josh’s computer had revealed that over 300 files had been erased on the day he vanished, and based on what authorities were able to recover, these files were thought to include information regarding the creation of fake identification cards. Was Josh abducted and perhaps killed due to his involvement in a fake ID ring? A more probable theory surfaced that the monks of St. John’s Abbey were involved in Josh’s disappearance in some way. There were multiple opinions floated regarding the theory, the primary one being that Josh was researching and writing a paper on sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, and among the SJU monastic community in particular. It later came to light that 18 members of the community had been credibly accused of sexual abuse. Josh - an aspiring lawyer and politician who was an outspoken and extraordinary defender of his ideals - could have been relied upon to do considerable damage with the release of this research. It is quite conceivable that SJU officials would not want any of this information to be available to the public - especially future potential students and their families. Was Josh’s disappearance somehow related to his research? A second theory linked to the residents of the abbey was that the monks were known to abuse alcohol, and seemed to have few qualms about driving drunk. Could one of the monks have accidentally hit Josh on his way home from Metten Court that night, and then hid his body to cover up the crime and avoid prosecution? However, police did investigate this theory, and found nothing to indicate that a hit-and-run accident had occurred that night. The idea that Josh simply left of his own will and walked out of his life was dismissed fairly readily; few people decide to start a new life with no money or means of transportation, especially when not adequately dressed against the elements or wearing their glasses. The attendees of the card party were ruled out early on; Josh was among friends that night and after interviewing the majority of them, police had no reason to believe anyone present had intended him harm. Suicide, which is always a theory in such disappearances, was extremely unlikely. Josh had a blindingly bright future and gave absolutely no indication of depression or anxiety, and there was nothing to indicate suicidal ideation. The Stearns County Sheriff’s primary theory - that Josh was inebriated, stumbled into the lake and drowned - was emphatically denied by Josh’s friends and fellow card party attendees. It was also largely disregarded by the Guimond family, who were positive their son had been abducted and was the victim of foul play.
Where the case stands today.
Since Josh’s disappearance, the Guimond family refused to back down and accept the theory of accidental drowning. Led by a grieving but determined father, they protested peacefully outside the Stearns County Courthouse in an attempt to bring attention to Josh’s case and generate further activity. About a year and a half after Josh went missing, St. John's University won a temporary Harassment Restraining order against Brian Guimond to ban him from further searching for his son on the SJU Campus or St. John's Abbey, which was put in place for a period of two years. Despite multiple setbacks, Brian refused to give up his search for justice for his son. In 2021, citing multiple issues with the quality and thoroughness of the initial investigation and subsequent searches for his son, Brian filed a lawsuit against the Stearns County Sheriff's Department seeking the release of investigative documents. He included the lack of transparency regarding the 18 monks who had since been credibly accused of sexual abuse in the complaint. Another blow came in May of this year when a judge formally denied his request after the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department successfully argued that to do so would jeopardize the investigation, even though there have been no new developments in the case for over 20 years.
New hope may emerge, thanks to the efforts of podcasters and content creators. In 2022, Simply Vanished - an investigative podcast about unsolved missing person cases - covered Josh’s case. Civil right lawyer and host Josh Newville is determined to solve the mystery of Josh’s disappearance, and has already uncovered some new evidence. And on October 25, the new season of Unsolved Mysteries on Netflix will stream an episode called "What Happened to Josh?", which addresses the mysterious and baffling disappearance of Josh Guimond. It is hoped that this increased attention could potentially lead to a break in the case, and finally bring some measure of justice and resolution to Josh’s grieving family.