A teenage student at Indiana University vanished without a trace after sending cryptic text messages to his sister’s phone and then going missing. Only a few days later, his body was pulled from a nearby lake, but the discovery raised more concerns than it did answers. The first half of the episode of “Still a Mystery: Indiana Unsolved” on Investigation Discovery focuses on the mysterious circumstances surrounding Joseph Smedley’s passing and the events that transpired before to his passing. If this is something that interests you as well, don’t worry; we’ve got you covered.

Joseph Smedley

Joseph Smedley

How Did Joseph Smedley Die?

Joseph Smedley II had a happy, bright, and outgoing personality as a young boy when he was growing up in Indianapolis, Indiana. When he was a child, his parents went through a divorce, and ever since then, he has had no contact with any of them. On the other hand, Joseph maintained a close relationship with his sister Vivianne Bernas and communicated with her on an almost daily basis. By the year 2015, the individual who had just turned 20 was a sophomore at Indiana University. He planned to get a degree in biochemistry and lived off campus with some other students who were in the same fraternity.

On September 28, 2015, Vivianne made the decision to report Joseph as missing after she was unable to reach him by phone or through messaging. The previous evening was the last time she had a conversation with her brother. On September 27, 2015, about 11:30 p.m., the family received the news that Joseph had been seen by his roommates for the last time. The next day, October 2, 2015, a fisherman at Griffy Lake in Indiana discovered the body of Joseph floating in the water there. He had on all of his clothes and was wearing a pair of binoculars around his neck. The verdict reached by the coroner was that Joseph committed suicide by drowning himself and that this was the way of death. According to the complaint, Joseph was wearing a bag on his back that contained around 66 pounds’ worth of pebbles.

Was Joseph Smedley Killed?

According to the show, approximately one week prior to Joseph Smedley’s disappearance, Vivianne had received a call from his former landlord in regards to some debt that he owed, and he had till September 28, 2015 to clear it up. This all occurred about a week before Joseph Smedley went missing. Vivianne had a conversation with Joseph on the evening of September 27, and during that conversation, Joseph mentioned that he would deliver the check the next day. On the other hand, that never materialized. Vivianne received a concerning text message from Joseph’s phone at approximately four in the morning on September 28.

It stated, “Viv,” in the message. I love you. I have decided to leave the nation. I am preserving your safety and ensuring your protection by not explaining why. Don’t bother calling this number in an attempt to get in touch with me because it won’t go through. I won’t be able to get in touch with you till I’ve settled down overseas. I am so grateful to you, Viv, and I will always love you. And I’m sorry about that.” Because he didn’t even have a passport, Vivianne at first believed it was a joke about something else. However, she started to become concerned when she was unable to get in touch with the young student the following day.

The family afterwards found out that Joseph hadn’t shown up to school on September 28, and his roommates stated that they had seen him before turning in the night before. Smedley’s handwriting was found on a note that was placed on Joseph’s bed and it addressed him leaving the nation. Vivianne was convinced, though, that it was not her brother who was the author of the piece. She claimed that Joseph didn’t like it when people used his last name, despite the fact that their handwriting didn’t match.

Then, in a tragic turn of events, the body of Joseph was discovered in Griffy Lake, which brought an end to the search but raised even more concerns. The coroner determined that the death was a suicide almost two months after the body was recovered. However, the autopsy was carried out by a third-party forensic pathologist at the family’s request. The findings were shocking to say the least. According to the show, Joseph had bleeding on his back, and the doctor speculated that an accident or an unidentified cause of death may have caused Joseph’s death. Vivianne also indicated that the authorities had refused to share information with the pathologist, which made it more difficult for them to get the answers they were looking for. In addition, Joseph’s relatives believed that it was highly unlikely that he attempted to commit suicide by weighing himself down with rocks.

The information from Joseph’s smartphone indicated that he was traveling in a vehicle at the time. Vivianne claims that he did not own an automobile that was in functioning condition, which suggests that he may have been in the company of another person before his passing. Additionally, the data revealed that Joseph’s phone had only outgoing communications between the hours of 11 p.m. on September 27 and 4 a.m. on September 28. Vivianne continued by saying, “Now, for you guys who like to use your cell phone, that’s a long time to not say anything.” Vivianne was referring to the fact that some people like to talk on their mobile devices.

The law enforcement officials have insisted that Joseph took his own life, but Joseph’s family does not believe them. They have been advocating for the inquiry to be reopened, and a petition with over 100,000 signatures demanding for the probe to be reopened has been created. In July of the year 2020, Vivianne stated, “We still care for Joseph. We haven’t moved on, and we won’t stop looking for justice for him as long as we have the feeling that what happened to him didn’t get the attention it deserved.

Joseph Smedley’s Death

Joseph Smedley’s Death

When Joseph went gone

Vivianne, Joseph’s sister, was the one who made the report on the 28th of September, 2015, stating that she was unable to locate her brother. At 4:15 that morning, she got an odd text message from Joseph’s phone stating that he loved her and that he was about to leave the nation. The message also said that he was about to leave the country. Joseph’s phone was used to send the message to the recipient. In addition, the message instructed her to refrain from making any efforts to get in touch with him, as it stated that he would get in touch with her once he had established himself in his new nation. She originally believed that he was probably just joking about it; but, after he failed to respond to her attempts to get in touch with him, she became concerned and contacted the authorities.

When detectives interrogated Joseph’s roommates, who were also his fraternity brothers, the roommates indicated that they had seen Joseph the last time late on September 27, 2015, the night before. This information was provided during the interviews with the investigators. According to the story that they tell, they went to Griffy Lake with Joseph to try to observe a lunar eclipse that is also known as a “blood moon,” but because of cloud cover, they couldn’t see much of anything, so they went back to their fraternity home to try again the next night. This is the version of events that they tell. Everyone in the house reportedly went to their respective rooms well before midnight, and it was the last time any of the other residents saw Joseph, according to the other people who were living there.

It was revealed, during a search of Joseph’s room at the fraternity house, that the majority of his items were still there; however, his mobile phone had been taken. Moreover, there was a note that was handwritten and included a message that was remarkably comparable to the enigmatic text that Vivianne had received. It was indicated there was no need for Joseph’s roommates to make any attempts to get in touch with him as he was departing the country. The members of Joseph’s fraternity indicated that the name “Smedley,” which was the name that was signed on the message, was the name that they most usually referred to him as.

After reviewing the note, Vivianne shared her assessment that the handwriting did not appear to be Joseph’s. She stated that she did not believe it to be his. In spite of the fact that Joseph was a right-handed individual, she made the judgment that it appeared to have been written by a person writing with their left hand. It is also important to note that Joseph was not known to have a passport at the time, which would have made it challenging for him to travel worldwide at the time. This fact should be taken into consideration. In addition, according to Vivianne, it was out of character for Joseph to skip out on responsibilities such as his college studies and the rent payment he owed on a previous residence for which Vivianne had co-signed the lease. Vivianne said this because Joseph had co-signed the lease for that residence with Vivianne. Vivianne stated this due to the fact that Joseph had co-signed the lease on their last property.