Divers search lake at St. John’s

Divers searching for missing college student Joshua Guimond cut through the ice and explored the murky bottom of a lake at St. John’s last week, but it wasn’t the lake Guimond’s family expected to be the focus of attention.

On Wednesday, January 8, crews from the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department sent divers down into East Gemini, a lake across the road from Stumpf Lake, where previous searches had been concentrated.

Nothing was found in the three-hour search, but plenty of video footage recorded the production. Every Twin Cities television station was represented and film crews lined the edge of an embankment high over the two diving sites.

The lake the Guimond family expected divers to search was Sagatagan Lake, which is located behind the St. John’s abbey complex. During a search the previous weekend conducted by dog handler Penny Bell, her bloodhound, Hoover, showed interest in an area of that lake just beyond the beach.

“If they can dive in that other lake, why can’t they dive here where Hoover at least had an interest?” asked Joshua’s father, Brian.

But according to a news release distributed by the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department, the credibility of the dog is still in question. The news release said that no evidence was found indicating that any member of St. John’s academic or Monastic communities was involved in the disappearance of Joshua or Chris Jenkins and that the search was carried out with the full assistance and cooperation of St. John’s University.

“Based on opinions of bloodhound experts and handlers throughout the nation, information provided by a private bloodhound handler working with the families is questionable and the credibility of the information is suspect,” said the news release. “Stearns County Sheriff’s Department will continue the search for Joshua Guimond and pursue any valid leads concerning his whereabouts.”

A second news release described the lake diving on January 8.  “Members of the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department Dive Team, along with officers from St. John’s University Life Safety Services, continued the search for Joshua Guimond on Wednesday, January 8, 2003.  “Dive team members from the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department dove a section of East Gemini Lake. This area has not been searched earlier due to ice conditions. This area was out of range of the son ar that was used on this same lake several weeks ago. Officers also used underwater cameras to search an area on Sagatagan Lake, just south of the University, where a private bloodhound handler assisting the family had indicated a scent through the ice. This search was also conducted by officers from Stearns County Sheriff’s Department Dive Team.

“The search failed to recover any evidence or the body of Joshua Guimond. The investigation remains open.”

Brian Guimond said that at this point, there are no further plans for bringing diving crews out again or to bring Hoover back to the St. John’s campus.

But the week did end on a considerable high note with the success of a benefit for the Find Joshua Fund on Sunday at Madigan’s Pub and Grill.

“It was just unbelievable,” Brian said, expressing surprise at the number of people who packed Madigan’s to enjoy a spaghetti supper with all proceeds going to the fund.

The Madigan’s benefit raised over $5,000 for the Find Joshua Fund, with over 350 dinners served. In fact, demand was so high that the kitchen ran out of spagetti at about 7:30 p.m.

Coming up on Sunday will be the “Find Josh Benefit” at the Maple Lake VFW. Events will begin with a silent auction from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and a porkchop dinner from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Entertainment will include live bands and Karaoke performers.