Search for Joshua continues on lake at St. John’s

Searchers were out again over the weekend as the Wisconsin bloodhound, Hoover, was brought back to St. John’s to continue tracking the scent of Joshua Guimond, who has been missing since November 9.

On January 18, a crew accompanying Hoover and her owner, Penny Bell, spent a day following the bloodhound from a dock at the northern edge of Sagatagan Lake to an area in the middle of the lake. But that effort was suspended when members of St. John’s Life and Safety staff asked the group to leave, citing regulations about pets on campus and concerns that the search organized by Joshua’s father, Brian, was interfering with the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department investigation.

Brian Guimond and Rev. Steven King, pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Maple Lake, arranged a meeting in early February with St. John’s Abbot John Clausen and came to an agreement that the privately conducted searches could continue on the lake if St. John’s is notified in advance and to notify the Stearn’s County Sheriff’s Department if divers are going to be brought in or buildings would need to be searched.

On Saturday morning, the searchers, which included Todd Borell and Scot Carriveau of the Maple Lake Fire Department, began their efforts at Stumpf Lake, where a Sheriff’s Department dog had tracked Joshua. Although Hoover also tracked Joshua to that point, but picked up a trail that continued on from Stumpf Lake, Bell said she wanted to thoroughly search that area if for no other reason than to eliminate it as a possibility.

“What a bloodhound doesn’t do is just as important as what it does do,” Bell said. And what Hoover was doing was showing much greater interest in Sagatagan Lake.  The search party began their efforts on that lake at noon, returning to the spot where Hoover had tracked Joshua’s scent until the search was suspended on January 18.

A gas ice auger was used to open holes in that section of the lake and Hoover used the scent from the open water to establish a perimeter for the search area.     Borell said he was told by Bell about the kinds of things he should look for as Hoover proceeded from hole to hole.  “If the dog licks the ice or laps the water, that’s a sign that the scent is there,” he said. “And the dog is always watered on shore before we go out on the ice to prove the dog isn’t thirsty.”

At that point, a grid of holes three feet apart was created so that an underwater camera could be lowered for a look at the lake bottom. The camera, purchased with money from the Find Joshua Fund, will be donated to the Maple Lake Fire Department when it is no longer needed in the search for Joshua.

The view through the camera was amazingly clear, with camera operators able to spot anything from cans on the lake’s bottom to branches and a fishing pole floating in the water.  The camera did not find any clues relating to the search for Joshua, but his father said that setting up a perimeter for future efforts was a big accomplishment.

“I talked to Penny and the people with her and they didn’t seem to think it could not have gone any better,” Brian said.

Bell said that the presence of a Stearn’s County deputy was also helpful. “It was wonderful that he shared so much information with me,” she said. “It’s so important to open up these doors for communication.”

Plans are underway for the next step in the process, which will be to bring in divers to thoroughly search the areas marked by the bloodhound.

This was the third time Maple Lake’s firefighters have donated their time to assist in the search at St. John’s with Bell and her dog and Bell praised them for their efforts.  “These fire fighters are excellent,” Bell said. “They’ve been extremely helpful.”  And Bell’s assistant, Kim Szwedo, agreed. “I cannot say enough good things about them,” she said.