Joseph Smedley: Years Later

It’s been three and a half years since the death of IU student Joseph Smedley. Throughout these past years, there has been continued speculation about the suicide ruling associated with Smedley’s death. Several online blogs, friends, and family have spoken about possible discrepancies in the case. Vivianne Smedley, his older sister, is among those who feel justice has not been served.

Days prior to  Smedley’s disappearance on Sept. 28, 2015, Vivianne Smedley received a call from her brother’s apartment complex claiming he vacated his unit. Later, her brother told her he was moving in with his fraternity brothers once he paid off the rest of the money he owed the apartment.

Days later, she received suspicious text messages from her brother saying that he was leaving the country. Concerned, Vivianne Smedley called Indiana University Police to conduct a wellness check. But he was gone. Missing.

Later on, Smedley said the police called her claiming to have found her brother in jail, but  she says it turned out to be a different person with a similar name. Shortly after the mixup, police classified Smedley as a missing person.


Days later, Smedley’s body was found in Griffy Lake, near Bloomington,  with a backpack filled with rocks strapped to his body.

“He lives you know four or five miles away from Griffy Lake.” said Vivianne Smedley. “His car wasn’t working. How does he get from his house to Griffy Lake in the middle of the night, without (anybody) seeing him, and then grab a backpack, put rocks in his bag, and jump into the water? It just doesn’t make sense.”

During the investigation, Smedley said she received little information about the case, because she wasn’t considered Joseph’s legal guardian. However, she gained power of attorney through their mother to act on her mother’s behalf.

“They (police ) completely shut me out of the case, ” she said. “They said they were only going to work with him, [their father], because he was next of kin.”

In addition, she said there were many aspects of the case that were not thoroughly investigated, including additional information that she was able to provide to the police.

“All of that information is there, and I’ve given it to the police department.” she said.

After police closed the case, Vivianne Smedley hired a forensic pathologist. However, she said the police would not provide case information in order for the pathologist to finish drawing his own conclusions. Since then, she has hired private investigators, and a lawyer who took the case pro bono. However, many have dropped the case.

A series of tweets on Smedley’s Twitter page, has caused others to develop their own theories about what may have taken place that night.

Currently, there has been no new information nor any  leads about the case, which police have marked as inactive.

Police detectives declined to be interviewed for this story.

“Mr. Smedley’s cause of death was determined to be drowning by the Monroe County Coroner’s Office and the manner of death was determined to be suicide.” said Public Information Officer for Bloomington Police, Ryan Pedigo. There is no further investigation being completed in that case.”



Vivianne Smedley continues to tell her brother’s story, and she has created a Facebook page called #JusticeforJoseph.

“I really hope that somebody realizes that this is a whole life,” Smedley said. “You know people go through college and they just meet a lot of people and they think this is just a person, but it’s not. He had a whole life and a family. And a  huge amount of friends and impacted so many people in the community more than anybody realized.