Vivianne Brown, sister of Joseph Smedley, said she does not believe the death of her brother was a suicide by drowning as was recently confirmed by Monroe County Coroner Nicole Meyer .
Vivianne and husband Deonte shared several thoughts on Smedley’s case Tuesday night during “The Critical Conversation: Joseph Smedley and the Aftermath,” a student-organized discussion allowing students to share thoughts on the racial climate at IU and on Smedley’s death.
“Now that they have ruled it a suicide, I believe that it’s time for you to know some facts so that you’re able to put together your own conclusions,” Vivianne said.
Meyer said she has no comment by request of the family. Meyer said Smedley's father and step-mother are legal next of kin and Meyer has not spoken with Brown.
Vivianne said she obtained the coroner's report from Smedley's father. She said he received it directly from the coroner as he is listed as next of kin.
Vivianne said after reading the coroner’s report, which was not released to the public, she learned Smedley was found in Lake Griffy with his shoes, socks and backpack still on.
Vivianne has been posting on Facebook about the case. On Friday she posted that Smedley was found with "nothing in his backpack except school papers, a charger and an external hard drive."
Vivianne said she later learned through reading the coroner's report that a backpack was found strapped to his chest with somewhere between 62 to 66 pounds of rocks.
Vivianne also said while Smedley’s cell phone was never found, she believes he received only out-going communication between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. the day he had been reported missing. The 4 a.m. text, regarding leaving the country, was his last.
“Now, for you guys that like to use your cell phone, that’s a long time to not say anything,” Brown said.
IU Police Department Lt. Craig Munroe said Smedley's cell phone was "very active" between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.
Munroe said IUPD investigated the Smedley case when it was determined a missing persons case. He said after Smedley's body was found at Griffy Lake, the Bloomington Police Department took over the case.
Vivanne said though Smedley’s phone was never located, his wallet was found in his pocket.
Vivianne also spoke about a note said to be left by Smedley after his disappearance. She claimed the note was not in his handwriting. Munroe confirmed that a note was found.
Vivianne said she found it odd that her brother, who was making plans with friends the evening of his disappearance, would have committed suicide.
Smedley lived on Mitchell Street and his car was “inoperable,” Vivianne said. She said the text she received at 4 a.m. was sent from Seventh and Walnut and the phone’s next location was found to be at Griffy Lake 30 minutes later.
“That’s extremely important,” Vivianne said. “If he passed away any time before 4 a.m., then that would say someone else sent me the text message.”
Munroe said the last location the phone could be traced at was on North Walnut Street near Highway 37.
Vivianne said she believes Smedley was hanging out with multiple friends on the night of his disappearance. Munroe said Smedley was last seen by his roommates, both brothers of Sigma Pi fraternity.
Brown told the students at the event what she was sharing was “100 percent factual” and it was “time to know the facts.”
“I really think it’s important that people start learning the facts and they take those facts and do what they want with them based off of what you know,” Brown said. “All I want to say is that 'keep your eyes and your ears open' and sometimes what people tell you may not be what reality is.”
Vivianne's husband Deonte said at the talk Tuesday evening that when the family initially suspected Smedley was missing, he was told Smedley had been taken into police custody.
Munroe said early in the investigation an IUPD lieutenant called the Monroe County Jail and was told a man by the same last name was detained, which caused miscommunication.
Deonte expressed concern at the talk that the University never contacted the family after their initial communication that it was believed Smedley was in jail.
University spokesperson Mark Land said that sometimes families look to the University for information that “isn’t ours to share.”
“Our police would never do anything intentionally to make the matters worse for the family,” Land said. “There certainly was no intent to hide information or mislead in anyway.”
Capt. Joe Qualters of BPD said in an email, "BPD has shared the findings of the investigation with Mr. Smedley's immediate family and made the commitment to keep working with them in an effort to answer additional questions they might have regarding the circumstances surrounding his death."
He said in a separate email that BPD will not be providing additional comment at this time.
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