20 Years (S1, E8)
Season 1, Episode 8
Date of Release: November 14, 2022
Sponsored by: BetterHelp. Get 10% off your first month at betterhelp.com/simplyvanished
Welcome to Simply Vanished, an investigative podcast about missing persons. The show is produced by Trembling Leaf Media in Minneapolis and hosted by civil rights lawyer Josh Newville. Alternating between serial and episodic format, Simply Vanished digs deep to tell the stories of unsolved disappearances. In this first season of the show, Josh dives into a story that hits especially close to home for him—that of Joshua Guimond, a college student at Saint John’s University in Minnesota who disappeared in the middle of the night on Saturday, November 9, 2002.
In this this episode, we contemplate the 20th anniversary of Josh's disappearance.
Please rate the show and subscribe on Apple podcasts, and download the Simply Vanished app! You can find more information and resources on our website.
If you have any information about Joshua Guimond, please contact us or the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department. You can submit tips anonymously on our website or via our tip line at 415-969-LOST (5678).
Josh Newville: This is the Simply Vanished podcast produced by Trembling Leaf Media in Minneapolis. I'm your host, Josh Newville. This podcast is sponsored by BetterHelp Therapy Online. A therapist can help you become a better problem solver. Get unstuck with BetterHelp. For 10% off your first month, go to betterhelp.com/simplyvanished. Start living a better life today.
Pastor Culynn Curtis: We need no reminder why we gathered here tonight. The pain and agony of those first days after Joshua's disappearance have persisted now for all of us for 20 years. The significance and gravity of our sadness is unknown, and no one, not even God can judge us for our grief.
Josh Newville: Some of the words of Pastor Culynn Curtis of the Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Maple Lake, Minnesota speaking last Thursday, November 10th, 2022, at the annual service of remembrance for Josh Guimond.
Pastor Curtis: And we cannot help but wonder what shape Josh's life would've taken. After college graduation, he would've gone off to law school. Would his motivation and aspirations allowed him to have a family or would he have thrown himself into politics? Maybe our politics would be different had Josh been able to run for president at 35. But tonight, we gather with the story unwritten and too many unknowns to truly [inaudible 00:02:09].
Josh Newville: Approximately 80 friends and family packed the pews for a service titled, as it has been for nearly 20 years, Keep Hope Alive.
Pastor Curtis: So that our hope is alive and does not disappoint us. This then is why we rely on our faith. Josh knew the gift of faith and the love of God. He learned it here in this place.
Josh Newville: They prayed together.
Pastor Curtis: Support Brian, Lisa, all of Josh's family and friends and all who remember Josh before you today. Hold us in your loving arms and grant us the comfort of knowing that nothing can separate us or Josh from your love. Lord, in your mercy.
Audience: Hear our prayer.
Josh Newville: They sang hymns together. (singing) They shared some fond memories and laughter.
Lisa Cheney: And I think Grandma helped him out there and gave him a car to use and he took his driver's license test in the tiny town of Redwood Falls, where he passed with flying colors. Then him and his buddy brought the truck home... drove home and blew it up on the way.
Josh Newville: As the service progressed, Justin Tholl and I stood in the back left of the room, monitoring both our equipment and the audience. Among those in attendance included Detective Andrew Struffert from the Stearns County Sheriff's Department, who you'll hear from in just a bit, Josh's mock trial coach, Olga, who you'll also hear from, a handful of Josh's high school friends, and in the front right sat Katie, Josh's ex-girlfriend from both college and high school. She appeared to be the only college friend of Josh's in attendance. After a service that lasted approximately one hour, everyone headed out into the parking lot where they then together released glow in the dark biodegradable balloons.
Lisa: Okay, let's do it on a count of three. One, two, three.
Ricky: There's coffee and cookies inside, folks.
Josh Newville: While family and friends socialized, I asked Investigator Struffert what's standing in the way at this point of Josh's case being solved.
Detective Andrew Struffert: I think what has stood in the way, historically, we had a lot of media coverage at the front end. We had a lot of investigative work done and there has been continued investigative work done in this case since the very beginning, but truly, I think it's going to take the public's help. If there's somebody out there that knows something that could be useful to the case, even if it's something so minor and insignificant. What a lot of people don't realize is those little things will add up to much more, and they're not quite sure of the gravity of what they might know until they let someone like our office know and we're able to put together the pieces and then we can put together the whole story. My biggest hope from the podcast in doing unsolved mysteries and having them air the story is just hopefully, we can get some more community support and people who are aware of really anything that could be useful to the case will contact us and give us that information and hopefully, that will help us continue on with what we need to do.
Josh Newville: Having recently learned that investigators hadn't even interviewed all of Josh's roommates until 2010, eight years after his disappearance, I asked Investigator Struffert whether they intend on interviewing or re-interviewing people at this point, especially in light of all of the new information.
Investigator Struffert: Yeah. From the very beginning, there has been a lot of interviews done in this case and there's a lot of people close to this case and close to the family and friends. We are definitely taking a look at that and reapproaching some of those people to see if there's anything else that they have thought of over the years or anything else they've forgotten. That's just a pretty standard technique for cold case investigations or investigations that have gone on for quite some time.
The investigator also pulled aside Josh's mom and dad and showed them an age-progressed photo that the department plans on releasing soon. Prior to the service, I sat down with Josh's dad, Brian, and reflected on 20 years.
Brian Guimond: Oh, you just wonder what he'd been doing at this point in time in his life. I know he would've been a lawyer. That was a no-brainer. It would've been interesting to see how his political career would be moving. Maybe he'd be married with kids also. Who knows?
Josh Newville: Brian also has hope that Josh is still alive and that there's something that people can do about it.
Brian: Well, there's absolutely no evidence he's dead. There's no evidence of a murder. There's been nobody; therefore, he's alive until proven different. Anybody out in Washington state, Idaho, Montana, those are areas of interest as of late. These areas of interest change, but right now, that's where people could keep an eye open. Yeah, 20 years though. Who'd ever thought the nightmare continues and so does the cover up?
Josh Newville: What do you think needs to happen at this point to have the case get solved?
Brian: We need to get somebody else in here looking at the case, not Stearns County who's controlled by Saint John's.
Josh Newville: I asked Brian to explain what he meant by Stearns County being controlled by Saint John's and he explained that in his view, Saint John's, its power, its influence, its money in the local community is so strong that it basically pulls the levers at the Stearns County Sheriff's Department.
Brian: Well, they had two choices to make. They could have helped with the investigation or they could have hindered it. Well, I guess they chose to hinder by everything that's been done. They made their priorities real clear. Our day one, he's in the lake, end of story. Well, that told you you were getting no help from them. To me, that says somebody there's involved. Let's face it, they just got done covering up all the pedophiles. If someone was involved with this from their campus, how stupid are you to believe that they ain't going to cover it up? Let's see. Sanders's kids went there and you can go down the list. The county attorney's husband works there. Let's see. But there's no conflict of interest with anything and nothing has changed in 20 years.
Josh Newville: As I talked further with Brian, it became clear that his frustration, anger, dismay, that distrust and all that emotion that you can hear in his voice when he talks about Saint John's University and the people who work there, it's based on a couple of different things generally. The first is conduct that he sees them engaging in over the years to obstruct the investigation into his son's disappearance. For example, he talks about Trident Foundation. You remember that elite dive team that came in from Colorado that searched all of the bodies of water on campus and ultimately cleared them, telling investigators to consider taking their investigation in a different direction. Brian says he wanted that to happen sooner, but Saint John's stood in the way because they didn't want the dive team on campus prior to graduation.
Brian: We found out that it was the school after going to the two county commissioner meetings. It's like, why don't you want the best people in the country to come here and find the body or not find the body? Well, we found out it was Saint John's didn't want them there until school was out. So who's running the investigation? At that point, Stearns County isn't.
Josh Newville: He has other examples, but the second thing that he complains about is the stuff that Saint John's didn't do, that they haven't done in nearly two decades to ensure that Josh's case remains not only in the public spotlight, but in the minds of those who attend Saint John's University and those who work there.
Brian: They've done nothing as far as I'm concerned to help find Josh. They've hindered. They could have helped with all their money and power. There could have been all kinds of resources being used, but no.
Josh Newville: And here, Brian is not alone. Although Stearns County will sing Saint John's praises and talk about how incredibly cooperative they've been over the years in their investigation, people who went to school with Josh, people who go to school at Saint John's today, faculty members and staff members who've worked there in the intervening 20 years have all complained about Saint John's silence when it comes to Josh Guimond. In May of this year prior to the podcast launching, I spent a couple of nights at bars in St. Joseph, Minnesota, the town that houses both Saint John's and Saint Ben's. I asked over 50 students, current and former, if they knew about Josh Guimond. Of them, five knew who Josh was.
Bar Patron: I grew up in Cold Spring. My parents were a Bennie and a Johnnie. They graduated in '91, so they did the whole mailing letters for Jacob Wetterling. Then they graduated and the Josh thing happened.
Josh Newville: Do you remember Josh?
Bar Patron: Honestly, I didn't know about it, which is super weird. I didn't know about it until I was in college, which is absurd to grow up in this... I was born in St. Cloud. I grew up in Cold Spring my entire life.
Josh Newville: Sadly, she only learned about Josh's case because Michael Hemmesch, who is responsible for PR at Saint John's University, bragged about handling the disappearance in a PR class.
Bar Patron: He told us facts about it and how he handled it from a PR's perspective and some hurdles he had to take and some roadblocks and stuff, but it wasn't anything... It was just how he dealt with it. It wasn't anything groundbreaking to the case or anything like that.
Josh Newville: What did he say about how he handled it?
Bar Patron: He said it was a lot of crisis intervention and Josh's dad had a lot going on at the time and was visiting campus and that was-
Josh Newville: Aside from complaining about Brian over the years, Saint John's has had very little to say publicly about Josh or his case. I was unable to get the Abbot, John Klassen, who was installed as abbot in December of 2000 to speak about this case, nor Michael Connolly, the current dean of students, nor Jason Laker, the dean of students at the time of Josh's disappearance, nor Michael Hemmesch, the director of communications at the time of Josh's disappearance and who apparently is still director of communications to this day, nor Shawn Vierzba, who was and is the director of Saint John's Life Safety.
Voicemail: First new message received today at 8:31 AM.
Shawn Vierzba: Hi, Josh. This is Shawn Vierzba. I'm returning your phone call in regards to a podcast that you're doing. I just want to let you know that I have to decline. This is a active investigation, and so I'm going to refer you back to Lieutenant Weiss or the Stearns County Sheriff's Office. Sorry about that. I hope you're having a good day. Thank you. Bye.
Lisa: That's what they've been saying for 20 years-
Josh Newville: Josh's mom, Lisa.
Lisa: ... because that's the same sentence they say and that stops all these people from having to answer any questions whatsoever. It's a sad deal because who knows? Who knows? They had some weird-ass monks cruising around in a bicycle and stuff the days that we were all on campus and overly interested.
Josh Newville: Like Brian, Lisa has concerns about a number of the monks at Saint John's University and their potential involvement in Josh's disappearance. Although detectives repeatedly say that they are unable to rule out any potential suspect in Josh's disappearance, they sing a different tune when it comes to Saint John's University. Just last week, Sheriff Soyka gave an interview to a KARE 11 news reporter in which he said that there is no credible evidence that could connect Josh's disappearance to the Saint John's monk abuse scandal.
Brian: What do you think he's going to say?
Josh Newville: It's interesting. He also said that he couldn't rule anyone out. Do you think that he's already ruled out St. John's?
Brian: I think he's been told, "You're ruling us out." That's how that went. He didn't think. He's told what to do. That's clearly obvious at this point in the game after 20 years that they've done nothing but put roadblocks up. Then this PR stunt to put this photos out there right before the Unsolved Mystery joke aired. It's like, really?
Josh Newville: Brian is referring to the Unsolved Mysteries episode about Josh's case that was released on Netflix just a few weeks ago. Although the episode had long been anticipated, there were a couple of things that he did not expect. First, he was taken aback at the fact that detectives gave new information to the television show that they had never before told the family, specifically about the Pontiac Sunfire. Second, he's angry because he felt that Lieutenant Vic Weiss made it seem like the information about Josh chatting in online chat rooms and specifically the photos of many of the men that Josh was chatting with, and the fact that Josh was presenting as though he was a woman in some of these chat rooms that Lieutenant Weiss made it seem like that was new information that they found in 2008. In actuality, detectives were aware of that information and had many of those photos as late as spring of 2003.
As it turns out, Brian is right. In the spring of 2003, April 13th, 2003 to be exact, a reporter named David Unze wrote an article in the St. Cloud Times titled, For Guimond's dad, search is grim, lonely. In the page and a half article, Unze touches on a number of topics related to Josh's disappearance, including the fact that on Josh's computer were pictures of people that he chatted with, the fact that he did chat in online chat rooms, and that at times, he presented as though he was a woman. This was not new information, not in 2020, not in 2008. So for Brian, the fact that it was presented in the episode by Lieutenant Weiss as though it was new information, he felt that the entire thing was a deflection, a setup, a distraction from the other potential explanations in Josh's disappearance, namely the monk abuse scandal.
As I told you, I also ran into Josh's mock trial coach, Olga, at the service. She was one of the last people to see Josh in the weeks prior to his disappearance having spent the weekend with him at Macalester for a mock trial tournament the weekend before his disappearance. I sat down with her for an extensive interview, parts of which I will share with you after this word from our sponsor, BetterHelp.
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Josh Newville: Olga Zenteno started coaching the mock trial team at Saint John's University in the year 2000.
Olga Zenteno: Josh was on the team, but in his first year there, he wasn't co-captain yet. I remember he was a witness, but he was much more quiet than, let's say Nick, who was the force in getting the whole mock trial team going at Saint John's, Saint Ben's. Anyway, but then in that year, '02, when Josh went missing, he was co-captain and we had a very good tournament at Macalester in that weekend before he disappeared.
Josh Newville: Olga speaks in glowing language when she talks about Josh and Nick and the other mock trial team members that she worked with in her time at Saint John's.
Olga Zenteno: They were motivated to be successful on the team and also, you could tell that they had drive, all of them. And they were inspired. I remember, I think they had A Few Good Men memorized, the courtroom scenes. They had a vocation to be attorneys, and so yeah, those are good memories. When you're with people like that, it inspires you to see that kind of enthusiasm because in real world, things are a little bit different.
Josh Newville: Tell me about the relationship between Josh and Nick and between Josh and Katie and between Nick and Katie as you observed it. You saw them at mock trial tournaments, which could be emotional experiences. Everyone who's done mock trial describes it as a very intense effort. It's a demanding task, both mentally in terms of the work that you need to do in terms of understanding the legal aspects of the case, but also the roles that you're portraying and sometimes acting as a witness, sometimes switching sides and going from one side of the lawyer work to the other. So that brings out personalities. Then you win together or you lose together and all of that brings out personalities even more. And you travel together and that brings out personalities. So I'm curious, as someone who got to go along this journey with them, what did you experience or what did you observe in terms of those relationships?
Olga Zenteno: I really felt that, because I worked full time and I only saw them in their evening practices and then through the tournaments, again, Nick and Josh, they're powerhouse, very dedicated attorneys and really strategic. They did all of the coaching of the witnesses. I remember their list of questions. They were just always prepared. They had thought things through. Then when things came up in tournament, that was fun. We would discuss it and then they were just finding ways to react and what to do. Because a lot of times, because you get a case, a lot of the teams will have the same strategy or take on a witness, shall we say, and so then it really matters as how prepared you are. That was where-
Josh Newville: So Josh and Nick were always prepared?
Olga Zenteno: Oh, absolutely. Because I would take notes watching them and maybe during the eight hours on Saturday, if I doodled or I don't know, wrote a grocery list on the side, just something on the side of the paper, Nick would circle that. They were serious about this and so it was easy to match that. Again, I thought they were so mature. I can't remember if it was that tournament that they told me, but it was just they all picked me up and I got in the car and then they were like, "Oh, Olga, Josh and Katie broke up, and they're in the same vehicle." And they're like, "But it's okay. They're friends now," and it just seemed like a mature way to go. It's better than 99.9% of the case of people breaking up that I've seen in court, shall we say. It was incredibly mature and there seemed to be attention that had been lifted.
Josh Newville: Tell me about that. Attention lifted, what do you mean there?
Olga Zenteno: I don't know. During the previous year, if Josh and Katie were dating and Katie was a witness, she was always really good also to... It's almost like a job being professional, being in a role, being with the witnesses. She never really impinged on his, let's say, strategy sessions with Nick. It was just we were all more than happy to let them do that because that was what they wanted to do. Witnesses, there's a sort of acting component a little bit and so they worked that out with the other witnesses. I'm remembering a story that somebody who was a witness, I believe told me in those days when we were at Saint John's and Josh was missing, he said when he had first started mock trial, this was one of the younger students, he was nervous, just nervous about the whole thing. Josh told him that when Josh was a witness in his first year, he got on the stand and just completely blanked out on his lines, didn't remember anything of what he was supposed to say. I had forgotten about that, but then I did remember that and eventually, you stumble back.
By telling this student that story, it was so helpful and a sign of leadership. That's what leaders do, is they try to make you better even if they have to share a story like that. They lead by example. He really connected with students that way. I would say with Nick, that pressure and drive that he put on himself. I can't imagine something like that happening to Nick in the first place because he probably have backup upon backup of backup of preparation.
Josh Newville: But there's a tension at some point that developed. It sounds like even though-
Olga Zenteno: Oh, between Katie and Josh?
Josh Newville: Yeah.
Olga Zenteno: Yeah, because we all stayed in a hotel. I remember one tournament in Iowa maybe. They had had an argument. I do remember that. All of us ended up going to dinner and Josh and a few of the other guys went somewhere else. That's what I meant to say. It wasn't anything-
Josh Newville: Katie and Josh had an argument?
Olga Zenteno: Yes.
Josh Newville: Got you.
Olga Zenteno: Yeah. Even as careful as they were to be professional about mock trial, you could tell something was boiling up, but that was months before the November tournament at Macalester.
Josh Newville: Do you think it was in the same school year though?
Olga Zenteno: Yeah, it must have been. Yeah.
Josh Newville: Okay. It's interesting. One of the things that Nick told me is that he observed that when Josh and Katie broke up, that for him, it almost seems like there had been a weight lifted off of Josh's shoulders.
Olga Zenteno: Yeah, and by extension, let's say all of us because it's like kids. You're like kids and if your parents are fighting, you know when...
Josh Newville: Have you seen the Unsolved Mysteries episode that-
Olga Zenteno: I have.
Josh Newville: Okay. One of the things that I found interesting on the show is that the show zeroed in on Katie saying that Nick left Josh's place around 1:30 or so.
Olga Zenteno: Or left her place, you mean?
Josh Newville: I'm sorry. Thank you. Right. One of the things that the show said is that Nick left or that Katie thought that Nick left her place around 1:30, but as you know and as we've talked about on the podcast, Nick didn't badge into his dorm room that night until about 2:42 AM.
Olga Zenteno: Yeah.
Josh Newville: It's a seven-minute drive away, so there's no reason that... There's only accounted for time in theory. Now, the thing I should point out is we don't know whether her estimate is accurate or not. If someone leaves your home late at night... And so there's been a lot of attention paid to Nick and Katie and in particular, Nick after the Unsolved Mysteries episode. In fact, one of the things I wanted to ask you about is if you know anything about why Nick declined to take a polygraph because I think that's one thing that people have jumped, grabbed to and said, "Hey, this seems to suggest that Nick was lying." I don't know that that's true. I'm not ruling it out. I'm not trying to convince anyone that Nick did or didn't do anything. I just think we need to be a bit careful about some of the chatter I've seen online since this episode has come out. I just want to try to contextualize it the best I can. You were close to these guys. Do you have any idea why Nick would've declined to take the polygraph, for example?
Olga Zenteno: Yeah. I seem to recall a phone call and Nick was like, "They want me to take a polygraph."
Josh Newville: This is to you?
Olga Zenteno: Yeah. I'm downtown at the courthouse and I had one friend who was an attorney, did family law, but she had been a public defender. So I called her up.
Josh Newville: So Nick calls you up. You're working as a law clerk at the courthouse for a judge. He asks for your opinion on the polygraph.
Olga Zenteno: Yeah. And I said I don't know enough because I'm a lowly law clerk, but let me call my friend.
Josh Newville: Who's a criminal defense attorney?
Olga Zenteno: Had been a public defender, who was a practicing trial-
Josh Newville: Got it.
Olga Zenteno: ... court family law attorney at that time and now,-
Josh Newville: And she says what?
Olga Zenteno: She said, "Olga, I've always thought," she said, "even when I was public defender, why help the police do their..." She viewed it as that. Why do that?
Josh Newville: So you pass this information along to Nick?
Olga Zenteno: Passed it on to Nick. My concern for Nick, having known Nick and Josh, I just mentioned the drive and pressure that they put on themselves. I admired the drive and I felt like Nick was high-strung and so I worried for him with a group of policemen who had completely the wrong idea of him. So I just passed that information on to Nick and I'm sure he consulted with other people.
Josh Newville: Anything that hasn't been talked about on the podcast, on Unsolved Mysteries and the media that you think the public needs to know about Josh or any of the folks connected to his case?
Olga Zenteno: Well, Josh told me also that he was working, researching the monk's sex abuse case that had come to light, I believe, during those times. He asked me specifically if I knew about the Behind the Pine Curtain website, which I did not. This was '02. Didn't have a cell phone. Internet was in its infancy, but Josh, I would imagine all college students were on exploring everything that they could to the max. I certainly would've loved to, but I had to work. I worked from 8:00 to 5:00, so I had not been on the Behind the Pine Curtain website. I remember Josh saying, because Josh is self-funded, Josh is not from a wealthy family and he was concerned about the money he's paying for Saint John's and if they're going to be taken down by this kind of lawsuit. I don't think Josh was Catholic anyway. He's Lutheran, whereas Nick is Catholic.
Josh Newville: It wasn't just his mom and his grandma that he complained to about the monk abuse scandal in the weeks and months?
Olga Zenteno: No, no. He was researching. The biography that was read on your podcast, I was so grateful for that. I could hear his voice and how you see that kind of reasoning that he does and his approach to things. It's not haphazard. It's not accusatory. It's very careful, carefully done and so-
Josh Newville: You say he was researching. What makes you believe that he was researching? Just the fact that he talked about the Behind the Pine Curtain website?
Olga Zenteno: Yeah. I wish I'd asked him more questions about this like, who have you talked to? What's going on? I think we were more interested in Anderson, the lawsuit attorney's approach to this and the civil procedure that the case would be taking. I think it was coming up in the courts where I worked, so it all became next steps. But I remember him talking about Behind the Pine Curtain and-
Josh Newville: Interesting. So the search that he did for abbey statute of limitations conspiracy-
Olga Zenteno: That would fit into that. Absolutely.
Josh Newville: So it might be that it was a genuine interest in the legal machinations, not that he was... Even though he expressed to his grandmother and his mom independently on different occasions, but close to his disappearance that he was upset, that he was angered by the fact that the church and the university, the abbey would shuffle around these monks and priests who had been accused of misconduct by sending them off to places like The Bahamas and so forth, and so it's possible that he could have been looking at it from that angle or it's possible that maybe it was purely a interest in the law, interest in civil procedure, and more likely perhaps, it was a combination of the two, right?
Olga Zenteno: Yes. Yes. Well, just how you put it, yeah. He wanted to understand legally and procedurally where the campus was on that. He was already looking ahead. Also, that trip he told me one of his professors had told him that he was going to be nominated for the Truman Scholarship and he asked me to write a letter of recommendation.
Josh Newville: So this is on the trip.
Olga Zenteno: On the trip.
Josh Newville: So this is the week before his disappearance?
Olga Zenteno: No. This is on the trip to Macalester.
Josh Newville: Right, the week before his disappearance.
Olga Zenteno: Yeah.
Josh Newville: This is while you're on the trip. Josh tells you that he was doing what exactly?
Olga Zenteno: One of his professors had told him he would be nominated for the Truman Scholarship and he asked if I could write a letter of recommendation for him.
Josh Newville: The Truman Scholarship is a scholarship that's meant to help students who are pursuing a career in public interest work, right?
Olga Zenteno: Yes. It's a high-level, prestigious scholarship and I was more than happy to.
Josh Newville: Tell me more about the weekend before Josh's disappearance. You go to Macalester. Macalester is a college in St. Paul. It's like an hour and a half away from Saint John's, right?
Olga Zenteno: It is, and they picked me up. I feel like Josh-
Josh Newville: Who picked you up?
Olga Zenteno: Josh and Nick. I remember like, "Okay, I work till 5:00. Maybe 5:15, pick me up."
Josh Newville: This is on a Friday or something?
Olga Zenteno: Yeah. Because you do a round on Friday night, around Saturday morning, Saturday evening, and then around on Sunday morning, and then there are awards. It's solid.
Josh Newville: I want to make sure we're painting the picture here.
Olga Zenteno: Yeah. And the kids are dressed in full suits.
Josh Newville: So they leave from Saint John's on Friday afternoon. They pick you up in St. Cloud at work.
Olga Zenteno: Yeah, downtown St. Cloud courthouse.
Josh Newville: Great. Then you make the hour, an hour and a half drive to St. Paul.
Olga Zenteno: Yeah.
Josh Newville: Then you check in at Embassy Suites, right?
Olga Zenteno: Yeah.
Josh Newville: In fact, that was the Embassy Suites that Josh had called in the weeks prior to his disappearance. We see it on his call logs. He was arranging the hotel for the rooms that they were staying in for the tournament, right?
Olga Zenteno: Yeah.
Josh Newville: So you guys get down there. It's just very intense, three days of everything and then?
Olga Zenteno: It is, but because they were on a roll again, their hard work had paid off and so they were doing well. When you have that kind of momentum, I remember Saturday evening, we were in somebody's hotel room and you're laughing over the stuff that happened.
Josh Newville: One of the questions I keep getting is, could Josh have maybe gone out while he was in St. Paul after the mock trial stuff was done like on Friday night or Saturday night and maybe met someone or hooked up with someone or met up with someone that he had been talking to online kind of thing. I'm curious as to your thoughts on that.
Olga Zenteno: No. I can say honestly that never happened. They were so, again, mature for their age, focused. That was not tolerated and neither did anybody else do something like that. I was so lucky we never had to worry. Because if you're that kind of person, you wouldn't be doing mock trial. Again, the intense amount of work it takes to create a witness, to be prepared for direct and cross examination, to be in costume, basically, all of that and then you're going to blow it trying to get a drink somewhere, that wasn't them.
Josh Newville: Well, and Josh wouldn't have been able to go out and go to a bar or anything. He was only 19, 20 years old at that point, barely. So I guess the question is maybe did he go somewhere else and meet up with someone? Do you think there's any possibility at all that that could have happened? Did they have individual rooms? Did they share hotel rooms?
Olga Zenteno: No. The rooms were shared.
Josh Newville: Do you think Josh and Nick probably-
Olga Zenteno: Shared, yeah.
Josh Newville: Okay. Did anything specifically happen at the tournament, any kind of fights or anything like that?
Olga Zenteno: No. No. Again, that one where I think Josh and Katie had an argument of something happened like that, that would had been in Iowa months before November when they were still dating.
Josh Newville: As we know, they broke up a few months before his disappearance too, so that makes sense.
Olga Zenteno: Yeah, they didn't really give me a timeline.
Josh Newville: That's what we know though, so that makes sense.
Olga Zenteno: Okay, yeah.
Josh Newville: Okay. They did well, it sounds like.
Olga Zenteno: Oh, they did really well. I thought there was a picture on Unsolved Mysteries of Josh holding his trophy with his father. I remember his father would come. That's the other thing, the parents come, so they're there.
Josh Newville: And Brian had gone to that tournament in fact, right?
Olga Zenteno: Oh, yeah. He came to all of them, if I remember because I remember bumping into him a lot.
Josh Newville: So the mock trial tournament gets done on Sunday.
Olga Zenteno: Yes.
Josh Newville: Then what happens next?
Olga Zenteno: Well, Nick and Josh dropped me off at my house and because of that tournament, my husband at the time had moved all our stuff from our apartment to this house. It's my first house and I'm still in the house now, but that was the first weekend. Veteran's Day was on Monday, which was a day off for all of us courthouse workers and so I was going to unpack everything. But they dropped me off on Sunday and I gave them a... So it was Sunday evening and it was still light, so I gave them a tour around the house, my house with boxes. Josh had worked in landscaping with his dad, I think.
Josh Newville: That summer in fact, yeah.
Olga Zenteno: Yeah. I didn't even know it was that summer. It sounded like it had been long ago. He pointed out, he goes, "I don't like this," and it was the grade on the side of the house and sure enough, years later, that he was correct and I ended up digging like a trench, what I was supposed to do, but he could spot that right away.
Josh Newville: Josh and Nick were co-captains of the team, right?
Olga Zenteno: Yeah.
Josh Newville: They live together on the same floor of their dorm. They were in wind ensemble together. They had political science classes together.
Olga Zenteno: Yeah.
Josh Newville: They were-
Olga Zenteno: They had the same professors and they-
Josh Newville: They studied the law school admission test together. Their groups, their friend groups ended up merging quite a bit. In fact, Nick has said that Josh introduced him to Katie, obviously, because Katie came to school with Josh. Especially on that Sunday when you're headed home from that tournament, did you notice any kind of tension between the two of them?
Olga Zenteno: Between Nick and Josh?
Josh Newville: Yeah.
Olga Zenteno: Absolutely not, none, zero, less than zero. They were supporters of each other wholeheartedly.
Josh Newville: One of the things on the Unsolved Mysteries episode, there is a comment and I was really surprised to hear law enforcement tell the television show this, because as far as I'm aware, as far as Justin's aware, as far as Josh's parents are aware, no one's ever heard this before, but apparently, one of Josh's roommates told law enforcement that the night before Josh's disappearance, so this would be Friday night, November 8, that Josh and Nick had a fight about Katie that they overheard.
Olga Zenteno: I also have never, ever, ever during this whole entire time heard anything like that. I don't know who that roommate is. That just-
Josh Newville: Josh had five roommates. I've talked to both of the Adams. I've talked to John. The only roommate I haven't talked to is Greg and this is not the Greg that he went to the party with that night, a different Greg. I suppose it's possible that it was Greg that said it or it's possible that maybe one of these other three that I've talked to told law enforcement that and just didn't tell me that for some reason, although one thing I know is that law enforcement didn't even interview all the roommates until 2010. There were some roommates, including the roommate that people, for a long time, thought deleted stuff from Josh's computer because he was the one that gave his login information, username and password to Josh's dad and uncle to get on the computer while they were in the dorm. For a long while, people thought that he was the one because it was his username that had created the network account in which subsequently, someone then took an Internet Washer to the computer. A lot of people thought it was him and law enforcement didn't even interview him, it sounds like, until 2010.
Olga Zenteno: Wow.
Josh Newville: I guess it's possible that it was one of his other roommates, but I was really surprised to hear that and it sounds like you're surprised too. It sounds like you've never heard that before.
Olga Zenteno: Never. Again, I saw them only for mock trial purposes and they always seemed really jovial and up with each other and most of all, supportive of each other and they had a mutual respect for each other. I talked about that to the producers of Unsolved Mysteries, whatever, a year ago. We were talking about the kind of person that Josh is and how he wasn't afraid of conflict and how he almost leaned into conflict, whereas I feel like myself and Nick would be much more careful about leaning... But Josh is not one of those people. Let's say-
Josh Newville: Fascinating.
Olga Zenteno: Yeah. So if a car of four sketchy looking guys stops and says like, "We need help with this," or something, Josh is going to be confident, draw upon all of his experience as not only a top law student, but landscaping and all the other life experience that he has and he wouldn't be afraid to join a group like that in the slightest maybe. They were on a high, because that tournament, they scored really well. He and Nick had figured out this really tight strategy on the case. So Josh and Nick, they were, again, on a roll, not just with mock trial. I had bumped into them outside the courthouse one day before the tournament, before they picked me up for that and he had gone and maybe represented a kid from Saint John's on a parking ticket, something and they had won. They had won their case and that's something for a 20-year-old. They were in their mock trial, in their suits. So that's what I'm saying, he was super confident in those weeks before he disappeared.
Josh Newville: As I sat down to produce this episode, finalized my interview with Olga, pulled together my clips from the memorial service and thought about what I was going to say, the finality of it all hit me. And again, we'll produce more episodes if there are substantial updates to this case in the future. I'm certainly not letting it go. I'll work on it in the background. But for now, at least in terms of the podcast, this is it and it's emotional. I'm trying to help solve this case. I am trying to help get answers not only for Josh himself, but his friends and family who I've come to know, that I care about, even those who I haven't come to personally know, but nonetheless can empathize with them in their pain, for lack of a better term. There must be a deeper, more meaningful term to describe what they've experienced than simply pain.
At this point, I have no doubt that Josh is missing due to foul play and that the person or persons who were responsible for his disappearance are very likely listening to this podcast. Someone asked me last week if I was going to close out with a message to those people, and I'm not. I have nothing to say to them, but I do have a message for everyone else and in particular, those who live in central Minnesota. The reason this case is not only not yet solved, but has basically been on a 20-year dead end road up until now is because far too few of us have been willing to step up and demand answers, to set aside our personal apathy, our personal interests, our concerns about the institutional legitimacy or whatever that's gotten in the way of us caring about this human being, this life, and not just Josh himself, but all of those who have been affected by his disappearance.
Saint John's has not done nearly enough to keep Josh's case and his story in the public eye. If you are a current student or an alum at Saint John's, why has your college failed to do so? If you're a staff member or a faculty member there, why have you allowed them to continue with the deafening silence about Josh's case? A statement issued by the abbot via email once every year, I'm sorry, that's not cutting it. You can do more. You should do more. This was your student. If you're a taxpayer in Stearns County, if you're a resident in St. Joseph, in the area in St. Cloud, why haven't you been demanding more answers over 20 years? By the way, this is just as much my fault. I've known about this case since at least 2006. I live in Minnesota. We all have a responsibility to demand better of these institutions and to prevent this from ever happening again.
If we allow them to revert back to their old ways, and for Saint John's, that means silence, and for Stearns County, I have a ton of respect for the current investigator assigned to this case and I genuinely think that he is different from his predecessors, but there's still institutional legacy and there's still potential for repeating the past. So the only way that we're going to prevent that from happening is if we continue to do what has really started to happen these last few months and we continue to demand answers. So even though this podcast is going on a hiatus for now, and even though Unsolved Mysteries is out and done, we're not going to let up. Justin Tholl is still producing that documentary. I'm still going to be working on this case in the background and you are going to continue to provide tips to Stearns County, to us, and you're going to keep talking about Josh's case, keeping his story alive and keeping hope alive. You can reach me at simplyvanished.com or 415-969-LOST, 415-969-5678. Thank you.
Daniel Gunnarsson: (singing "The Rivers Told Me Lies")