Updated: Sep 14, 2020
Tyler Smith was last seen with his friends September 14, 2018 in Galesburg, Illinois. The following morning would be his last day of drills, as he was an Army National Guard. He had just gotten hired as an officer in California, and was actively working his plan of moving out there with the following days. His parents, Sandy and Keith were incredibly supportive, as that was their only child and their whole world. Proud parents they were, there was nothing stopping Tyler.
About 6:00 P.M. that evening Tyler drove out to Galesburg, Illinois to meet with his other friends also needing to wake up for drills the next morning, they had a full plan for the night to celebrate. He was staying at a drill buddy’s home, leave his car there and meet up with the rest of their friends. Bar hopping, something most of us have done in celebration. Dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings, then bar to bar all within blocks from each other in downtown Galesburg, the friends stuck together until the night ended. They stood by their respective vehicles, said their goodbyes, and left Tyler on foot. They all split up and Tyler ended up alone, in town, without his car. Tyler had not been to Galesburg before and had no other friends or acquaintances in the area.
For nineteen hours Tyler would be gone. No contact, no activity.
The next day, a couple saw what would be thought of as a possible body face down in a dry canal. Police arrived, Fire Department arrived, the Coroner arrived. They took Tyler’s body straight to the Coroner’s where it would be another day before the autopsy would begin.
Tyler was found in a concrete canal that runs parallel to the BNSF tracks just north of Main Street. He was found at the bottom of a seventeen foot fenced canal, immediately lined up against a double set of train tracks.
There was some cash in his wallet, but it did not add up to the hundred dollars taken out of the ATM. It made no sense. He already had cash in his wallet prior to going to the ATM. You can see on the video as he is dispensing cash, actual cash in his wallet. Now with another hundred dollars, he is later found with partial amount on his person, yet every single bar and the restaurant he paid with the credit card, including the tip at each location. Cash wasn’t needed, and now part of the cash is missing. Where did it go?
Tyler’s wallet, keys and phone were located on his person at the time his body was found. His glasses have never been located. With these items found on his person was also some loose change, his vape pen and a snuff box. Inside the snuff box was three pills identified as ibuprofen.
He had a watch. His watch was now removed from his left wrist, laying several feet from his wrist. The pin by the face of the watch was what broke off the watch, however the pin was still in it and not bent. The face of the watch was glass, yet not broken from a seventeen foot fall. According to our experts, that watch was pulled off. The pin would not have just slid off from a fall.
The phone was found in his pant pocket (front pocket). There were no cracks on the phone or the screen and it was in perfect working order. How did he fall face down seventeen feet on to a cement floor and the phone is completely intact. How?
The family reports they asked law enforcement if they checked for videos in the area They said there were no videos in the area. Until there were, that is. On foot, door to door, his parents asked the local businesses and residents for cameras. Some didn’t have them at all, some had videos of that night that were taped over because it had been too long of a time by the time his parents got to them, while one video was available. The Casey’s General Store on Main and West Street in Galesburg. I must have watched this video a hundred times. From what I see, he was alone, he must have been turned around walking completely away from the bars, the town, and his friends residence where all of his belongs were left including his vehicle. He looked like he was walking a straight line, even kind of in a faster pace than a normal walk. There was nothing in his hands except what looked to me to be a phone. The video is too distant from Tyler to tell if the glasses were still on his head. He headed down West, which is a dead end street, and he disappears from the video. He never entered the gas station. Tyler was never seen alive again.
Another missed video was when Tyler and his friends about 10:00 P.M. walked over to the ATM. Tyler pulled out $100 cash. He put his receipt in his wallet where it was later found on his body. Except the $100. That was missing and was never recovered. They hit several bars, and he used a credit card at every single bar. We looked over all the receipts including his phone activity. His parents collected this video as well. In this video, it is clearly seen he had sunglasses on his head. When Tyler’s body was found, those glasses were not with him, they were nowhere in the vicinity and have never been recovered.
It’s incredibly common for the family to not want to believe such an accident could occur. It’s just as difficult to believe in even something like suicide. All too often I speak to families that just can’t get passed it, and don’t want to believe in something that could have been fixed, misconstrued, misunderstood. In other words, they do not want to accept that their loved ones death is an accident. When Sandy contacted me to ask for our help, I asked many questions and received instant responses without hesitation. I let her know that we would take the case but I was there to give my opinion, that I wasn’t going to be swayed, and that if I felt at all that this was an accident, I would let her know that and I would have to close my case on Tyler’s death. She again agreed, without hesitation.
Since then I’ve been down there a few times. I’ve met with his parents, two Detectives that have helped tremendously with their expert opinions, though they are retired (and were at that time), they were not involved in this case, or even in this county. They simply donated hundreds of hours in effort to bring answers for Tyler. They came up with the same conclusion. There is no possible way Tyler died alone.
I hired an accident reconstructionist for his official written expert opinion, on the agreement he come to the location where Tyler was last seen, where he was found, and take the walk for himself. Later, he thanked me. Ironically, this expert is also actively a law enforcement officer in a different city and county. Mike also agreed. Not only was it not likely he drowned, or died alone, or fell. Mike believes Tyler was thrown or flipped over the railing, falling seventeen feet down, while unconscious.
By the time all of us joined in to our own investigation, it was too late. Officially. Tyler had been buried, the case was closed, with law enforcement officially stating this was nothing more than an accident which falls in line to the coroner’s report and the forensic pathologist. Well, that is just not good enough.
Another thing that struck me, other than the cash missing from his person, his glasses missing just less than two hours from the video at the ATM, and the unbelievable fall that was unlikely and not probable, was the bruising on his body. I looked at every crime scene photo and autopsy picture that was given to me. Mom says “he had injuries to both sides of head but bruising on left side of neck, injuries to bilat knees, right elbow, left wrist and hands, right ankle and bilat facial injuries and suspicious marks on wrists and ankle.
His face just struck me. His right side of his face was bruised mostly around and at the eye and cheek. It looked like someone punched him several times to the right side of the face. His left side of his face was in no comparison bruised like the right side. His left side was swollen as you would expect to see a deceased body with his left side of his face in a low amount of water, about 1-2 inches. Yet his right cheek is incredibly swollen. The pathologist wrote that he was right side face down in the water. I clearly have a crime scene photo exactly how Tyler was found, left side face down in the water. How that kind of error can be made on an autopsy report is beyond me. Careless, at best. There was blood on his face. Report shows there was no blood on his face. I wonder if she ever looked at the pictures. Clearly she was not at the scene. Maybe she wasn’t even in front of Tyler’s body when she was writing the report.
The pathologist stated Tyler had no broken bones? The pathologist also noted he had no broken bones. So how did he die? I should mention here… No x-rays of the body were done because it wasn’t part of the process. She knew his bones weren’t broken because she physically felt his body.
Among so many other issues, from how he got there, to processing the crime scene, to the pathologist supposedly doing her job, to lack of investigation, along with top experts agreeing with my own findings and me agreeing with theirs, I’d had it. Tyler did not get to that location on his own. This was not an accident.
I put together a press conference with our findings, and because of that press conference, we have had “authorities” from above also look at this case. A forensic pathologist and an expert in drowning not only agree with our findings, but are willing to have his body exhumed and have a second autopsy completed, without charging the family.
The Galesburg Police Department has confirmed publicly that this case is officially opened and inactive, meaning that if they receive information regarding Tyler’s death they will follow up with the information, but they are not actively seeking information. They believe this was an accidental death, as the initial autopsy report states.
Because of the persistence from Tyler's parents, the two retired Homicide Detectives investigation, the accident re-constructionist we paid for and overwhelming community support and media who covered Tyler's case, a second autopsy was performed. It has been concluded that this was not an accidental death. While we won't get in the specifics, as this is now investigation, we can say that Tyler's voice has been heard. The Illinois State Police has taken over his case.
Fly High Tyler
Tyler Louis Smith September 12, 1995 - September 15, 2018 Tyler Louis Smith, 23, passed away Saturday, September 15, 2018. Tyler was born September 12, 1995 in Rochelle, the son of Sandra Halsne and Keith Smith.Tyler was a 2014 graduate of Rochelle Township High School, where he played football all four years. He graduated in 2018 from Western Illinois University with a degree in criminal justice and a minor in homeland security. Tyler had recently been accepted to the San Jose, CA Police Academy and had recently moved to California. Currently, he was serving with the Illinois National Guard. His hobbies included being a DJ, playing and watching football, and hiking. He loved to be outdoors; the ocean and mountains are part of what brought him to California. He was an avid fan of the Chicago Bears and San Jose Sharks. Tyler always had a smile on his face that lit up the room. He was regarded by friends as the glue that brought them all together.Tyler is survived by his parents, Sandra Halsne and Keith Smith of Rochelle; maternal grandmother, Janet Halsne of Rochelle; three sisters in St. Louis, Keisha Tate, Adrienne Morris-Harris, and Tara Smith; a brother and sister in Rochelle, Erica and Kevin Smith; uncle, Tyrone (Sharon) Smith of St. Louis; aunt, Pam Lambert of Rochelle; and several nieces, nephews, and cousins.Tyler is preceded in death by his maternal grandfather, Francis "Butch" Halsne; paternal grandmother, Annie (Dave) Hygrade; paternal grandfather, Jesse Smith; and a cousin, Tyrell Smith.Visitation will be from 6-9 P.M. Friday, September 21, 2018 at the Unger-Horner Funeral Home, 400 N. 6th St. in Rochelle.Additional visitation will be from 9-11 A.M. Saturday, September 22, 2018 at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Rochelle. Funeral service will follow the visitation at 11 A.M. at the church with Pastor Greg Hoffmann officiating. Interment will follow in Lawnridge Cemetery in Rochelle. Military rites accorded by the Eastern Lee-Ogle Honor Guard and the Illinois Army National Guard. A memorial has been established. Please visit www.UngerHorner.com to sign the online guest book.