Illinois State Police launch investigation into 2018 death of Tyler Smith

Tyler Smith labored exhausting to realize his targets.

At the same time as a baby, he knew precisely what he needed to do when he grew up. He needed to be within the navy and be in legislation enforcement.

His mission? To seize the dangerous man.

In a ebook saved by his mom, scrawled in a baby’s handwriting is, “Sometime I might be a military man.” And on one other web page, “Sometime I might be a policeman. I’ll seize a foul man.”

“He labored so exhausting for his targets,” Tyler’s mom, Sandra Halsne advised Dateline. “And I consider he selected these professions as a result of he needed to assist others. That’s simply who he was. He needed to make a distinction on this world.”

Tyler enlisted within the Military Nationwide Guard in December 2013. He graduated from Rochelle Excessive Faculty and went on to Western Illinois College the place he graduated in 2018 with a bachelor’s diploma in legal justice and a minor in homeland safety.

However he wasn’t accomplished but. After commencement, Tyler utilized to the San Jose Police Academy in California. He was considered one of 50 chosen out of roughly 5,000 candidates, his mom stated. He ultimately deliberate to be a canine officer after which a DEA agent.

“He set that purpose, and he labored exhausting to perform it,” Sandra advised Dateline. “He was at all times so motivated and adopted by means of together with his plans. He did loads in simply 23 years.”

After spending the summer time of 2018 in California getting ready to enter the police academy, the 23-year-old returned to Rochelle, Illinois to complete up particulars of his switch to San Jose.

“He fell in love with California and couldn’t wait to start out his life there,” Sandra stated. “He was an outdoorsy man. He liked mountaineering, scuba diving and snowboarding. His subsequent journey was going to be browsing.”

Simply earlier than Tyler and his mom had been to embark on their two-week journey to California, Tyler determined to go to some pals from his Nationwide Guard unit in Galesburg, Illinois.

On the night of September 14, 2018, Tyler known as his mother and his father, Keith Smith, to allow them to know he had arrived safely at a good friend’s place.

It was the final time they spoke to their son.

The subsequent day, Tyler was imagined to report back to his month-to-month Nationwide Guard coaching drill in close by Macomb, Illinois. He by no means confirmed up.

Later that day, considered one of Tyler’s pals who had been out with him the evening earlier than, known as Tyler’s dad and mom and requested if they’d heard from him. He defined that they’d gotten separated the evening earlier than and that Tyler by no means confirmed up for drill.

“I knew instantly that one thing was improper,” Tyler’s mom Sandra advised Dateline. “Tyler wouldn’t have missed drill. This was an essential one for him. Particularly proper earlier than his switch.”

Tyler’s dad and mom jumped within the automobile and drove the 2 hours from their dwelling in Rochelle to the home in Galesburg the place Tyler had stated he can be staying. The automobile Tyler had been driving was nonetheless within the good friend’s driveway. There was no signal of Tyler.

“We went to the police division and had been ready for somebody to speak to us when a pizza supply man walked in and began chatting with us,” Sandra stated. “Then he requested, ‘Is that this associated to that physique that was present in a creek?’”

Sandra advised Dateline that in that second, her world got here crashing down.

“I knew in my coronary heart it was Tyler,” Sandra stated. “And my coronary heart simply shattered into 1,000,000 items.”

In accordance with preliminary reviews by the Galesburg Police Division, Tyler’s physique was discovered by a passerby round 7 p.m. on September 15, 2018, mendacity face down in about two inches of water in a drainage canal, which known as the Cedar Fork Creek.

The canal is roughly a block and a half north of Casey’s basic retailer in Galesburg, immediately behind Hansen Lumber Firm.

It was simply hours earlier that Tyler was final seen in Galesburg together with his pals. In accordance with a timeline pieced collectively by his dad and mom, Tyler went out bar hopping together with his pals that evening till they received separated for unknown causes within the Nook Connection space.

In accordance with the timeline, Tyler tried to name one of many pals he had been out with round 11:05 p.m. However there was no reply. Sandra stated she believed that is after they grew to become separated.

For the following 40 minutes, there have been a number of calls and texts exchanged between Tyler and numerous pals whereas he was strolling round downtown Galesburg.

“He had by no means been to Galesburg earlier than,” Sandra advised Dateline. “So after he received separated from his pals, he didn’t know the place to go.”

At 10:42 p.m., Tyler was captured on the Wells Fargo ATM digicam the place he withdrew $100, in response to his mom.

At 11:46 p.m., Tyler despatched a Snapchat message to a different good friend, stating, “I don’t know the place I’m.”

“Whereas going by means of Tyler’s cellphone, we observed the well being monitor,” Sandra stated. “The monitor famous that Tyler stopped transferring at 11:52 p.m. on that Friday. He by no means moved once more.”

Tyler’s telephones continued to obtain calls into the early morning hours of Saturday, September 15. At 6:21 a.m., considered one of Tyler’s pals, who had been with him the earlier evening known as to see if he was coming to drill. The cellphone didn’t ring and went straight to voicemail.

Inside 24 hours of Tyler’s physique being discovered, an post-mortem indicated the way of loss of life to be unintentional drowning and that no foul play was suspected, in response to preliminary reviews by the Knox County Coroner and the Galesburg Police Division. It was reported that his accidents had been in line with a fall and that Tyler’s blood alcohol degree was 0.246 p.c, which is thrice the authorized restrict. The reason for loss of life was dominated undetermined.

Nonetheless, Tyler’s household believes in any other case.

“After I was lastly capable of see my son, I knew that this wasn’t an accident,” Sandra advised Dateline. “There have been a number of accidents to his face. One thing extra occurred to him. He didn’t simply unintentionally drown in just a few inches of water.”

Sandra advised Dateline that that surveillance video from an ATM appeared to indicate Tyler in a very good state. She stated she and her husband additionally spoke to individuals who had been with Tyler who stated they didn’t discover that he was stumbling or incoherent.

“We perceive he was ingesting that evening, however we don’t consider he would have even been in that space,” Sandra stated. She added that there was a steep concrete incline into the drainage canal the place Tyler’s physique was situated and stated she doesn’t consider it might be doable for him to get into that space simply.

Tyler’s dad and mom stated they think foul play in Tyler’s loss of life and consider he was restrained and introduced down into the canal because of the place of his physique, his accidents, and the marks they are saying had been on his wrists.

“What doesn’t make sense is why somebody would do that to our son,” Tyler’s father, Keith Smith, advised Dateline. “He was such a very good child. Had so many pals, from all completely different walks of life. He did every little thing he might to assist others. He made us so proud.”

As Tyler’s dad and mom mourned their son and deliberate his funeral, they continued to push for solutions. They carried out their very own investigation. They spoke to individuals locally. They employed a non-public investigator for a short while. But it surely wasn’t till 2019 that they began getting some solutions.

Mitchell Drake, a retired police officer with 14 years of investigative expertise, particularly murder, in Prepare dinner County, Illinois, agreed to take a look at Tyler’s case.

“At first I believed this might be a ‘dangerous issues occur to good individuals’ case and that there wasn’t a lot to be accomplished,” Drake advised Dateline. “However after seeing the report, I knew one thing was very improper. This wasn’t simply an unintentional drowning.”

Drake concluded that the crime scene evaluation by the Galesburg Police Division was incomplete, contaminated and didn’t comply with established protocol to totally examine Tyler’s loss of life, “No crime scene technician was contacted or responded to the scene.”

Drake advised Dateline that in response to the post-mortem report, Tyler’s physique was discovered face down in two to a few inches of water together with his ft near the canal wall. He believes the way in which the physique was discovered is suspicious. He additionally stated that, “There was no examination of his arms for international DNA or scrapings taken from beneath the nails and no instruction was given to the pathologist to conduct these scrapings.”

Drake continued to say that “there are wounds on either side of the sufferer’s face and head and marks across the wrist, again of his hand, and again that aren’t adequately defined.”

His conclusion is that, “Tyler Smith probably suffered a battery by individuals not but recognized that immediately led to his loss of life. He was probably unconscious previous to his remaining placement in Cedar Fork Creek.

Tyler’s dad and mom advised Dateline they had been emotional after they obtained the information of Mitchell Drake’s findings. They added that they hoped this might be the push wanted for the Illinois State Police to launch an investigation.

And it labored.

Due to Mitchell Drake’s findings, the Illinois State Police determined to take over the case.

In July 2020, Tyler’s physique was exhumed and a second post-mortem was carried out. Tyler’s dad and mom and Mitchell Drake wouldn’t launch particulars of the findings to Dateline this time, however advised Dateline they really feel like they’re heading in the right direction of discovering out what occurred to Tyler that evening.

Two days earlier than the 2-year anniversary of Tyler’s loss of life, the Illinois State Police Division of Felony Investigation officers introduced that they’ve launched an investigation into his loss of life.

In accordance with a press launch, the Illinois State Police is requesting help from the general public and asks that anybody with any data concerning Tyler’s loss of life name Illinois State Police Zone 2 Investigations.

After two years of frustration, Tyler’s dad and mom are lastly feeling like there could be some hope.

“We simply need to know what occurred to our son,” Tyler’s father Keith advised Dateline. “It’s been so irritating these previous two years, with out solutions, however now we simply want to maneuver ahead. Get justice for our boy.”

Within the meantime, Tyler’s household and pals proceed to maintain his reminiscence alive. Fb pages “Justice for Tyler Smith” and “Pledges for Tyler Smith Info Reward” preserve the general public up-to-date on the case.

Every September since Tyler’s loss of life, a 5K run/stroll has been held to provide again to the group.

“He liked being energetic and working and competing in races,” Sandra stated. “And most of all, he liked giving again to the group.

Sandra added that Tyler, who was biracial, had hoped to become involved with the group when he moved to San Jose, to work with range organizations.

Tyler’s dad and mom advised Dateline that with out the assist of their very own group, they’d be misplaced. By means of fundraisers and donations, the household has collected $25,000 for a reward to anybody who has data concerning Tyler’s loss of life.

Sandra advised Dateline that she believes if Tyler had achieved his purpose and turn out to be the police officer he dreamed of being, he would’ve accomplished no matter he might to unravel a case like this.

“That was his dream since he was a child, he needed to seize a foul man,” Sandra stated. “And now I hope we’re ready to do this for him. We have to catch the dangerous man who did this to our son.”

Anybody with any data concerning Tyler’s loss of life is requested to contact the Illinois State Police Zone 2 Investigations at 815-632-4010, Ext 230.

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