BROADCAST DATE : Oct 15, 2008

Shadows of doubt (2008)


In October 2003, third-year Royal Military College cadet Joe Grozelle simply disappeared. His body was recovered weeks later from the St. Lawrence River, but multiple investigations were unable to determine just how, when, where or why Grozelle died. In 2008, Linden MacIntyre revealed a hasty military investigation that only clouded the tragedy, and a family determined to get answers.

On a rainy night in Kingston in October 2003, third-year Royal Military College cadet Joe Grozelle simply vanished.

After three weeks of exhaustive searching on land and sea, Grozelle's lifeless body was finally spotted floating in the shallow waters of Kingston harbour, just feet from campus. Five years later, what happened that night on the campus of the Royal Military College remains a dark and disturbing mystery.

In Shadows of Doubt, the fifth estate explores the circumstances around the disappearance and death of Joe Grozelle and the initial investigation by the Canadian Forces' own National Investigation Service (NIS).

Seven members of the NIS in Ottawa would be dispatched to the military college in Kingston just 24 hours after Joe Grozelle went missing — a remarkable response for what was, at the time, just an AWOL cadet. The NIS is an elite military investigative unit tasked with probing difficult and sensitive matters within the armed forces that ordinary Military Police can't handle.

As the fifth estate reports, the NIS quickly came to the conclusion that Joe Grozelle had killed himself. But for those closest to Joe suicide just didn't make sense. Joe was a Varsity athlete, a top student, he had a girlfriend, as well as supportive friends and family.

"Having that situation doesn't fit with the guy that I know, the Joe that I know," says Joe's father Ron. "Joe wouldn't have done that."

For the past five years Joe's family has pressed authorities to keep investigating for the elusive information that will finally explain their son's sudden disappearance and death. Did the initial tunnel vision of military investigators cause that information to be lost with Joe forever? Tragically, two autopsies, an OPP investigation and a Coroner's Inquest have all failed to find answers.

Drawing from thousands of pages of investigation documents and interviews with dozens of family, friends and military officials, Shadows of Doubt is the story of the suspicious death of a model cadet and a flawed military investigation that has left family, friends and the military with more questions than answers.


TIMELINE: Joe Grozelle

September 11, 1982
Joseph Theodore Grozelle is born in Muirkirk, Ontario, the fourth of five children of Minnie and Ron Grozelle

Spring 2001
RMC Varsity basketball coach Craig Norman recruits Joe Grozelle to play for the team. Joe decides to attend RMC. Despite no guarantees that he will make the team in subsequent years he does make the final cut in each of the next two years.

Summer 2001
Joe attends Basic Officer Training Course at St. Jean, Quebec. He fails to complete the course after falling ill in the final week. He will repeat and pass the course the following summer.

By his third year Joe will hold the position of Two Squadron Sports Officer and his academic performance will be in the top percentile of his class.

Fall 2001
Joe attends RMC as a first-year student. He begins a two-year relationship with squadron-mate Melissa Haggart, a Varsity soccer player.

October 18-19, 2003
Joe Grozelle with the basketball team at a tournament in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

October 20, 2003
Joe attends class, basketball practice as usual.

October 21, 2003
Joe misses weight training in the morning.

Joe skips his two morning classes.

Joe shows up in the mess hall at lunch and speaks to fellow-cadets.

Joe attends two-hour basketball practice in the afternoon.

Joe has dinner with teammates in the mess hall.

Joe attends to sports officer duties then he and Melissa settle in his dorm room for the night at about 11:00 p.m. Joe works on a paper due for law class the next day. Melissa later tells investigators she read on the bed and fell asleep in Joe's room at about 1:00 a.m. while Joe was still at his computer.

October 23, 2003
5:30 a.m. — Melissa awakens and Joe is not in the room. His watch, wallet and cell phone are still on his desk.

6:00 a.m. — Melissa returns to her room. She attends morning classes. Joe does not show up for classes.

Melissa and other cadets attend his room throughout the day and do not find him.

4:30 p.m. — When Joe failed to show up for basketball practice Melissa left a note on the squadron officer's door. A missing person investigation was commenced by Kingston base MPs later that evening.

October 23-November 13, 2003
Seven members of Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (NIS) are dispatched from Ottawa to take over the search for Joe. Then-Lt. Navy Ryan Snow leads the investigation, which includes:

• Searches of the RMC grounds
• Search of Joseph Grozelle's room
• Canvassing hospitals and shelters in the Kingston area
• Interview numerous persons, including staff and cadets at RMC
• Flagging credit cards
• Analyzing the computer in Joseph Grozelle's room.

NIS liaise with the Kingston Police Service and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and use their specialty services to conduct air and water searches. Canine teams were also utilized.

October 24, 2003
A Significant Incident Report  {document icon Read The Report}  is written up by RMC officials and sent to DND HQ in Ottawa. It notes that Joe's absence is "out of character" and that the initial investigation "does not rule out foul play."

November 13, 2003
8:30 a.m. — An RMC staffer walking into work across the LaSalle causeway spots a body floating in the Cataraqui River, near the campus.

The body was identified as Joe Grozelle by his father, Ron Grozelle.

Pathologist Dr. David Hurlbut conducted a post mortem at Kingston General Hospital. The initial post mortem was inconclusive and further testing was required to determine the cause of death.

November 14, 2003
NIS Lt. Navy Ryan Snow briefs then-Ontario Regional Coroner Dr. Andrew McCallum on their investigation and the "mindset of Joe." Ryan records in his investigation notes after that meeting that "suicide is high degree of probability" and that "at this time foul play is ruled out."

February 2004
Office of the Chief Coroner requests that the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Criminal Investigation Branch take over the investigation. Under the authority of the Coroner's Office the OPP obtained the files from the NIS and liaise with them to continue the investigation.

Military Board of Inquiry put on hold pending OPP investigation results.

July 2004
Dr. David Hurlbut produces a final autopsy report. "No specific anatomical cause of death identified," is recorded under Cause of Death. Toxicology tests are negative for drugs or alcohol.

November 2004
After discussions with the Coroner's Office the decision was made to exhume the body of Joseph Grozelle and to conduct a second Post Mortem. Dr. Michael Pollanen, Chief Pathologist for the Office of the Coroner, conducted the second post mortem in Toronto, Ontario. In his report  {document icon Read the report}  Pollanen lists cause of death as "undetermined."

February 2005
Appealing to the public, the OPP release surveillance video from the LaSalle Causeway in Kingston early on the morning Joe disappeared (October 22, 2003) in an attempt to identify four individuals. The video shows four people walking away from RMC across the Causeway into town at 1:10 AM, then forty minutes later walking back.

March 2005
The OPP travel to Winnipeg to question a former cadet who is now a financial advisor with hundreds of RMC cadets and former cadets as clients. In 2001, the person, who has a history of sexual escapades with boys and young men, had been ordered by the Commandant at RMC to cease and desist doing business in the dorms after complaints from cadets came up through the chain of command. Despite this he would continue to do business on campus over the next two years.

December 2005
The OPP and Ontario Deputy Coroner Jim Cairns meet with the Grozelle family in Toronto. They inform the family that their probe has not come up with any hard evidence about what happened to their son. The Coroner offers to convene a death Inquest.

October 2006
Ontario Coroner convenes an Inquest into the death of Joe Grozelle in Kingston. However, after only five days of hearings the Inquest is halted and the jury dismissed. Presiding Coroner Dr. David Eden will only say that he stopped the Inquest in the interests of fairness.

January 2007
A pre-Inquest hearing is convened at the Coroner's Court in Toronto where the Grozelle family applies to have more witnesses and information produced at Inquest. Military and Kingston Police lawyers oppose the application.

March 2007
Coroner's Inquest into the death of Joe Grozelle is reconvened in Kingston, Ontario. After a month of hearings the verdict of the Coroner's Jury lists Cause of Death as "unascertained, non-natural" and means as "undetermined."

The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service request the RCMP review its investigation into the disappearance and death of Joe Grozelle.

The military convenes its own Board of Inquiry into the disappearance and death of Joe Grozelle in Kingston.