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Parents of 23160 Joe Grozelle: 15 Years Later and Still Searching for Answers

Feature photo: Ron and Minnie Grozelle parents of 23160 Joe Grozelle

23160 OCdt Joe Grozelle

Article Courtesy of Mr. Ron Grozelle 

23160 OCdt Joe Grozelle was starting his 3rd year in Business Administration at RMC in the fall of 2003. He was looking forward to another year of playing basketball on the varsity team with his friends.

Then in the early morning hours of October 22, 2003, Joe mysteriously disappeared from his room. He purportedly was working on a Law assignment that was due the next day. According to Joe’s girlfriend, who claims she was with him in his room that evening, she fell asleep around 1:30 am while he was working at his computer and when she woke the next morning around 5:30 am he was gone. Joe had mysteriously disappeared. The following day a search of the campus by several students was completed, with no signs of Joe being found.

The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) were immediately called in to conduct an investigation and search for Joe. The family and cadets canvassed the public by putting out posters and flyers around the community in hopes of finding Joe but to no avail. Over the next several days and weeks, extensive searches were completed by the Coast Guard, Trenton Search and Rescue, Divers from HMCS Cataraqui and the OPP Provincial Underwater Search and Rescue Unit from Orillia.

No sign of Joe was found!

After 23 days of searching with no leads as to what happened to Joe, his body was spotted floating in the Cataraqui River on the south east side of the causeway near the Arches at RMC. On that morning of November 13th, 2003, his body was recovered on the north side of the causeway next to HMSC Cataraqui and sent to Kingston Hospital for autopsy. The CFNIS then returned to Ottawa.

In March of 2004, at the request of the family, the OPP were called in by the Coroner’s Office to assist with the investigation into Joe’s death with the hopes of being able to answer the five questions required in any death investigation – “Who”, “When”, “Where”, “Cause” of death, and “Manner” of death (Manner can be accident, suicide, homicide or undetermined).

The first autopsy report dated July 2004 was unable to identify a cause of death. In November of 2004 the Coroner’s Office decided to exhume Joe’s body in order to conduct a more thorough forensic autopsy, as unfortunately the original autopsy was not treated as suspicious. This second autopsy performed a year later, unfortunately was unable to provide any specific cause of death and was listed as “ Unascertained”.

The death investigation continued for months with no answers being found as to what happened to Joe. The Coroner’s office decided that they would conduct a Coroner’s Inquest into Joe’s death. In October 2006 the Coroner’s Inquest started, but only lasted for 5 days, before being halted by the presiding Coroner. A second inquest was finally scheduled for March 2007 and concluded in April 2007 with no specific answers based on the evidence provided through witnesses and the investigation results provided. Based on the information presented the jury were left with indicating the cause of death as “Unascertained- non-natural causes” and the manner of death as “Undetermined”. Following the inquest the death investigation was closed by the Coroner’s Office and the OPP.

In January 2008 a Military Board of Inquiry (BOI) was started to “investigate the cause and the contributing factors related to the disappearance and death of Joe Grozelle, as well as to identify any applicable preventative measures to mitigate the possibility of such an event occurring in the future”. The report was completed and submitted to the chain of command for approval in October 2009. In November 2010, the Grozelle family finally received a redacted copy of the final report, through an application to Access to Information. The BOI was not able to shed any light on what happened to Joe and could not even determine whether he was “on duty or not”.

As a result of all this investigation work by numerous agencies, the Grozelle family still has no answers to four of the five questions that are required to be answered whenever there is a death – When, Where, Cause and Manner of death.

It’s been 15 years since the family buried Joe and they are still looking for answers to these questions. How could such an investigation yield so little in results about what happened to Joe as a Cadet at RMC? One can’t help but think someone must know something?

Every year, for the past 15 years, the family has returned to the recovery site to put up a small memorial in honour and memory of Joe. They hope that someone, someday, will come forward with information, as it remains a sudden, suspicious disappearance and mysterious death from 15 years ago. “I’m going to keep searching for answers… looking for the truth”, says Ron Grozelle. RMC has also recognized Joe by installing a small plaque on a stand near the pavilion at the Arche to RMC.

The family continues to visit RMC annually to watch the obstacle course events and the badging ceremony of the new cadets, just like they did when Joe completed these events in his first year. “Those are wonderful memories we have of Joe in his time at RMC”, says his mother Minnie.  She likes to do her walk around the campus on these visits to RMC in memory of Joe. You can spot her with a picture of Joe on her t-shirt.

On this 15th anniversary, the family is thankful for all those who have helped and continue to help them in their quest for answers to solve Joe’s Case.  There is hope that the answers may one day bring closure to not only the family but also friends and fellow cadets, who were also deeply impacted by the loss of Joe.

Again, if anyone has any information regarding Joe Grozelle’s case, we encourage them to please contact their local authorities. Truth. Duty. Valour.

For more of Joe Grozelle’s story, please see the past e-Veritas articles at the links below.

23160 Joe Grozelle Not Forgotten

Remembering 23160 (III) OCdt Joe Grozelle – 10 Years Later

Joe Grozelle – 7 Years Later Still No Answers

Fifth Estate show probes death of Joe Grozelle

5 Comments

  • Mike Kennedy #12570

    October 22, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    Having lost a child myself – albeit under very different circumstances – I think that more than many of my fellow Ex-Cadets I can empathize with the pain the Grozelle family have endured as a consequence of the untimely death of their son. From everything I can recall reading, Joe Grozelle was a very promising young man who had a brilliant future ahead of him as a future officer in the Canadian Forces. His passing was a real tragedy, and a great loss to both RMC and the Canadian Forces.
    What is even more tragic is the apparent complete and utter failure of the DND bureaucracy to provide the family with any conclusive answers about what really happened to their son. I would so so far as to argue that this situation is in fact more than tragic, it is criminal. I find it frankly astonishing that in this day and age, with all the resources that they have at their disposal, the powers that be within DND are apparently incapable of getting to the bottom of this situation, and bringing the true story to light.
    The Grozelle family deserve some answers, and so for that matter do the rest of the Canadian taxpayers. Let’s join forces in demanding that they get them. Although finding out the true story behind this tragic chain of events obviously won’t undo whatever happened back in 2003, it will at least answer the questions that have been tormenting the Grozelle family ever since, and hopefully help to bring some closure to this situation.
    My heart goes out to the the members of Joe Grozelle’s family. I hope that they can at least take some small consolation in the knowledge that their son was an outstanding cadet who exemplified the very best of what RMC stands for, and that he would have no doubt served Canada very well as a commissioned officer in the Canadian Forces.
    On the 15th anniversary of this tragic event, let’s extend our collective condolences to the Grozelle family. And let’s demand that the people who run DND do their job and get on this situation – and stay on it – until the full story of what really happened is brought to light.

  • L. R. Larsen

    October 22, 2018 at 7:05 pm

    Don’t heap all the blame on the “DND bureaucracy”. The NIS, OPP, RCMP, provincial coroner and a certified forensic pathologist were all involved and despite protracted and very thorough investigations could not come to any definitive answers.
    I know “CSI syndrome” has provided the expectation that every mystery can be solved.
    Sometimes, despite our best efforts, there are no definitive answers.

  • Mike Kennedy #12570

    October 22, 2018 at 8:50 pm

    I hope it will be understood that the intent of my comments was not to “heap all the blame” on the DND bureaucracy. In nearly 40 years of experience, I believe that one thing I have learned is that assigning blame – whether that involve assigning it to individuals or to entire organizations – accomplishes nothing.
    The point I was trying to make is, in a situation as serious as this one obviously is, there has to be some accountability for results. Perhaps I am missing something, but with the collective efforts of all the various organizations that have been involved in this investigation, I find it very difficult to understand why there has been so little success in bringing the true story to light. And when I read the chronology of what has gone on here, I am far from convinced that everyone’s “best efforts” have been put forth.
    If you do a bit of research, you will see that the Grozelle family expressed some serious concerns about the way the investigation and BOI were conducted.
    In any event, I do hope that somehow the real story of what happened in this case is eventually uncovered. This has no doubt been an extraordinarily difficult situation for the Grozelle family, and we owe it to them to do whatever we can to help bring some closure to it. If anyone does have information that can shed some light on what happened, I sincerely hope they will have the courage to come forward and reveal what they know.
    God bless Joe Grozelle and his family, and we can only pray that never again will there ever be another tragedy like this at RMC.

  • Mike Kennedy #12570

    October 22, 2018 at 9:49 pm

    It may be of some further interest to note that in today’s Toronto Star, it has been reported than an arrest has been made in a previously unsolved murder case from 25 years ago. See link below:

    https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2018/10/22/toronto-police-make-arrest-in-25-year-old-stabbing-death-of-barbara-brodkin.html

    So it may well still be possible to resolve the questions that remain unanswered in Joe Grozelle’s case – provided, of course, that the will is there to keep looking for those answers until they are found.

  • Jim Hessel

    October 23, 2018 at 9:13 am

    This is an incredible story and honestly the first time I have read the story about Joe. Very sad and very concerning, I understand how Joe’s Dad Ron and his Mom continue to search for answers, as a Dad myself I couldn’t comprehend the pain such a loss would cause. I hope someone can shed some light on this dark day and ease some of the pain these parents continue to experience. My condolences, late but sincere.