After nearly two decades without definitive answers, a local family is hopeful a new investigation will shed some light on the circumstances surrounding their son’s death.
On October 22, 2003, Joe Grozelle of Muirkirk was with his girlfriend in his dorm room at the Royal Military College (RMC) in Kingston, Ontario, working on an assignment. His girlfriend fell asleep at around 1:30 a.m. and upon waking up at around 5:30 a.m., found that Joe had disappeared.
The 21-year-old officer cadet was reported missing the next day after he didn’t show up for classes or basketball practice. An extensive missing person investigation was conducted but Joe’s body was ultimately found floating in the Cataraqui River near the college on November 13.
Despite multiple police investigations, two autopsies, two coroner’s inquests and a Department of National Defense Board of Inquiry, Joe’s family still does not know where, when, or how he died.
“Typically when there’s a death you have to answer five questions — the who, where, when, why and manner of death. And the only thing we know is the who. So there’s a lot of information missing that we’d certainly like to get some closure on,” said Ron Grozelle, Joe’s father. “It’s been 20 years, [but] we’re still hopeful we can get some answers.”
Following a meeting with the Grozelle family in February of 2020, Ontario’s chief coroner instructed the Ontario Provincial Police to reexamine Joe’s case. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the investigation was met with delays but was ultimately assigned to OPP Detective Inspector Shawn Glassford in January of this year.
Glassford, who is based in Orillia, volunteered to take on the case and said the family deserves answers as to what really happened to Joe.
“It’s obviously a mystery as to the circumstances around this young man’s death,” said Glassford. “The family and the community, and the community of RMC… they need that information. They need to know what happened to him.”
The second coroner’s inquest held in 2007 stated that Joe’s cause of death was “unascertained, non-natural causes” and the manner of death remained “undetermined.”
The Board of Inquiry that took place between January 8, 2008 to October 9, 2009 stated there was no conclusive evidence of drowning and acknowledged the possibility that Joe’s body could have been inserted into the water after his death.
The inquiry also stated that injuries found on Joe’s body, including a chipped tooth, bruised lip, bruised forearm and abrasion on his nose, likely occurred prior to or at the time of his death.
“This young man was in the prime of his life and the circumstances of how he ended up in the river — that needs to be figured out,” said Glassford.
However, Joe’s case file includes every investigation, report, and inquiry over the last 19 years and is thousands of pages long, according to Glassford. The OPP investigator said he intends to review each and every page as part of his review, looking for inconsistencies and anything else that stands out.
Ron said he’s hopeful a fresh set of eyes will make a difference after all these years.
“At least that may give us an opportunity to find some pieces of evidence or perhaps some specific individuals that may need to be interviewed again,” he said. “We certainly feel that somebody knows what happened to Joe. In our view, somebody knows something and that just hasn’t been identified yet.”
For the last several months, Glassford has been meeting with the Grozelle family regularly to keep them apprised of the investigation.
While Glassford has told the Grozelle family he can’t make any promises as to the outcome of the investigation, he has been meeting with them regularly to keep them apprised of his progress and answer any questions they may have.
“They’ve been living this since Joe was first reported missing,” said Glassford. “I’ve told them that I don’t make a guarantee but it certainly deserves another look.”
Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to contact Detective Inspector Glassford at Shawn.Glassford@opp.ca.