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New developments in Tyler Smith's death investigation released by family

(KWQC)
Published: Oct. 4, 2019 at 6:49 PM CDT
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It's been just over a year since Tyler Smith, 23, of Rochelle, Illinois was found dead in Cedar Fork Creek in Galesburg. Smith’s death was ruled an accidental drowning by the Knox County Coroner and Galesburg Police Department. However, his family believes otherwise.

Friday, his parents Sandra Halsne and Keith Smith, along with the Missing Persons Awareness Network, held a press conference. There, a retired officer who's independently investigating the case gave his findings.

Retired Officer Mitch Drake has homicide investigation experience in Cook County, Illinois. He says the Galesburg Police Department did not follow common police protocol to thoroughly investigate Tyler's death, “No crime scene technician was contacted or responded to the scene.”

According to police and the autopsy report, which TV6 has not yet seen, Tyler's body was found in around two to three inches of water. His feet were close to the canal's wall and he was face down. The way his body is positioned is one of the findings Drake said is suspicious. He also says, “There was no examination of his hands for foreign DNA or scrapings taken from underneath the nails and no instruction was given the pathologist to conduct those scrapings.”

Tyler's parents were visibly emotional hearing his findings. It was also their first time hearing what Drake found.

“There are wounds on both sides of the victim's face and head and marks around the wrist, back of his hand, and back that are not adequately explained,” said Drake at the conference.

“Tyler smith likely suffered a battery by persons not yet known that directly led to his death. He was likely unconscious prior to his final placement in Cedar Fork Creek.”

Tyler's parents hope the Illinois State Police will conduct a new investigation. Retired Officer Drake suggests a second autopsy needs to be done.

“The thought of having him exhumed is heartbreaking, but I know the truth lies with Tyler and we need to find out the truth, whatever it shall be,” cried his mother.

TV6 reached out to the Galesburg Police Department for their response to Friday’s press conference.

Chief Russ Idle released the following statement,

"We are not pursuing any active leads at this time. If any new information becomes available, we will pursue it. All evidence indicates an accidental death. Other agencies involved have been the Illinois State Police, The Illinois State Pathologist, The Knox County coroner's office, and the Knox County State's Attorney's office. We have no information to provide in this case that has not already been provided."

Captain Rodney Riggs also sent the following statement,

"The Galesburg Police Department stands by its findings in this case. We still continue to have contact with the family, and provide them with any information they ask for, and would always be receptive to any witnesses who would come forward and provide information. Other agencies involved in the investigation included Knox Co States Attorney, the Knox Co. Coroners Office and a state forensic pathologist. To answer the final question, we did not find any indications that foul play was involved in this case."

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