Tyler Smith’s death looks like a homicide, parents say

GALESBURG, Ill. (NEWS3) — Tyler Smith’s body was found on the evening of Sept. 15, 2018, after a passerby noticed someone laying in Cedar Fork creek along Water Street in Galesburg.

Sandra Halsne and Keith Smith, Tyler’s parents, took NEWS3’s Devin Brooks to the location of where Tyler was found nearly one year after his death.

Halsne said the distance to where Tyler was located to where he could of walked down into the creek does not seem possible given a steep concrete incline down into the canal.

Halsne said Tyler would have walked no further if he got to the bottom of the incline due to it being dark, slippery, muddy, and Tyler not being sober.

Smith was laying face down in two inches of water when officials arrived on the scene. Officials said he may have been there for at least 19 hours.

Halsne said she believes Tyler was restrained and brought down into the canal due to the position of his body, his injuries, and marks on his wrists. Halsne said looks similar to handcuff markings.

The report from the pathologist’s office said the cause of death was drowning with an undetermined cause. The report also said there was no evidence of assault and Tyler’s injuries did not contribute to his death.

The coroner’s office said Smith’s injuries are consistent with a fall and Tyler’s Blood Alcohol Concentration was 0.246 percent, which is three times the legal limit.

Halsne said surveillance video showed Tyler taking money out of the ATM and using his debit card at the bar appeared to show Tyler in a good state. Halsne also said he walked fine in the video at Casey’s. She spoke with people who said they saw Tyler the night he was out who said they didn’t notice anything from him. Halsne said Tyler was also able to do simple math while paying his bill at the bars.

Smith’s parents feel foul play was involved to cause his death. Pictures taken by officials showed Tyler with his arms bent inward by his side, with bruises, scratches and marks on his body. Drag marks appeared to be on one of his shoes but the other shoe looked clean. Tyler’s watch was off his wrist laying next to him and a beer can laid next to the watch.

Halsne said according to the video, Tyler does not have a beer with him as he walked by Casey’s. She said only his phone was in a pocket once she looked at a water stain mark left on his pants.

The parents said they asked another business that had cameras along West Street that Tyler walked down if they saw him on video but they did not see Tyler on their cameras by then.

Smith’s family said they timed how long it would take Tyler to get from the Casey’s to the end of the street and it took four minutes. The family said that’s when Tyler’s health app showed he stopped moving at the fence. Tyler was spotted on Casey’s surveillance video at 11:48 p.m. and his app stopped working at 11:52 p.m.

Halsne said officials quickly came to a conclusion of what happened after Smith’s autopsy was done.

David Christensen, former Galesburg police chief, said the cause of death is not related to any foul play due to Tyler’s injuries not being consistent with homicidal wounds. Although, Christensen said he did not look at all of the pictures from the scene.

Russ Idle, the new Galesburg police chief, said the pathologist ruled Tyler’s death accidental so he agreed.

Chief Idle said a lot of information coming from social media is not true but he’s not accusing Smith’s family of any wrong information.

Tyler’s parents feel the Galesburg Police Department has not been close to providing justice since the start of the investigation.

NEWS3 reported on the timeline Smith’s family created from the times Tyler arrived in Galesburg to the time of him being found dead. That report can be found here.

WARNING: In the video below, viewer discretion is advised due to pictures that may be too graphic for some people to see.