GALESBURG — Sandy Halsne and Keith Smith are still searching for answers surrounding their son’s untimely death in Galesburg last September.
Earlier this week they announced a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in connection with the death of their son, Tyler Smith, who was found dead in Cedar Fork creek on Saturday, Sept. 15.
“Family and friends have pledged this reward money if we can get a suspect and a conviction as we believe there is more to the story than what the Galesburg Police Department has provided, which is really nothing besides he drowned,” Halsne said.
Halsne has long said she believes the Galesburg Police Department’s investigation was not taken seriously from the start. This led to a formal complaint charge against the department in December, which included possible discrimination.
In her complaint, Halsne said she didn’t believe enough had been done during the initial days and weeks and pointed out her family was treated poorly by the Galesburg Police Department. During her presentation to Galesburg’s Community Relations Commission in December, she recounted in less than 24 hours the investigation went from a possible homicide to a drowning case with no indication how her son got to the location where he was found.
Earlier this month, officials in Galesburg released their findings on the internal investigation, which found no evidence to support Halsne’s claim.
“The review of the discrimination complaint produced no direct or circumstantial evidence to support any allegations of discrimination,” Galesburg Police Chief David Christensen said in a phone interview, referring to a document prepared by the city attorney.
Christensen went on further to explain his department’s direction of the investigation began with the pathologist’s report of the autopsy.
“There was an autopsy performed on that Sunday and that autopsy indicated a drowning, that there was water in his lung and no indication of foul play,” he said. “We won’t continue to investigate a homicide as the report certainly factors into how we proceed. Not that we would drop the case, but there was a clear indication of the cause of death.”
Christensen did concede the department’s “communication was not up to standards.”
“We did apologize, it could have been better, the initial communications could have been better,” he said. “As a department, we insist on having good communications, maybe initially we weren’t as empathetic or considerate as we could have been. We would admit our communication wasn’t up to our standards.”
He also said the police department has reached out to the public for information on the case.
“This case is not closed and won’t be any time soon. I can’t tell you we have new leads,” he said. “We certainly have made a public appeal for anyone that might know any information, community members we rely on, and we have not heard anything. We certainly empathize with the family. We are always open if someone has any news or information that would be helpful and pursue whatever lead or info anyone might have. We are continuing to have communication with [Tyler’s parents]. Through Sandra or any other person, if you have new news, feel free to give us a call. We are not trying to be secretive or hide anything.”
In the quest for more answers and to keep friends, family and the community updated, Halsne established a Facebook page, “Justice For Tyler Smith.”. The page includes information on the reward offered and also is a place for people to share their memories of Smith.
Halsne said she will not give up in her search for answers.
“We want to thank all those who have pledged and shared Tyler’s story. We continue to fight for justice for Tyler. Please continue to pray for our family. We miss our son, brother, friend, uncle, nephew, grandson, cousin,” Halsne said. “We love you Ty and we will not give up on you … love you to the moon and back.”