Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Key Evidence Does Not Hold Water

by Susan Murphy-Milano

It was the morning of February 18, 2007. Melody Schmitt was walking her dog as she did each morning before going about her daily routine. Her cell phone rang, it startled her. It was a new phone and she had yet to figure out how to turn down the distracting ringer. Melody answered the phone. Melody’s hands trembled as she disconnected the call. At the end of the residential driveway, Melody fell to her knees. All Mothers have a special place where their children always reside when all is well. When a mother loses a child, it is like a violent surgery from within, without anesthetic.

Twenty-one years earlier, almost to the day, Melody gave birth to a beautiful 7 pound boy whom she named Joshua. Joshua Whittier was
found dead at 6:30 A.M. on February 18, 2007, in Navarre Beach, Florida. His body was lying face down in the sand at the water’s edge near Juana’s Pagoda Bar. His chin, knees and wrists were scraped as if he had been dragged there. A pack of (dry) cigarettes and a bottle of Corona beer were close by. His wallet, that earlier had contained $900 from a newly cashed paycheck stub, was found up the beach.

The Santa Rosa County Sheriff ‘s Office refused to investigate further. The case was shut when the ruling in the summary cases notes was officially entered; death by accidental drowning. They speculate that Josh, who had been drinking heavily, walked out to the end of the pier and fell into the water. If Josh had fallen off the pier, the tides and fierce winds would have swept his body in the opposite direction from where it was found. The cigarettes and the beer bottle would not have been next to him, and there would not have been wounds on those particular areas of his body. The autopsy report makes no mention of water in his lungs, they were clear.

Two witnesses who were physically present there when police
found Josh’s body have stated that Josh wasn’t even in the water. Investigators refused to interview the witnesses. They say his clothes were not wet, just damp from the sea wind, and there was a drag mark in the sand, that indicated he may have been dragged to the place where he was found. Joshua was dragged by his feet, his shirt and jacket had ridden up over his head. The cell phone in his jacket pocket was working perfectly, still receiving calls close to the time of death.

Two weeks prior Joshua signed with Ford Models of Miami and spent three weeks there putting together his modeling portfolio. He then got a job in Gulfport, Mississippi doing construction work. He came home to Navarre on weekends, and this particular weekend was a special one, as he’d just turned twenty-one. Joshua decided to spend Mardi Gras weekend partying with friends.

Josh and his companions started their drinking spree at 12:30 P.M. on February 17 and continued on into the early hours of the next morning.

At 3:30 A.M., a woman and her husband, who were delivering newspapers to Juana’s Pagoda, were startled when two men suddenly stepped out from under the Tiki style roof. The couple became nervous and got into their car and drove off. When David Craig of “Reality News” showed this woman pictures of
Josh’s companions that evening, she identified one of the men she had seen on the beach. She had not seen the second man well enough to recognize him.

Melody contacted the medical exaiminer
Dr. Andrea Minyard, informing her she suspected foul play. Minyard suspected that Josh had been held down and suffocated, she had taken nasal swabs, which she’d sent to a lab to determine if Josh’s nose was filled with sand.

In the report she filed three months later, Dr. Minyard called the manner of death “accidental drowning.” She also had the toxicologist at the University of West Florida
destroy the nasal swabs, because, according to her, they weren’t labeled properly. And she was standing by her decision, period.

Sheriff’s Department released Josh’s belongings to the family prematurely. Those items included his clothes and cell phone. On the front of Josh’s pants there is a blood stain. There’s no mention of that stain in police reports or in the ME’s report. There were no wounds on Josh’s body to coincide with that blood stain. And the bloody stained ball cap and sweater he was wearing have vanished.

In May of 2008, public pressure forced law enforcement to re-open the case.

But, no one has yet to interview the handful of key witnesses for which sworn notorized statements have been taken. The medical exaiminer's office has not reversed the ruling from "accidential drowning" to murder, even though Joshua's lungs contained no water. Ask where the information from the cell phone records or testing of the blood on the sweater, cap and pants are?

There have been promises, but to date, no one has returned calls to Joshua Whittier's mother.


Diane Fanning said...

The blatant injustice here is stunning. Please update us if and when there are any new developments.

katfish said...

This is all very disturbing and must be excruciating for this young man's family and friends. Hopefully, holding this case up to the light will force LE to further investigate, whatever the outcome.

Anonymous said...

Dear Susan,

Great post! Please tell Josh's mother, Melody, we are all praying for her!

Please continue to keep us posted.

Let us know if there's anything we can do to help.

Anonymous said...

FleaStiff said...

Sounds like a commonly encountered situation: resort areas have a desire to have low crime statistics particularly if some case is going to be difficult to solve or headline-making.

Local cops often know of the policy and therefore crimes are diminished and police reports will always contain some element that weakens the case. A rape complaint will emphasize the victim's alcohol intake and scantily clad state of dress. And if at all possible it will be downgraded to assault.

A murder case will be a suicide or an accident. Its easier all around. The cops don't have to do much work and the area's reputation remains intact.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your prayers and support to the people helping that I do not even know, and to the people I do know. I wish someone would get up the courage to come forward with the truth instead of being such cowards, what will you do when and IF you see Josh again????? Who is going to stand up for Josh, he would of stood up for you......There are so many lies, I don't understand how people can sleep at night, We know the truth and God is exposing it, don't you want to be on the winning side? From Josh's MOM, We miss you Josh.

Kathryn Casey said...

Incredible case, Susan. Leaves one wondering what if any evidence they relied on and how they could have ignored everything else. So sorry for Josh's mom.

Sara Huizenga Lubbers said...

My heart breaks for Josh's Mother!

Thank You for standing up for Justice for this family, we cannot stand idly by and allow this blatant evil to continue!

Anonymous said...

My word! I am outraged! Praying for Justice for the Family of Josh!

Delilah said...

I agree with what Flea said above about resort towns. I also live in one, and rarely do you hear "bad news" during tourist season, things are glossed over greatly.

This case makes me question our justice system and those who are sworn to protect the very citizens who pay them. To alter evidence to fit the story they want told should be a huge crime and yet it happens every day.

I feel sadly for all of the families that have to deal with this kind of blatant coverup of the facts. I hope we hear a positive update soon.


Anonymous said...

Donald Ross said...

Please let us know if you have postcards or petitions or letters to the editor, we will sign. }Our prayers are with you.

Anonymous said...

Bless You Susan and Women in Crime Ink for helping DEMAND JUSTICE for Josh and his Family!

Anonymous said...

HOW?!!! How could this be going on?! Shame on all those who have let down Josh and his Family by preventing, ignoring and not doing more for the truth to be revealed!!!!

Anonymous said...

What steps should be taking to put more pressure on LE?

Anonymous said...

This makes me sick! Where are those "friends" now?!!

mammabear said...


Sara Huizenga Lubbers said...

Additional Comments on this Article left at

Comment by Cherry Simpson 7 hours ago
Delete Comment This is an incredible story. Thank you for covering it. Let's all keep Melody in our prayers.

Can we do anything else to help? Write? Isn't she going to be on Dana's show this fri?

Josh Video's

Comment by Angie 7 hours ago
Delete Comment I can't believe how quick the law officials and the coroner were so quick to dismiss murder..This poor mother and family.

Comment by Cherry Simpson 7 hours ago
Delete CommentLot's of Josh Info

Comment by KarenO 6 hours ago
Delete Comment Hi Melody!
I am the person who connected you with Justice Interrupted for Denny Griffin--but he did most of the work. You deserve better than what you got from your local law-enforcement. Partying and being deeply involved in the drug trade are two different matters, in my book. We all wish our kids would not take recreational drugs but it's not up to the police to judge who is worthy of justice! Thanks for being on the show and I look forward to hearing you on Dana's show!
Hang tough,

Comment by Reza Jou 6 hours ago
Delete Comment Dear Melody,
I am so sorry for your lost; this is a dreadful experience for a parent, especially with mystery and suspense. It goes beyond a parent'S worst nightmare. Our system of justice that seems so often to favor the criminal's rights over the victim's makes me very sad.
I, very well, can relate to your situation, I have my daughter, Donna Jou (WWW.DONNAJOU.COM), 19 years old, a pre-med, honor student at San Diego State University is missing since June 23, 2007, the prime suspect, a three times convicted sex offender is hiding behind the 5th amendment, maintaining his silence. I am outraged, and keep fighting as long as it takes to find my child. If it takes my entire life, so be it. I hold on till I take my last breath.
Reza Jou, PE (missing Donna Jou’ dad)
International Space Station - Space Exploration
System Integration Manager,
International Integration Lead

Comment by Jim Harnage 2 hours ago
Delete Comment Hi Melody;
Carolyn and i have you in oour prayers.
Silent Ministries

A Voice of Sanity said...

Once again I ask myself why everyone in the US is so full of rage against Aruba? There, we see no evidence of any sort, merely suspicions. Here we see plenty of evidence and a concerted effort to ignore it all rather than let it lead where it will.

Beth said...

Dear Melody, NEVER GIVE UP ~ ALWAYS KEEP HOPE IN YOUR HEART! My mom disappeared 24 years ago form her newly renovated "dream home" her husband of 14 years was the last person to see her alive -he STILL has "no comment"

however, I have hope and faith that we can solve this case-we know someone out there knows the truth! I,as her daughter, will never give up until i have the truth!

Angel hugz, Beth

Anonymous said...

Thanks you Karen O I am deeply indebted to you,thank you all of you that have taken the time to write something, Yes this has been an absolute nightmare, I have learned allot, this is an endurance race, True courage endures, God is taking care of business and making good come out of something bad,I can't imagine having a loved one disappear, my heart goes out to those who have such a thing happen, but remember, god is watching and in the end justice will be served. a reminder to those who don't realize it, 2 of the 10 commandments are THOU SHALT NOT KILL and THOUT SHALT NOT BARE FALSE WITNESS AGAINST THY NEIGHBOR...............thanks again for your support guys....

Regan said...

Melody contact the following organization they have what's called he Second Opinion Service Program. It provides answers to questions and concerns regarding a death and subsequent investigation(s). A board of medical, law enforcement and investigative experts provide an independent objective viewpoint based on existing evidence and/or records submitted for review. Members of the S.O.S. board evaluate materials, looking for evidence that needs to be followed up, findings that may have been misinterpreted, areas that need further investigation and inconsistencies or conflicting information.

The National Organization of Parents Of Murdered Children, Inc. (POMC)

National Office:
(888) 818-POMC (toll free)
(513) 721-5683 (phone)
(513) 345-4489 (fax) (e-mail)