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Minnesota Unsolved: The star student who vanished from campus one night

Josh Guimond disappeared from St. John’s University 20 years ago. New information is now available and Stearns County investigators are asking for tips.

COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. — Answering questions for a podcast 20 years after his son's disappearance, Brian Guimond can't help but share his frustration.

When asked what he thinks needs to happen for there to be hope that the case gets solved, Brian answered, “Well, for that to happen, Stearns County has to do something. No, I'm not expecting anything from them.”

It's been 20 years without answers since St. John's University junior Josh Guimond left a poker party and simply vanished.

“It's unbelievable,” Brian said.

Josh was the valedictorian of the Maple Lake Class of 2000, and no one doubted he was on his way to a future as a lawyer and politician. 

“That's what he wanted to do, and he knew it wouldn't be easy,” Brian said. “But that's what he wanted, and he would have accomplished it.”

On Nov. 9, 2002, just before midnight, Josh left a poker party at the Metten Court student housing and never made it back to his dorm at St. Maur house.

In between those two buildings is a small lake and a bridge that investigators presumed Josh would have to cross to get home.

Stearns County Sheriff's investigators' best guess at the time was that Josh, who was drinking that night, fell into Stumpf Lake.

The theory persisted in the public realm for years, partly because there were two other high-profile disappearances of college-aged men around the same time -- Chris Jenkins at the U of M and Michael Noll at UW-Eau Claire. Jenkins and Noll were later found in bodies of water, and those casually following the Guimond case might have assumed that case resolved the same way.

WATCH: This 2002 report shows how the public associated three missing person cases together at the time.

But there never has been any evidence that Guimond fell into the water.

When asked whether the water theory has since been ruled out, Stearns County Sheriff Steve Soyka said, “That theory, I think, can be put to rest.”

It's been ruled out -- but Josh's dad believes detectives lost valuable time that should have been spent investigating other theories. 

Brian himself had to request -- twice -- to bring in the elite Trident Dive Team to definitively clear the bodies of water months after the disappearance.

“Hour one, the sheriff at the time said, ‘He's in the lake, end of story.’ I said, ‘What if you're wrong? You better start doing something else.’ Nope,” Brian said.

Now, a podcast called "Simply Vanished" -- by Twin Cities attorney Josh Newville -- has brought much more information to light, including documented reports of suspicious men and cars on campus targeting students.

“And I'm talking about the same weeks as his disappearance, that there were older men that tried to lure them into vehicles,” Newville said.

And in a new episode of Unsolved Mysteries on Netflix, Stearns County investigators shared their new theories for the first time in 20 years -- including the possibility Josh got into a car with someone on that bridge.

“I guess a person would be safe to assume that a college-aged male is going to struggle if somebody is trying to get them into a car against their will, so it obviously opens up a theory that he knew someone and was voluntarily going with them. But everything's on the table for us,” Sheriff Soyka said.

Sheriff Soyka, who once was the lead investigator for Josh's case, said there was no physical evidence on the Stumpf Lake bridge that there was a struggle. 

Investigators now acknowledge a search of Josh's computer shows he may have been exploring his sexuality, and was chatting on Yahoo Personals, sometimes posing as a woman.

“That's definitely one of the theories, that maybe he was experimenting or exploring, and maybe that's why it was easy to get him in the car because it was a voluntary meet or something? We're not sure,” Sheriff Soyka said.

The Unsolved Mysteries episode also touched on what some refer to as the elephant in the room -- the fact this disappearance happened on the campus of St. John's University at the same time the depth of student sex abuse at the hands of monks was coming to light. 

“We know Josh was upset about things happening with the monk abuse scandal,” Newville said.

Newville's podcast has shed light on internet searches Josh made about the abuse scandal and connections he may have had with men now accused of abuse.

But Sheriff Soyka says their investigation is not currently pointed in that direction.

“We're not finding any kind of credible information that would lead us to tie those things together,” Sheriff Soyka said.

The Sheriff's Office just released a number of photos of men found on Josh's computer related to his internet searches -- asking the public's help identifying the people.

“Literally came down to, 'We don't have anything to lose at this point,’” Sheriff Soyka said.

But Josh's dad is frustrated because he knows investigators have had those photos for a long time. Brian is holding onto hope that his son is still alive. 

“‘Til I see the body, you know, that's the way it is,” Brian said.

But even if Josh is dead, people like Newville are trying to keep his case in the public eye in hopes that the right person with the right tip will eventually come forward.

When asked whether what he learned through the podcast makes him more hopeful or more discouraged that the case will be solved, Newville said, "Right now, I'm extremely hopeful. Because there are so many eyes on this case right now. I'm scared that the moment this attention dies, that's where it's going to go again.”

“Somebody knows. There's no question in my mind. There's more than somebody. There's more than one know exactly what happened,” Brian said.

Anyone with information on Josh’s disappearance or other suspicious activity from that period that may be relevant to the case, they are asked to send tips to Stearns County investigators by phone 320-251-4240, by email sheriff@co.stearns.mn.us, or anonymously through TriCounty Crime Stoppers.

WATCH: KARE 11's 2003 report from the one-year anniversary of Josh's disappearance.

WATCH: KARE 11's 2006 report from the five-year anniversary of Josh's disappearance.

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