May 24, 2002

05/24/02: Scott Javins, 20, Terre Haute, IN

On May 24, 2002, Scott Javins, 20, a student at Indiana State University told his mother he was heading home from a party at a friend’s house. He left the house by 2:30 a.m., and although he lived only 15 minutes away, he never made it home. His car, a brand new Honda Civic Si hatchback, had also disappeared. It wasn’t until five years later that a tip led police to the discovery of the car and Scott’s remains in the Wabash River.

Scott's Story
Police say Scott was last seen at a keg party at a friend's house located near 22nd Street and First Avenue in his hometown of Terre Haute, Indiana in the early morning hours of Friday, May 24th 2002. Phone records show that Javins received a cellular phone call from his mother at 1:57 a.m. His mother states that Scott told her he was heading home. Witnesses say he finished that conversation with his mother and spoke with some other people at the party just before leaving--at about 2:30 a.m. Witnesses describe that he was intoxicated and had refused several offers for a ride home. Scott's home on the North side of Terre Haute was a 15 minute drive from his friend's house, but he never made it home. After nearly an hour of waiting, his mother tried calling him on his cell phone but she received was his voice mail. Cell phone records show this was at 2:37 a.m.

Scott was scheduled to work Friday at the rental department at Paitson Brothers True Value Hardware. Scott was scheduled to work the three days over the Memorial Day weekend but didn't show up for his shift. "He also missed picking up his paycheck Friday", said Ron O'Day, Javin's employer. "This was not normal - not even close." O'Day added.

After Javin's disappearance, there was no activity on his credit card or bank account and records show no phone calls placed from his cell phone. Scott's mother believes he only had between $50 and $60 when he left for the party.

The Search for Scott
Friends and family circulate fliers all over the Wabash Valley. As many as 4,500 fliers were posted in the first few days that Scott was missing.

On the Tuesday after Scott vanished, two sheriff's detectives combined forces with local Civil Air Patrol to search from the skies in the hopes of spotting Javin's auto. First, state police followed the normal route Scott would have taken home. When nothing was found along that route, police then flew around the entire county and parts of western Clay County looking for the 2002 Honda in isolated areas, farmers lanes, and bridge overpasses. Other searches used people on foot, cars, boats, ATVs and helicopters but still no sign of Scott or his missing car.

Two tips placed Scott on the campus of Indiana State University on the Friday afternoon he was reported missing. Scott was a student at I.S.U. Bill Mercier, I.S.U. director of campus safety, confirmed that his department had received reports that Scott Javins may have been seen on campus. Campus police reviewed surveillance videos to see if his car could be observed parked on campus or whether Scott could be seen walking around the university's grounds. No information was found. A also tip came from a Clay County gas-station clerk who'd thought she had seen him after looking at a flier. The clerk was not 100 percent certain and video tape provided from the station was such poor quality that it was unclear whether Javins may have been a customer.
Scott's father had heard that Scott had been interested in going to a concert held in southern Illinois. Scott's father, Merv Javins and four of Scott's friends went to the concert and searched for 3 1/2 hours looking for either the car or Scott. They even asked for the owner of his car to be paged over the loudspeaker. Again, there was no sign of Scott or his car.

The Terre Haute community supported the Javins family in the search for an answer. Posters and billboards were donated, local restaurants donated food and drinks for fundraising efforts and fliers were even passed out in carry out bags. Many people came together to hosts car washes, golf scrambles, bowling, motorcycle rallies, tanning sessions, hair cuts, raffles, chili suppers, spaghetti suppers, chicken and noodle dinner and other events. The goal of the community was to raise money for a reward fund and to help keep Scott in the public eye.

As time passed, police no longer suspected the possibility of an accident and proceeded with the idea of foul play. Many felt that Scott's new car might have been the motive. Several air, water, and ground searches have been conducted by both law enforcement officials and Scott's family and friends. Even though police have had over 100 tips about the case, none have provided a single clue to what happened to Scott that night. Other searches have included a large wooded area north of I.S.U.'s Memorial Stadium by over one hundred volunteers including off duty Terre Haute police officers.

False Leads
At one point, a reward of $100,000 was offered for information leading to Javins’ recovery, and officials believe that inspired many of the allegations ranging from burial under various garages throughout Indiana and Illinois to his body being dumped into the river. There have been incidents of false accounts and false witnesses claiming to have information in the case. Arrests were made based upon one false witness but polygraph tests and later a confession proved that the witness had lied about the incident. The man who lied was sentenced to five years in prison because of his false testimony as well as other non related charges.

Another person made claims that he had actually witnessed the fatal shooting of Scott Javins but later he admitted he made up the information in the hopes of impressing his friends. Several tips were given that Terre Haute's Kassis Lake, located near the intersection of Haythorne and Fruitridge Ave, might be an area of concern in the case. While divers searched the waters, 40 to 50 volunteers combed the thick brush around the area for any possible clues. A car was indeed found in the lake, but it was not Scott's car. The auto that had been found was not reported missing in Vigo County and had no plates. The divers searched three other lakes but nothing of interest was found.

Tip Leads to Scott’s car
After waiting 5 years for some sign or word about Scott his family and friends finally have some sort of closure. After receiving a tip, State police divers were led to a particular location in the Wabash River where they began searching early Friday, October 12, 2007. Upon further investigation, a submerged car was found in the river, about a mile away from the area where Scott was last seen on May 24, 2002. Police used the VIN number of the car to confirm that it was Scott's car. Inside the car, police found a skull and mandible bone which they were able to compare with Scott’s dental records to make a positive identification.

According to Vigo County Coroner, Dr. Roland Kohr, the passenger door of Scott's car was locked but the driver’s side was not. The only window open was the driver’s side, 6½ inches down. Javins’ cell phone was plugged in. The ignition was turned off. His CDs and some personal items were in the car, and there were no signs of damage, vandalism or other violence shown on the vehicle. Also reported to be intact were his credit cards and the cash still inside his wallet.

The tip that resulted in police finding Javins’ car was actually only half right, Kohr noted, as the individual claimed the body was buried under a garage. That individual, he added, also has offered other erroneous tips in past years.

The point in the river where Javins’ car was eventually found normally runs 20 feet deep, Kohr said. The day it was pulled out it was only around 7 feet, and Kohr said it could just be “dumb luck” that the tip proved right and investigators found him there.

The Investigation
Although Scott’s death was initial suspected to be a homicide, after a forensic investigation, police ruled out foul play or suicide. Javins’ skeleton showed no signs of gunshot, strangulation, violence or other struggle. The skeleton was lying in the car with the legs into the passenger’s side and the upper torso in the driver’s side. According to Kohr, there was "nothing in his history, socially or otherwise, to lead us to think he was depressed, he said, noting that by all accounts of witnesses and his mother’s phone conversation, Javins had been heading home to bed and off to work in the morning."

The Vigo County sheriff announced in December 2007 that his death was the result of an accident drowning. Officials have concluded that Scott drove to Fairbanks Park where he stopped on a boat ramp, turned off his car and parked it in fifth gear for undetermined reasons. The boat ramp's decline caused his car to slide into the Wabash River where he drowned.

Vigo County Coroner, Dr. Roland Kohr, said the watch found on Javins’ wrist was stopped at 2:33 a.m., and investigators conclude that this was around the time of submersion into the Wabash River. Kohr showed video of a live simulation in which a Honda similar to Javins’ was parked in fifth gear at the ramp of Fairbanks Park. The car slid straight into the water, and Kohr said not he, nor any of the Honda mechanics interviewed had previously thought that it would do that while still in that gear.The vehicle was new to Javins and Kohr said it’s unlikely he would have known it could roll through fifth gear, either.

Kohr showed that the time needed to drive from the party to the ramp, turn off the ignition and park, roll down the ramp, float the 380 feet down-river where the car was found, and sink, would take between 36 and 40 minutes. And that was about the space of time between Javins’ first and second phone calls from his mother, Kohr said.

“Right now, unless the coroner gives us any new information, we will consider this case closed,” announced Vigo County Sheriff Jon Marvel.

In January 2008, Vigo County Coroner, Dr. Roland Kohr said toxicology tests on Javins came back negative. It is possible, he said, that Javins had been in the water too long, which tainted the sample.

Lingering Questions
Whether an intoxicated individual, conscious or not, would have been able to escape from the sliding vehicle, in the dark mist, prior to drowning also is unknown, said Kohr.

While Scott’s family has found some peace in the possibility that his death could have been an accident, they “can’t see Scott going to that park and sitting there on the ramp and going into the water….it’s given us some relief that it could’ve possibly happened this way, but yet it’s just so out of character and that’s the mystery behind it. To me, the case is not closed, we’re not done. We don’t know—5 minutes from now someone could call and say, ‘hey, this is what really happened.’”

If you have information about this case, contact:
Indiana State Police: 1-800-742-0717
Terre Haute Police Department: 1-812-238-1661
Vigo County Sheriff's Department: 1-812-462-3226


Facts of Interest in This Case:
Name/age: Scott Javins, 20
Date of Birth: 11/19/81
College Attended: Indiana State University
Hometown: Terre Haute, IN
Physical Description: 5'8," 150 lbs, Brown hair, Brown Eyes, Caucasian, no scars or tattoos
Last Seen: 05/24/2002, 22nd Street and First Avenue, Terre Haute, Indiana. He was last seen in his new silver, two-door hatchback. 2002 Honda Civic Si. The car had a paper license plate with the number F269684.
Date recovered: 10/12/2007, Wabash River
On the night of Scott's disappearance, the Wabash River registered between 16 and 14½ feet that night, with a swift current. The night, although warm with a high of 80 degrees and low of 61, was slightly overcast with a light mist.

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