Jay Polhill, 20, a student at Columbia College in Chicago was last seen on Feb. 28 at his residence hall at the University Center at 525 South State Street in the South Loop area.
While police launched an investigation, Polhill's family had turned to the online community for help in finding the missing student. One friend on the site Reddit.com, described Polhill as a "a truly wonderful guy" loved dearly by his many friends, girlfriend and family. "He is an extremely talented photographer." Polhill, a photography major, was set to graduate in 2012.
Click here to read an essay about Jay, written by his friend and roommate, Ryan Buell.
On March 2, 2010, the body of Jay Polhill was recovered in the Calumet River near 126th Street and South Stony Island in South Chicago. The body was naked from the waist down. An autopsy the following day, ruled the cause of death as inconclusive, pending a police investigation. But friends believe Jay was murdered, pointing out that he did not have his camera, laptop, or wallet with him, and had no reason to be in that area.The final autopsy report later revealed that Jay had suffered "extensive skull fractures" on both sides of his head, along with a broken neck bone. Despite this, the manner of death was "undetermined."
Polhill's family hired a private investigator and also consulted with a pathologist in another state. The pathologist said the injuries did not support an accident or suicide theory, and "really shouts out as an assault."
In October 2010, the Polhills met with the Cook County pathologist in Chicago assigned to their son's case. After consulting with other pathologists in the medical examiner’s office, she amended her findings the following month. Jay Polhill's cause of death is now, "drowning due to multiple injuries due to assault.” Yet, police still have not ruled it a homicide. The case is still under investigation.
In a May 2011 article by CBS Chicago, reporter Pam Zekman raised the question that perhaps Jay Polhill's death was not ruled a homicide because of pressure to keep Chicago's homicide rate down. The city's homicide rate went down more than 5 percent last year--the lowest homicide rate in 45 years. Thomas Byrne, chief of detectives for the Chicago Police Department, has denied this. "There’s not a detective or a police officer out there that I know that would misrepresent a homicide as a death investigation” Byrne told Zekman. (Read the article at CBS Chicago.)
About Jay Polhill
Polhill's obituary, published in The Journal-Standard on Mar 05, 2010 reads:
"Lena, Ill. — Jay Richard Polhill, 20, of Lena died unexpectedly on Tuesday, March 2, 2010, in Chicago.Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jay Polhill's family and friends.
He was born June 9, 1989, to Richard “Rick” and Jane (Patterson) Polhill in Monroe, Wis. Jay was a graduate of Lena-Winslow High School with the class of 2008. He was in his junior year attending Columbia College in Chicago, majoring in photography.
Jay had taken a trip of a lifetime to South Korea to visit his friend K.J. in the summer of 2008. He was blessed with an insatiable sense of humor and boundless energy, and photography was his passion. He was adventurous, spontaneous and enjoyed hanging out and visiting with his friends.
Jay was a member of St. John Lutheran Church.
Before entering college he was employed by Sullivan’s Food and the Lingle Design Group.
He is survived by his parents; one brother, William “Billy” Polhill and special friend Rachel Carton of West Allis, Wis.; his maternal grandparents, William and Mary Patterson of Bettendorf, Iowa; paternal grandparents, Melvin and Judy Polhill of Lena; two uncles, Bruce (Cheryl Sievers) Patterson of Chenoa and Kirk (Lynn) Polhill of Lena; three cousins, Kyle, Kory and Kaitlyn Polhill of Lena; and Jay’s special friend, Tiana Saknoa.
Cremation rites were accorded and a memorial service will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, March 12, at St. John Lutheran Church in Lena. The Rev. Rick Bader will officiate the service.
Visitation will be from 2 to 6 p.m. Friday at the church.
In lieu of flowers, a Jay Polhill Memorial Scholarship Fund has been established.
Condolences may be sent to the family at www.leamonfh.com.
Copyright 2010 The Journal-Standard. Some rights reserved.
Facts of Interest
Name/age: Jay Polhill, 20
College: Columbia College
Last seen: 02/28/10, Chicago, IL
Recovered: Calumet River, Chicago, IL (South Chicago)
Investigating Agency: Please call (312) 746-6000 with any information.
[Footprints' note: To date, this is the second case that we know of to be reclassified as a homicide, thanks to the dilligent efforts of a loving family. This is also the first case that clearly shows that homicide by drowning does, in fact, exist.]
Originally published: 3/4/10. Updated: 04/20/10, 08/10/11.