Murder at Sea? The disappearance of George Smith

"48 Hours" investigates important new evidence in the 2005 disappearance of the newlywed, who vanished from his honeymoon cruise

Produced by Lourdes Aguiar and Pete Shaw

CBS News senior correspondent John Miller has worked in law enforcement and intelligence for 10 years and has been a reporter for 30 years. "48 Hours" asked Miller to take a new look at the unsolved case of George Smith, who went on his honeymoon cruise and was never seen again.

In the beginning, suspicion surrounded George's new widow. Later, the FBI sharpened its focus on four men -- the last known to see George alive -- but the case has gone nowhere. Now, a man hired by the Smith family is trying to change that.

A "48 Hours" investigation has uncovered questionable alibis, failed polygraphs and a provocative video made by some of these men just hours after George disappeared.


For almost eight years, Maureen and George Smith have lived a life of torment not knowing what happened to their 26-year-old son aboard that cruise ship.

"You know, sometimes you still think, 'Ah, he might still be out there,' cuz we don't have a body. We don't have a body," Maureen Smith told Miller. "It doesn't get any easier. And you know what? If we had our answers for George and know what happened, maybe. We don't know."

"What keeps you going on this?" Miller asked.

"Our love for our son," Maureen replied. "And we won't let it go. It's our son."

It wasn't supposed to be this way. George Smith IV had seemed destined to have it all.

"Tell me about George. What was he like?" Miller asked.

"Fine young man. Handsome," Maureen replied. "Hard working. He was just an all-around great kid."

"He was the funniest guy, you know?" George Smith III said with a laugh. "I would sit and have a couple of beers with him and he'd make me laugh for the whole night. And besides he was so good looking the girls just fell all over him. He was a just a lot of fun. He was a great guy [voice catches]."

George was about to take over his father's liquor store in Greenwich, Conn.

"George made the store. He was much more of a lively guy than I and loved to talk," George said of his son. "He had that gusto in him and he really wanted to take the store and build it."

"He affectionately referred to you as the old man," Miller noted.

"I really wasn't into computers as much as he was," he said. "But he always called me the old man because I wasn't into modern tools and techniques [laughs] like he was. So I was the old man."

"You were the dinosaur," Miller quipped.

"I was the dinosaur that he had to deal with," George said laughing.

George's future seemed even brighter when he met Jennifer Hagel, an aspiring schoolteacher.

"I was overwhelmed with her because she had this dynamic personality," Maureen explained. "She was very fun-loving like him. Very attractive. ... And he was really happy with her."

After a three-year courtship, George and Jennifer were married in a ceremony overlooking the sea.

"It was a really lavish affair in Newport, Rhode Island," George's older sister, Bree Smith said. "It was a storybook wedding. It was absolutely beautiful."

Bree remembers the day very well and how excited they were to go on their honeymoon.

"They were so excited to be starting their life together," she said.

"And they couldn't wait to start their cruise."

"I can remember shaking his hand in the street and saying goodbye to him," said George's father.

"Who would have thought that less than two weeks later, George would be missing," said Bree.

In late June 2005, Royal Caribbean's "Brilliance of the Seas" set sail from Barcelona. Aboard with the Smiths were fellow honeymooners Paul and Galina Kvitnisky.

"We sat down next to one another and ... since the first day, we became acquainted," said Paul Kvitnisky.

The couples hit it off immediately.

"They were really great ... they were just normal down to earth, happy people," said Galina Kvitnisky.

"I would say we spent a lot of time together ..." said Paul.

"They loved the sites. I remember they were talking a lot of pictures. Like, everywhere they went they were, like, always with the camera," Galina recalled.

And back on the ship, they socialized into the early morning hours.

"I think he enjoyed himself a lot, you know -- having a drink or two," said Paul.

"He didn't have a good tolerance for alcohol. He would have like four beers ... and you could see that he was pretty much drunk," Galina added.

Around midnight on July 5, 2005, the two couples headed for the casino. It would be the last night of George's life.

Jennifer, who can be seen on casino security cameras, spent much of her time at the blackjack table. George, also captured on tape, headed for his usual spot at the craps table.

"And he was just having fun at the table. You could see that right away," said Paul.

George was soon joined at the table by another shipboard acquaintance -- California college student Josh Askin. "48 Hours" spoke to Askin in 2006.

"Hung out with them a little bit, nothing too in depth. ... Jennifer played a little blackjack. I played a little craps with George," Askin said. "There were a lot of other people around as well, who'd been on the cruise so far."

Also making the rounds that night were a group of Russian-American students -- cousins Zachary and Greg Rozenberg, and a friend, Rusty Kofman. Askin had met them on the cruise as well.

"Everyone who was 18 pretty much congregated in the casino," Askin explained. "Everyone was in high spirits."

And George and Jennifer were high rolling. At one point, George, who can be seen at the casino with Askin, went back to his own cabin to fetch extra cash for Jennifer.

"I think George looked prosperous," Bree commented. "Additionally, he had a really nice watch ... which was a Breitling watch, was worth a bit of money."

And Bree wonders if someone on the ship was getting the wrong idea about her brother.

"People may have made assumptions that George was a millionaire, even though he wasn't," she said.

The one thing that was clear to Paul Kvitnisky that night, was that by the time the casino closed, both Jennifer and George were already drunk.

"And I just remember telling him, 'It's time to call it a night,'" he said.

Paul wishes his new friend had listened. Two hours later, George Smith would be gone.

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