Produced By Clare Friedland, Mary Noonan Robichaux, Marc Goldbaum and Liza Finley
George Smith and his bride, Jennifer Hagel Smith, were married last summer in a picture-perfect wedding and soon thereafter embarked on what was supposed to be a dreamy honeymoon cruise on the Mediterranean.
But after a night of heavy drinking, George disappeared, presumably having gone overboard in the darkness of the night. Was his disappearance a crime or just an unfortunate mishap? Hannah Storm reports on the investigation.
For George and Maureen Smith, life changed forever with a single phone call last July 5.
"6:30 in the morning the phone rang, and I heard this crying on the phone and it was Jennifer's father," recalls Maureen. "He was sobbing uncontrollably and he said, 'Something terrible has happened to George on the cruise ship. He's missing.'"
It was the last thing they would have expected to hear. After all, their son, George, age 26, was happily on his honeymoon cruise with the love of his life, Jennifer Hagel. And now they were being told he had vanished somewhere in the deep waters of the Aegean Sea.
Just 10 days earlier, life seemed so full of promise for the newlyweds. They were married in a picture-perfect wedding on a hilltop overlooking the bay in Newport, R.I.
Asked to describe his son, George Smith says he was very devoted and a family person. Speaking about his daughter-in-law, George says Jennifer was very outgoing, was very pretty and had a great personality.
Maureen says her son's dreams for the future included children. "And he would've been a great father, and he would've had a lot of fun with his children."
George's love of children was something he shared with Jennifer. She had just accepted a job as an elementary school teacher. And George was about to take over the family business, a successful liquor store in Greenwich, Conn.
Now, George's parents and his sister Bree found themselves overwhelmed with grief and frantic for answers, half a world away from that cruise ship. All that Royal Caribbean would tell them was that George was "missing."
Bree remembers asking the cruise line whether they had searched the ship, the Brilliance of the Seas. "And they said, 'Yes we searched the boat.' I said, 'Well continue to search the boat, my brother has to be there.' They knew otherwise. Because they knew about the blood on the overhang. But they never told us about the blood on the overhang," she says.
Bree was referring to a huge blood stain on a metal canopy some 20 feet below George and Jennifer's balcony. A photo of the stain was captured on the morning George disappeared by 16-year-old passenger Emilie Rausch.
"When I took the picture, one of the things that made me think that this could have been blood — I saw a handprint running off the side of it," Emilie recalls.