As of Sept. 29, it has been 291 days since Seton Hall student John Fernandez went missing on Dec. 13, 2015. However, to the police team searching for him and his friends here at SHU, it feels like an eternity.
Fernandez, who was a senior accounting major and commuter from Middletown N.J., went missing unexpectedly around the time of finals last year. According to Middletown Township Police Department, there was not much of a trace; a cell phone found, two letters left, and not much after that.
Search parties made up of family members, friends and police officers spent hours searching spots where they think Fernandez may have been. But almost a year later, Fernandez remains lost without a trace.
This doesn’t mean the search teams have given up hope.
“I wish I could sit here and say ‘Yeah, we found him’,” said Detective Paul Bailey, one of the detectives from the Middletown police department who is working on Fernandez’s case. “We try to keep things as fresh and warm as possible, but we can’t manufacture leads. We would love to provide the family some closure in some way, hopefully positive, but definitely some closure.”
Detective Bailey said the police are still in contact with the family and any time they get a lead they immediately follow up on it.
Detective First Class Kelly Godley, also from the Middletown police, is the lead investigator on the case.
False alarms happen frequently. On Sunday Sept. 25 a found person notice went out for a person found in Palisades. Detective Godley was about to go check it out when he received notice the person had been identified as a New York resident. Nothing concrete leading them to Fernandez has been found.
Fernandez’s family has not stopped looking either. Kelly Fernandez, John’s sister, posted on Facebook Sept. 25, “JP, I don’t know where you are or how you’re doing, but I hope you’re safe. We are still looking for you and we will never stop. We think about you everyday. Your voice…your dance moves…”
Fernandez’s SHU friends feel the same way. Esad Metjahic, a senior history major, was one of Fernandez’s friends on campus. They bonded over video games and commuting to campus. Esad described himself as a little shy, but he said when Fernandez first had a conversation with him it felt like they had known each other for years.
“It wasn’t like him to run away from anything. Even if he knew he wasn’t going to do well at something, he would still do it with full force,” Patior said.
Many Seton Hall students knew Fernandez by the nickname “heely kid.” Patior said Fernandez loved the nickname. He loved the idea that he was thought of as a school mascot. However, Patior added anyone who just knows Fernandez by his nickname is missing out.
“He was one of the best people I have ever known, by far. He is selfless and beyond friendly,” Patior said. “Being known even as the legacy of heely kid that is still being told to freshmen today, I think he would like that.”
Metjahic said that when Fernandez comes up in conversation at lunch with their friends the whole table goes silent for a moment. However, Metjahic is optimistic and believes that Fernandez will show up. “If” or when he does, he asks the SHU community to be welcoming.
“When he did go missing there were a lot of rumors going around, definitely not some of the nicest things to say,” Metjahic said. “If he does come back to the SHU community, knowing him, he is going to feel bad for making us do backflips looking for him. He didn’t want to do any of this to anybody. Be welcoming and forgiving.”
Siobhan McGirl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.