Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jay Polhill - Earthly Body Locted - March 2010

Jay, 20, was last seen on  February 27, 2010 His body was found in the Calumet River at 126th and Stony Island. Initially, police ruled his death “undetermined”. Jay’s parents hired experts to take another look at the case and they determined that skull fractures suggested Jay was the victim of an assault. Based on information from the outside experts, Jay’s cause of death was officially changed to ”drowning due to multiple injuries due to assault,” a homicide.
If you have information that could help investigators solve this mystery, call a toll-free tip line at 866.514.4459, text information to 312.985.5642 or send an email to

Jay Polhill's death is a mystery spanning 20 miles, 18 months

How Jay Polhill's body turned up far from his downtown Columbia College dorm baffles police as much as how he died

August 22, 2011|By Annie Sweeney, Tribune reporter

A year and a half ago, as the late-season snow and ice still clung to the bank and stretches of the wintry gray Calumet River, a body bobbed to the surface near 126th Street, startling a worker collecting a water sample.
Identifying him as Jay Polhill, 20, a happy-go-lucky photography major at Columbia College Chicago, proved to be a deceivingly easy start to the investigation.
How Polhill, who drowned and sustained head injuries, wound up in a remote, industrial area some 20 miles from his downtown university dorm has eluded Chicago police detectives in spite of an unusually lengthy and extensive investigation driven in part by a family who has refused to let the case slip away.
"I would go through a lifetime of pain if I just knew that (in) Jay's last moments he wasn't scared," Polhill's mother, Jane, said last week in an interview. "I would take it. Jay was a loved kid. He was a loved kid. And I just want him to have felt that love till his last breath."
Polhill was born and raised in Lena, about 130 miles northwest of Chicago but a world away from the artsy community of Columbia. Friends say he talked fondly of his days in the small town, where he bagged groceries and was close to his parents and older brother, Billy.
After graduating from the local high school, where he wrestled and ran track, he came to Columbia to study film and met other budding artists: dancers, fiction writers and musicians who recognized him as a lighthearted kid with a quick, sometimes surprising wit.
Polhill blossomed at Columbia, his family said. Lena, a picturesque and quaint community where cornfields nudge against cemeteries filled with family plots, just wasn't wide enough for him.
"He was very witty, had a great sense of humor," his mother said. "He had an open mind. He accepted everybody."
By his sophomore year, Polhill had turned his attention to photography and took pictures of everything, according to friends and family.
His framed photos hang on the wall of the Polhill home. In one shot a friend took of him, Polhill stands at the edge of a dune, his shirt off and his arms stretched wide as if to greet the world.
In the last image of Polhill on his dorm security camera two days before he was found dead, he was captured walking out of the building on South State Street that Sunday with a camera strapped around his neck and his laptop in a bag. Neither has been found. His wallet is also missing.
Though they cannot even be certain where Polhill went into the water, detectives believe it's possible that his love of photography had brought him to the Calumet River to take pictures of its weather-beaten bridges.
But detectives are plagued by a nagging question: How would Polhill, who didn't have a car, have gotten to the desolate spot?
He never told anyone about visiting the area. None of his friends who have cars said they gave him a ride there. His CTA card was last used on the Sunday at a subway station near his dorm, though he could have taken a Metra train and Pace bus and walked a short distance to get there.
"Where did he go?" said Polhill's friend Taylor Streiff, 21. "That's the thing that is bothering us. He got on the Red Line, but what on earth happened after that?"
The manner in which he died is also still in dispute.
According to the autopsy performed at the Cook County medical examiner's office, Polhill suffered serious head injuries before drowning. He had two identical wounds on his legs that appear consistent with being cut by a boat propeller after he died. In addition, Dr. Mitra Kalelkar found no signs of drugs or alcohol use — or of a sexual assault even though Polhill was clothed in only a T-shirt.
But Kalelkar did not rule on how Polhill died — homicide, suicide or accident — calling it undetermined.
Without a clear direction from Kalelkar, police had to consider all the possibilities.
Detectives have not found anyone who believed Polhill would hurt himself. Those closest to Polhill say he had a deep appreciation for life, having struggled through multiple childhood surgeries because of a tumor in his sinus cavity.
Police have considered the possibility that he fell from a bridge or lost his footing on the icy embankment while shooting photos, striking his head and drowning.
In the weeks after Polhill's body was pulled from the river, the Chicago marine unit searched the waters for clues and detectives checked the department database of pawn shop records to see if someone had sold his computer or cameras. They pored over his debit card records but found no activity. His phone — after a last text he sent to his mother a day before he was found — was no help. They asked the Illinois International Port District for video footage from area bridges but found none. They discovered that he had not activated the LoJack tracking device on his computer — yet another dead end.

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