George Allen Smith IV, Suspicious Passenger Overboard, Brilliance Of The Seas – July 5, 2005, Time of Death 4:30.
George Allen Smith IV, 26, from Greenwich, Connecticut, and his new wife Jennifer Hagel Smith an elementary school teacher were on their honeymoon cruise aboard Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines’ Brilliance Of The Seas when George went missing on July 5, 2005.
George went missing on day 8 of the cruise between Turkey and Greece.
George Allen Smith IV and his wife were in the casino. There, they met several other passengers and became friends. It was reported by several passengers George, and possibly Mrs. Smith were drinking Absinthe, which is not sold on the cruise ship. Walter Zalisko, a police officer who was a passenger onboard, says George Allen Smith IV was openly stating that he had $50,000 cash with him on the cruise, money, at least in part, he got for a wedding gift.
Several passengers reported that his wife appeared to be flirting with Lloyd Botha, an assistant manager at the casino who tagged along to the disco with the group, after the casino closed. They say she was so intoxicated she could barely stand up, and was hanging on one male in the casino, which may have been incorrectly assumed to be flirting.
At that point several passengers report hearing George call his wife a ‘hussy’. Then, they claim, she pushes him back, then swiftly kicks him in the groin. Passenger Margarita Chaves witnesses this act. George bends over in severe pain, and she wanders out of the casino, “with an attitude” according to one passenger, not be seen again until after George is presumed to gone overboard. The casino assistant manger, quickly follows Jennifer out to the disco.
However, Lloyd’s attorney, Andrew Rier says that is not what happened. Rier claims there are ship records to prove that Lloyd did not leave the disco with Jennifer. “The timeline at 3:20 puts Botha in his room and the Smiths are still upstairs in the disco along with these Russian gentlemen,” he explains. The record of entry into Lloyd’s cabin, shows Lloyd entered his cabin at 3:20. Lloyd says he has nothing to hide, and takes an FBI polygraph later. His attorney says, “He took a polygraph examination. And by the time we left the FBI, if Lloyd ever, for a moment, was a person of interest, I can categorically state that he no longer was when he left.”
Royal Caribbean says it was actually someone from the bar staff who escorted Jennifer out. “He helped her to the elevator, got her to the ninth deck, where her cabin was. She said she was OK,” says McCrary. “Then this crewmember went back about their duties.”
Mrs. Smith strongly denies kicking George, but acknowledges that she was so drunk, she doesn’t remember leaving the casino, or where she went from there, only a couple minutes after the alleged kick.
George is extremely intoxicated according to several passengers, and is helped back to his cabin by two Russian speaking brothers, Greg and Zach Rozenberg, a third Russian speaking man, Rusty Kofman, who is their cousing from Brooklyn, and an english speaking man. The english speaking man is Josh Askin, who is traveling with his family, as they celebrated his parent’s 25th wedding anniversay. Josh confirms this event.
After arriving at his cabin, #9062, one of the men, Rustislav ‘Rusty’ Kofman, says they all left to try to find Mrs. Smith, to no avail, and returned to the cabin. A police officer, Clete Hyman, and his wife in the cabin next door, reported hearing George (presumed) return to his cabin with others on several nights and hearing the sounds of loud parties.
THE TIMELINE – THE CASE UNFOLDS
4:02am – Kofman’s attorney says there was no drinking at that time. They brought George back to his room, and put him to bed. He says George was so grateful they brought him back to the room that he kissed one of the young men.
4:02am – Josh Askin says there was no party, he used the restoom in George’s cabin, while the Russians tucked George in bed.
4:15am – Clete Hyman reports hearing a verbal argument between three, maybe four individuals in the Smith’s cabin on the balcony. He says the argument went on for a couple moments, then he heard male voices say goodnight. This part of the story is different from that told by Josh. Clete Hyman reports hearing people leaving the cabin, opened his door to look out, and saw three men leaving the cabin. There were reports that four men helped George to his cabin. Capt. Bill Wright, senior vice president of fleet operations for Royal Caribbean, said that the investigation has found that four passengers did indeed escorted George back to his cabin on the night that he vanished.
4:20am/4:25am Clete Hyman hears one man talking, and furniture moving. Then it is silent. There was a couple minutes of total silence. Pat Lawyer didn’t hear what Clete Hyman thought was a drinking game—but they did hear that same moving about of furniture, and she said it sounded like the cabin was being trashed. She says that all of a sudden there was a lot of noise coming from the cabin next door, the George Smith cabin, and what it sounded to me like is somebody was throwing things against the wall, like throwing furniture in the room against the wall or against the floor
4:30am – Clete Hyman and Pat Lawyer hear the sound of a horrific thud. The sound was so loud, it reverberated through their cabin, and it sounded like somebody fell out on the balcony.
4:30am – After the awful thud, both the deputy chief and the couple heard knocks— two sets of raps on the Smith cabin door about 4:30 a.m. It was security. Greg Lawyer opens her cabin door and looks out in the hall at them, and tells them. “Hey, you guys , you better get in there because that room is trashed.” The cruise line confirms they were ship’s security officers responding to the noise complaint Clete Hyman made just after 4:00 a.m. Security walks away without further invesitgating, because all is quiet.
4:30am – The Russians say they are back in their cabin, they order a huge amount of food from room service, and it is delivered around 4:45am. The group took photos of the room service because they were amazed at the amount of food.
4:30am – Mrs. Smith is found sleeping on a floor in a hallway, on the other side of the ship, right outside a crew only room, and five doors down from Josh’s cabin. She is unable to make it back to her cabin. Ship personnel arrived and remained with Mrs. Smith while two crew members went to her cabin to find her husband, but the cabin was empty. A wheelchair is brought to take her to the cabin. 4:47am – Jennifer arrives back to her cabin. At that time George is not there, and ship staff do not notice any blood in the room. More oddly, security nor the female crew member who accompanied Jennifer to her room, find the room trashed as described by neighbors on both sides of the Smith cabin. 5:15am – Josh Askin arrives at this cabin, and goes to bed.
6:14am – The ship arrived in Kusadasi, Turkey
6:39am – passengers were cleared to go ashore
8:30am – Teenager Emilie Rausch, her sister, and her mother reported seeing what appeared to be a bloody stain several feet long on the almost 12-foot wide metal canopy over the life boats below passenger balconies. A tally of passengers is done, and three are found missing. Mr and Mrs Smith and another passenger. The third passenger is located, and the ship begins to page the Smiths.
8:30am – Mrs. Smith had reported for their ‘couples massage’ appointment an hour and half early, four hours after being put to bed, drunk, according to her and the account of other passengers. She reports to the massage right after other passengers found the blood outside and reported it. She was wearing the same clothes she had on the night before. No blood was seen on her clothing. It was at the massage appointment where she was retrieved and brought to security, where she was told that it was suspected something happened to her husband, and he may have gone overboard.
8:30am – There’s a knock on Rusty’s cabin door, and he hears somebody say “Wake up, we have a missing person on ship,’ Rusty says he thought they were talking about Jennifer because they had gone looking for her the night before.
8:41am – The ship’s Chief Officer entered the Smiths’ cabin, and determined the cabin was empty. 8:50 a.m. – The Smith’s cabin is sealed and a guard is posted outside the cabin door., Ship’s personnel continued to search the ship for the missing guests. Later, one of the male passengers with George the night before, is brought to security and questioned. They ask if he knows where George is, and tell him it is suspected that George went overboard. The passenger asks if they found blood. Security begins looking for Mrs Smith. Jennifer Hagel Smith has passed a lie detector test and is not considered a suspect.
The male witnesses involved are interrogated by Turkish police. The father of Josh Askin, Dr, Jerry Askin, has the forethought to video tape the interrogation. This video tape, the cruise line has said didn’t exist. According to Royal Caribbean’s official statement: Turkish authorities refused the ship’s explicit request that the interviews take place on the ship. It is shown on the television show, 48 Hours, on Saturday April 8, 2006, and does in fact exist. After the interrogation is over, Dr Askin asks what is next, and he is told that they are going to arrest Jennifer Hagel Smith. That never happened. During the interrogation Josh Askin is very protective of Jennifer, and insists they talk to the casino manager, Lloyd. Lawyer, Albert Y. Dayan for Rustislav Kofman, one of the Russians questioned by the FBI, denied his client had any role in the disappearance. The 3 Russian speaking men are forced off the ship in Italy, when they are accused of raping a woman that one of them met in the Jacuzzi. They had sex with the woman and video taped it. They deny raping the woman, saying it was consensual sex. All three admit having sex with her.
The ship’s captain, says he figures that George pushed a chair up to the balcony, sat on the railing, and then accidentally fell overboard. The captain is no longer working for the cruise line, having taken early retirement. The railing is 50″ high approximately, only a few inches wide, and George is 6’4” high.
A photo of the blood on the overhang, has the appearance, of something drug across or through the blood, such as a body being dragged off, or sliding off the overhang. There is an area in the image, where the blood is dense, there is a small circle, such as where a wound would be. Had that wound been on the front side of George, and he grabbed it, it would also explain the bloody handprint found as well.
There was a bloody spot the size of a fist on a towel in George’s restroom, bloody tissues were found in the cabin, and a small blood spot on the sheet, the size of a finger print. There was also a report of a small amount of blood on a rug. If George had been attacked explaining that wound look in the blood on the photograph, the blood in the restroom would have to be left there by the attacker. Surely the attacker wouldn’t allow George to clean up before he was thrown overboard.
Margarita Chaves, the same passenger who claimed to have seen Mrs. Smith kick Mr. Smith, claimed to have spoken to Josh Askin, who reportedly said to her, “The room service is what saved us.”
Dr Henry Lee took samples on the ship, and found biological evidence on the balcony, that had been over looked. Dr. Lee says, “Biological evidence basically involve blood, serum and bodily fluid. But those evidence I cannot discuss right now because this is an active investigation.”
On June 29, 2006 a lawsuit was filed by the Smith family. The lawsuit says “The cruise line deliberately and intentionally portrayed the incident as an accident, and hampered a full-blown, appropriate investigation into the facts and circumstances of George A. Smith’s death,” the lawsuit states.
Royal Caribbean delayed reporting the incident to the FBI, deciding instead to report the case to Turkish authorities knowing they would be unable to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in state court in Miami, said Brett Rivkind, the attorney for Smith’s sister and parents.
Smith’s famly have hired Stamford private investigator Vito Colucci to investigate their son’s disappearance
Widow Jennifer Hagel Smith Settles With RCCI
Only a few hours later, Royal Caribbean Cruises announced it had reached a settlement with George Allen Smith’s widow, Jennifer Hagel Smith. “We have done our best to assist Jennifer through the tragic events involving the disappearance of her husband,” Goldstein said. “She has handled herself well under the most trying of circumstances and we applaud her constructive approach to resolving this matter — so much so that our company will also match a contribution by Ms. Hagel Smith to a charity of her choosing.
Hagel Smith’s attorney said he and Hagel-Smith are convinced that there are passengers who were criminally involved in her husband’s disappearance. Royal Caribbean has promised in its settlement to give her unfettered access to information, such as vessel logs, video and passenger statements of what they heard, saw and did during the hours of Smith’s disappearance. Walker and Hagel Smith say the settlement was the fast way for them to get access to information that could help them solve the case.
This settlement was reached, while the FBI are still investigation the case.
Greenwich probate court must approve the settlement, deciding if the settlement is in the best interests of the estate. The Smiths have said through their lawyer that they intend to object. July 12, 2006
Witness Josh Askin, one of the four men to be last seen with George Allen Smith, one who said they ‘tucked George into bed, then left”, has filed a civil suit against Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCCL), alleging invasion of privacy, causing emotional distress, false imprisonment and breach of contract. The suit is asking for a minimum of $15,000 in damages. The suit was filed in Miami, Florida. This is the third suit filed against RCCL related to this case, so far.
August 4, 2006
In a routine move in court, lawyers for Royal Caribbean International, filed a motion to dismiss, in the civil lawsuit against the cruise line, brought by the family of George Allen Smith IV.
The cruise line calls the lawsuit false and frivolous allegations, saying they were thanked by the FBI for their assistance in the case.
The family alleges the cruise line delayed reporting the incident to the FBI, didn’t preserve the crime scene, deliberately portrayed the incident as an accident.
October 16, 2006
Judge Jon I. Gordon granted a motion today to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the family of George Allen Smith IV, faulting Royal Caribbean International’s handling of the case.
“It’s a setback, of course, but it’s not the end,” maritime lawyer Brett Rivkind told Greenwich Time Thursday. “The Smith family isn’t discouraged. Whether the Smith family won or lost, the issue is going to be decided in an appellate court.”
January 4, 2007
Jennifer Hagel Smith gets a settlement from Royal Caribbean International for ONE MILLION dollars. The money will be paid to the estate of George Allen Smith IV. The courts still have to approve the settlement. The investigation into her husband’s death continues. But, in the settlement RCCI has said they will show the widow all the evidence they have in the case. Royal Caribbean denies any wrong doing and does not admit to any liability.
May 2, 2008
Jennifer Hagel Smith, the administrator of Smith’s estate, reached an agreement in June 2006 with the Royal Caribbean for $1.08 million dollars. The deal had been contested by Smith’s parents. On Friday, Probate Judge David Hopper approved the settlement, ruling that it was reasonable and in the best interest of the estate. July 5, 2014 The family offers a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of parties of interest