A Missouri doctor vanished days after proposing. How did his body end up in an Arkansas lake?

Devoted Missouri Ozarks doctor John Forysth had never missed a shift at work before he vanished just three days after proposing to his girlfriend. After his body was found in Arkansas, his brother shared suspicions of foul play. Rachel Sharp reports

Saturday 03 June 2023 14:59 BST
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Dr John Forsyth vanished on 21 May. His body was found nine days later
Dr John Forsyth vanished on 21 May. His body was found nine days later (Facebook)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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Dr John Forsyth was the happiest his family had seen him in a long time.

His divorce had recently been finalised and he had just asked his new partner to marry him.

Three days after the proposal, 49-year-old Forsyth – who had also launched a cryptocurrency business with his brother – left his hospital shift in the Missouri Ozarks and told his new fiancée he would see her soon.

The father-of-seven was never seen or heard from again.

On Tuesday (30 May), after a desperate nine-day search, Forsyth’s body was found in a lake in northwest Arkansas by a passing kayaker.

His car had been found unlocked and abandoned at an aquatic centre days earlier – with his passport, wallet, two phones, laptop and the keys to his RV inside.

What led to the doctor’s fortunes taking such a catastrophic turn remains a mystery, with his grieving family members now desperate for answers.

Here’s what we know so far about the case:

Last known movements

Forsyth, 49, was last heard from at around 7am on 21 May.

The emergency room doctor had just finished a shift at Mercy Hospital in Cassville, a remote town of 3,100 residents deep in the Missouri Ozarks.

He was texting his new fiancée as he left the hospital making plans to see her.

“He was texting her things like ‘Hey, my shift’s over’ and ‘I’ll see you a little bit later,’” his brother Richard Forsyth told The Daily Beastlast week.

“And then minutes later, he stops responding to text messages and is seen walking toward his RV.”

Forsyth often parked his RV in the hospital parking lot so he could sleep in it while on-call.

Just minutes later at around 7.15am, Forsyth was captured on surveillance footage driving his second vehicle – a Black Infiniti – into the parking lot of Cassville Aquatic Park.

Dr John Forsyth vanished on 21 May when he left a hospital shift
Dr John Forsyth vanished on 21 May when he left a hospital shift (Facebook)

A white SUV was then captured pulling up close to the vehicle a few minutes later, Richard said.

The SUV drove away a few minutes later before Richard said his brother was seen on the footage getting out of his vehicle around 10 to 15 minutes later and walking around.

“And then he walks away from his car,” he said.

The alarm was raised later that day when Forsyth failed to show up for his next shift at the hospital.

Both the hospital and his brother said it was totally out of character for him to miss work.

In the 15 years he had worked at Mercy Hospital, the dedicated doctor had never missed a single shift.

“Dr Forsyth has never missed a shift without notifying us in the past, so when he failed to arrive for his scheduled shift, and we were unable to reach him, we became concerned and alerted authorities,” the hospital said.

“We invite everyone to join us in praying for his safe return.”

Richard told The Daily Beast “he wouldn’t miss a shift even if his eyeballs were hanging out of their sockets”.

“It was an immediate red flag,” he said.

His hospital colleagues reported him missing to Cassville Police that day.

The search

Two days later on 23 May, Forsyth’s Infiniti was found abandoned in a remote area near the Cassville Aquatic Center.

The car had been left unlocked and investigators found his two cellphones, laptop, keys, wallet and passport inside.

Multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Missouri State Highway Patrol, carried out extensive searches spanning a nine-mile radius around the park.

Thermal imaging drones and K9 dogs were drafted in to help with the search but they found no clues as to the doctor’s whereabouts.

As the search rumbled on, Forsyth’s desperate family members set up a Facebook page titled “Find Dr John Forsyth” to raise awareness about the case and seek information from the public.

Dr Forsyth’s car was found at the Cassville Aquatic Center (above)
Dr Forsyth’s car was found at the Cassville Aquatic Center (above) (KOLR)

On Monday, Forsyth’s sister Tiffany posted an update about her brother.

“My brother has now been missing for week. I’m grieving, I’m afraid, and it feels like the world has tipped into sheer chaos,” she wrote.

“I’ve often felt like Johnny and I are two sides of the same coin. Our lives have lead us in very different directions, but in the last couple of years we’ve been bonding over our intense desire to understand the mysteries of the universe, and I’ve treasured those conversations like precious jewels. I rarely meet anyone I can toss around ideas with like he can.

“Now he’s disappeared, seemingly into thin air. We have so much more to talk about. I’m so afraid he’s just gone. Please don’t let this be how this ends. The hole that will leave in my life will be empty forever. Please help us find him.”

Speculation

Forsyth’s family said there no warning signs prior to his disappearance as speculation and theories spread online.

Richard said he had last seen his brother just a few days before his disappearance and he seemed the “happiest” he had seen him in a while.

“We had dinner Wednesday before he disappeared, and we sat and talked for three hours,” he told AP.

“I told him this is the happiest I’d seen him in a long time. His divorce was final May 11, and I think that gave him energy for the future.”

Forsyth had also been making plans for the future, proposing to his new girlfriend just three days before he vanished.

He was a doting father to his seven children and really cared for his patients, Richard said.

As the case drew attention online, speculation grew that the doctor’s disappearance could be tied to his recent divorce or the cryptocurrency business he had launched with his brother.

In his divorce, Forsyth was given a court order to pay almost $20,000 in child support and alimony to his ex-wife.

Richard told OzarksFirst that the amount of money “was not a concern” to his brother.

A second rumour suggested there may be some link between his disappearance and the brothers’ crypto business.

Richard told the local outlet that one person had been angry with Forsyth and vowed “revenge”.

But he said that the person in question was somewhere overseas and insisted that neither the individual nor the business venture was connected to his brothers’ disappearance.

Dr Forsyth’s body was found in a lake on Tuesday
Dr Forsyth’s body was found in a lake on Tuesday (Facebook)

“He expressed some extreme emotions towards us that he would get revenge. And ultimately his campaign failed, and we didn’t hear from him again,” Richard said.

“I don’t see that being enough motivation for someone to cross the Atlantic and cause trouble.”

While the family sought to put the rumors to rest, Richard said that his brother’s disappearance was “suspicious”.

“A lot of oddities about his disappearance and police kind of agreed after an investigation that the circumstances are pretty suspicious,” he said.

The tragic discovery

The search ended in tragedy on Tuesday (30 May) when Forsyth’s body was discovered in a lake in northwest Arkansas’ Benton County.

“My brother has been found and he is dead. Thank you to everyone who assisted in the search,” Richard wrote in a heartbreaking Facebook post.

The Benton County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that the body was found by a kayaker. The cause of death appeared to be a gunshot wound.

While the full circumstances surrounding the tragic discovery are not yet clear, Cassville Police told the Associated Press that there were no signs of foul play.

Forsyth’s family told KOLR that they are meeting with detectives on Wednesday to get additional information.

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