Cold case website founder and brother of murdered Pocatello girl locate missing man’s body

Jimmy Rodriguez

Jimmy Rodriguez

By Kendra Evensen, kevensen@journalnet.com

Although a missing Idaho Falls man was, sadly, found deceased over the weekend, the local citizens who discovered his body are grateful that they were able to bring some closure to his family.

Jimmy Rodriguez, 55, went missing last month. His body was located on Saturday near Highway 20 and Lindsay Boulevard, not far from where he was last seen on Jan. 24.

An autopsy has been scheduled for Tuesday, but Idaho Falls police have said they don’t suspect any foul play.

Lt. Joel Tisdale said he appreciates the public’s assistance in the case.

“The public’s help is very effective and helpful in solving crimes,” Tisdale said in a statement submitted to the Journal. “In this case it was particularly helpful because we were looking for a person who was unresponsive and was found in terrain which was cluttered and filled with visual barriers. Finding Mr. Rodriguez required a lot of individual sets of eyes that the police department alone simply couldn’t supply in this short timeframe.”

Rodriguez’s family organized a search party on Saturday morning, said Crystal Douglas, founder of East Idaho Cold Cases, Inc., which raises awareness about unsolved crimes and missing people. Although she and Ben Smith, the brother of a cold case murder victim, weren’t able to participate at that time, they still wanted to help, so they started searching that afternoon.

Based on the fact that Rodriguez had some health issues and had been on foot, they assumed he hadn’t been able to get far. So after driving around for a short time, they went back to the area where he had last been seen — by some grain silos near the 1200 block of Lindsay Boulevard — and started walking.

Smith thought that a person, possibly a disoriented one, might head toward city lights and may take a shortcut to get there. They subsequently decided to walk along the railroad tracks. First they went north and, when they didn’t find anything, they turned around and went south.

Douglas soon discovered Rodriguez’s body, roughly 30 feet from the tracks. She alerted Smith who then called 911.

Douglas said she’s glad they were able to locate Rodriguez. She says it would be an awful feeling to not know what’s happened to a loved one.

Tragically, it’s a feeling that Smith knows all too well.

His sister, Linda Smith, was abducted from their home on Eighth Avenue in Pocatello in June of 1981. She was 14 years old.

Ben Smith, who was 9 at the time, witnessed the incident, but was unable to stop the abduction when he tried. His sister’s remains were discovered in a ravine above Hospital Way in May of 1982 — nearly a year later. The case has never been solved.

Today, Smith says he tries to help other families who are missing loved ones, which brings him some peace as well. That’s one of the reasons why he agreed to help Douglas search for Rodriguez on Saturday.

“I was hoping to find him or a clue as to where he went,” Smith said.

Still, he said it was a bit shocking to actually find the missing man, who was roughly a half mile from where he had last been seen.

It was less shocking for Douglas, who occasionally participates in search efforts. This is the second time she was able to locate a missing person.

She also found the body of Pocatello resident Edward J. Girrard, 82, in October. She spotted his overturned truck at the bottom of a ravine northwest of Chubbuck during one of her searches for the man.

Douglas said there were several known factors — what area they might be in, what their habits and circumstances were, etc. — in each of the recent missing person cases, which significantly helped in the searches.

She says she recognized Rodriguez’s clothing from his description and knew right away that they had found the missing Idaho Falls man.

“I was not upset or scared,” she said. “I was relieved for the family.”

Holly Cook, public information officer for the Idaho Falls Police Department, said those who assisted in the searches were well organized and determined and they worked closely with the police department. She’s glad that Rodriguez’s body was finally located as a result of those searches.

“We extend our most genuine condolences to his family, neighbors and friends,” she said.