To meet your soulmate, have a picture-perfect wedding, sail off into the sunset in marital bliss and live happily ever after certainly sounds like something out of a storybook. It’s the kind of thing plenty of people fantasize about.
And for some lucky people, that fantasy can be a reality. They are fortunate enough to find that one special someone and have the means to take a magical honeymoon voyage. But as one pair of newlyweds would learn, the “happily ever after” is far from guaranteed…
Growing up in Greenwich, Connecticut George was a fun-loving, free-spirited boy. He played basketball and football, loved to ride his bike around, and was considered the family joker. As he got older, he developed an interest in computers and all things electronic and would go on to study computer science and business at college.
Another thing George learned in college was how to cut loose after pledging the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He was “a sweet guy, not too chatty, he wasn’t the center of attention at a bar, but he was well liked by everybody,” said one woman who knew him during those years. “Like every college student, he partied pretty hard, but we all did.”…
Finding The One
After graduation, George put his degree to good use taking jobs with a few different computer firms. Then in 2002, he met someone, a student working toward her master’s degree. “George was very quiet about his relationships, at least with us,” his older sister Bree said. “But suddenly we started hearing the name Jennifer a lot. My brother was a serial monogamist, but he and Jennifer seemed to get quite serious quite fast.”
Giving It Up
With a great career and a great relationship, it seemed as if George had everything he needed to be living a happy life. That’s why it came as a shock to his family when, in 2003, he suddenly quit his job and moved back to his hometown. The reason? More than anything else, he missed his family…
Since the 1980s, his family owned and operated Cos Cob Liquor, the Greenwich area’s oldest liquor store and George wanted to go into the family business. But more than just manning the till he wanted to put his computer skills to use and began laying plans to move aggressively into internet liquor sales.
Just George’s presence in the store was good for business. His good looks, daily gym habit, and gregarious personality resulted in a noticeable bump in female customers. “So many women would come into the store just to see George,” his mother Maureen said. “But he was so, so loyal to Jennifer.”…
Tying The Knot
Jennifer had moved into the apartment George was renting close by his parents’ place and the two of them spent just about every free minute together. Naturally, George proposed and the two of them spent long hours planning out their storybook wedding. After tying the knot in a beautiful ceremony in June of 2005 at the Inn at Castle Hill in Newport, RI, they boarded a two-week honeymoon cruise around the Mediterranean.
What was to be a beautiful trip with stops in Greece, Turkey, Italy and elsewhere all started off as planned. But when they boarded Brilliance of the Seas, a massive Royal Caribbean ship that could house 2,500 guests, they had no idea what kind of journey lay ahead for them…
Living It Up
Over the next few days. George and Jennifer Smith got down to the serious business of having a great time. As will happen when you’re on board, partying with the same people night after night, the newlyweds made some friends. Ten days after they’d gotten married, George and Jennifer were drinking and gambling in the ship’s casino with three college-aged young men.
The exact events that happened on that night are somewhat murky but there are a few details that are known for certain. Firstly, George, Jennifer, and the young men were all drinking heavily that night. Second, there was an argument between the newlyweds at one point, which was over Jennifer supposedly flirting with other men…
The argument got especially heated on the casino floor and, according to one report, there was shouting before it ended with Jennifer kicking George in the groin and storming off. A passenger in the room neighboring the honeymooners would describe the sound of men arguing on the Smiths’ balcony later that night.
At around 4:30 in the morning, Jennifer was found by a pair of security guards. She was passed out, slumped against the wall of a hallway on their deck, on the opposite side of the ship from her room. They were able to bring her around and, after she told them her room number, they helped the disoriented woman get there. When they brought her inside, there was no sign of George…
Sleep It Off
The security guards didn’t notice anything amiss in the room, so they simply helped Jennifer to her bed and left her there to sleep off her bender. When she woke up around 8 am, there was still no sign of George. Initially, she didn’t report that to anyone since, Jennifer said, George had slept at least one other night outside of their stateroom. Instead, she went to the 8:30 massage appointment she and her husband had at the ship’s spa, expecting to meet him there.
At around that time, several passengers in rooms above the Smiths noticed something horrifying. There was a large bloodstain on top of the white canopy beneath the Smiths’ room. When a group of ship’s officers examined it, they believed they could be in the middle of what Royal Caribbean terms an “overboard situation.”…
Paging The Smiths
The crew immediately paged the Smiths over the ship’s loudspeakers and the spa staff reported that she was there with them. Ships officers escorted Jennifer from the spa to a nurse’s office where, as gently as possible, they explained that her husband was missing and may have gone overboard. “She was like a zombie,” said ship’s guest-relations manager Marie Breheret. Through her tears, Jennifer “had a look in her eyes that said, ‘Help me.’ “
Shortly after, Josh Askin, one of the young men the couple had been partying with the night before, approached a ship’s officer with his mother and told them a bit of what happened the previous night, suggesting that the Smiths were probably still sleeping. But it quickly became clear that George was no longer onboard, confirming the worst possible scenario…
Both Jennifer and Askin were interviewed by Turkish police and the other two young men, Greg and Zach Rozenberg were later interviewed by the FBI. They approached the investigation from every possible angle, searching for the possibility of foul play.
Had Jennifer attacked her husband as part of a lover’s spat? Was there some sort of dispute with Askin or the Rozenbergs? Was there some other bad actor on the ship who’d crossed paths with George? Because the Rozenbergs were Russian-American, and had some less-than-reputable people in their extended family, they even investigated the possibility that George’s disappearance might somehow be related to the Russian Mafia…
But after more than ten years of investigation, the FBI concluded that George Smith’s death had simply been an accident. While they couldn’t describe exactly how he’d come to take a tumble off his balcony and overboard, they were satisfied that they’d exhausted all possibilities of foul play and found no culprit.
In the ten years that had passed, Royal Caribbean had settled lawsuits both with Jennifer and with George’s family for his death. Jennifer moved on with her life and remarried in 2009. But the Smiths refused to believe that their son had died in an accident and held ill will toward Jennifer, saying she’d been too willing to accept his death as an accident. The Smith Family has offered a $100,000 reward for information that would lead directly to an arrest and conviction in the case.