Even the happiest times of our lives can be sundered in an instant by the cruel hand of fate. Take for instance the happy marriage and subsequent honeymoon of George Allen Smith IV and his new bride, Jennifer Hagel.
When George and Jennifer set off for the Mediterranean and the honeymoon of their dreams they never expected the grisly and unforeseen circumstances fate had in store for them…
Love and Marriage
George Smith and Jennifer Hagel were very much in love. At 26 years old, George was more than ready to begin the next stage of his life and there was no one he wanted to be with more than his longtime girlfriend, Jennifer Hagel. After a year of preparations, the two were married in a fabulous ceremony in Smith’s hometown of Greenwich, Connecticut.
Eleven days after they walked down the aisle, they were setting sail. They were headed on a two-week cruise through the Mediterranean stopping in Greece, Turkey and Italy. As they made their way on to the deck of the immense and beautiful “Brilliance of the Seas,” in 2005, they knew they were headed for the adventure of a lifetime….
Drinking and Gambling
Life aboard the Brilliance of the Seas was incredible. They drank, they feasted, and then they drank some more. In the daytime they’d lay out by the pool and when the sun when down they’d head into the ship’s casino for some drunken gambling and debauchery. It was the two-week party that the both of them needed for sure.
Quite a Ruckus
Then one night, a couple of days into the trip, one of the Smith’s fellow passengers could hear the two arguing on the balcony of their room. Another passenger even claimed to hear furniture being moved about the cabin. Whatever the Smith’s were up to, it seemed that the copious amounts of alcohol were making them lose control…
The day after the argument was heard, a porter found Jennifer Smith passed out in one of the hallways. As for George Smith, he was nowhere to be found. As Jennifer recuperated in the medical bay, the rest of the ship went about the task of finding the missing honeymooner. What they found did not bode well.
Where’d He Go?
A number of passengers in the cabin above the Smith’s had actually photographed the lifeboat canopy beneath the honeymooner’s balcony, it had a blood stain upon it. It appeared that the new groom had went overboard, straight over the balcony and rolled off the tarp into the cold waters of the Mediterranean…
It seemed that George Smith, who had disappeared on the evening of July 5, 2005, was nowhere aboard the Brilliance of the Seas. What’s more, investigators believed that some degree of foul play had been involved in his disappearance. As to who was responsible, they had no idea.
After the ship made port, investigators found blood stains in both his cabin as well as on the side of the ship. It looked as though he had been tossed off the ship and drowned. Yet, where had his wife been when it happened? Was she perhaps responsible, even inadvertently, for the murder?
Later that month, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that they were going to join in the investigation. Yet they were no more successful in sussing out the killer than the ship’s investigators were. Several years later there were even talks that the Mafia might have been involved as well.
Then, finally, the FBI caught a break in the case. A video, involving three of four men who were the last to see Smith alive, was discovered by investigators. In the video, the men pass a video camera around filming themselves commenting about George’s death in a very callous way. It was almost as if they were glad he was gone…
The end of the tape had the most incriminating statement of all. One of the men stands up, hunches his shoulders, and flashes gang signs saying, “Told ya I was gangsta” It was a very clear indication that he was bragging of having done something to George.
Despite this evidence, none of the men in the video were charged in George Smith’s death. There just hadn’t been enough to link them to the murder, if indeed murder it was. After all, it could still have been an accident. There were some lingering theories however, one of which had to do with someone trying to steal money from the highly inebriated groom…
In 2006, Royal Caribbean, the owner of the Brilliance of the Seas, agreed to pay $1.1 million in compensation to Smith’s estate and his widow, Jennifer Smith-Hagel: much to the chagrin of George’s family. In fact, the Smith family had long held the belief that it was Jennifer who was behind their son’s murder.
Jennifer Hagel-Smith, remarried in 2009 and was criticized by the Smiths for not only her conduct the night their son disappeared, but also for her complicity in the disappearance. Though of course they couldn’t prove it at all. Pretty soon, the FBI came forward with some bad news for the Smiths…
Closing the Case
In 2015, the FBI closed the investigation into the disappearance of George Smith. It seemed that despite an exhausting investigation over the course of many years, the Connecticut branch of the FBI were unable to find enough evidence to prove that his deck was anything more than an accident.
The Smith family says that they are “outraged and disgusted” at the FBI’s decision to close the case. They have plans to fight for the case to be moved to another FBI jurisdiction like New York or even Washington DC. Despite their indignation, their doubts as to the FBI’s efficacy in this regard come from a very sincere place…
“I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that my son was murdered on that cruise ship,” explained Maureen Smith, George’s mother. They were so convinced of this that they even offered a $100,000 reward for information that would lead to the arrest and conviction of the murderer.
The Smith family even posted to Facebook at the close of the investigation to express their anger over the decision. They also wanted to make it clear that they didn’t approve of the ship giving their son’s belongings, which they say may hold forensic value, are being returned to Jennifer…
All She Could Do
“The evidence will be given to a woman whose whereabouts are unknown when George was thrown overboard,” says the Smith family. “A woman who has done everything in her power to stop us from finding out what happened to George on July 5, 2005…”
If anything good has come out of this tragedy, it’s that Smith’s disappearance has led to wider interest in passenger rights on cruise ships. This means that that there will be greater transparency on the part of the cruise organizers. Perhaps if they had been open about what happened to George, some of the ship’s other passengers might have come forward with more evidence.