Sheriff: Fisherman heard suspicious noises before 35-year-old presumably drowned

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SAGINAW (WJRT) (5/15/2019) - Someone who heard suspicious noises in the area where a man allegedly jumped into the Saginaw River and presumably drowned could be the key to solving the 27-month investigation.

Reginald Smith has been missing in the Saginaw River since February 2017.

Reginald Smith was on the river with a friend on Feb. 18, 2017, in a boat they had just purchased that day when the motor stalled. The friend told police 35-year-old Smith jumped in 30 feet from shore to get help.

The friend said he saw Smith go under and never resurface. Smith's body was never recovered despite several searches with divers and sonar equipment.

"We put a lot of resources out there. We could not find him," said Saginaw County Sheriff Bill Federspiel.

He disclosed publicly for the first time on Wednesday that investigators spoke with another fisherman who was not with Smith. The fisherman in the area of the Lee Street boat launch reported hearing disturbing noises minutes before Smith allegedly jumped in.

"They heard what sounded like moaning or a victim crying out if you will, with whatever sound of being assaulted," Federspiel said.

He said the person on the boat with Smith is the only witness who saw Smith jump in the water

A new detective has been put on the case to give it a fresh look and Federspiel is also putting out the call for better equipment to search that part of the river.

"If there are better resources that could help us see the bottom of that river in that area, I need those resources here," he said.

It's possible Smith's body is caught on debris below the surface or it moved upstream, possibly into Saginaw Bay. But two years and three months later, Federspiel wants to put the mystery of what happened to Smith to rest.

"We want this case to come to a conclusion just as bad as the family of our victim," he said.

Kimberly Lyons-Butler, who is Smith's aunt, said her family has never heard there was a person who told police he heard those disturbing noises. She's hoping the sheriff's department conducts a thorough investigation.