Joshua Guimond, 20, a St. John's University honor student, stepped away from a card game in a campus apartment shortly after midnight Nov. 9, walked down the hall and vanished.
The campus, 75 miles northwest of Minneapolis, is so tranquil that some of the 1,850 students joke about the "pine curtain" that separates them from the outside world: 2,500 acres of woods and lakes. No one worried. It was not until the next night that Guimond's friends and roommate called the police.
Guimond was the fourth young person to disappear since Oct. 30 in Minnesota and Wisconsin in circumstances that family members say are similar. Law enforcement officials say they have not ruled out a connection, but have found no evidence of any.
Erika Marie Dalquist, 21, who worked at a telemarketing company in Brainerd, Minn., 127 miles northwest of Minneapolis, was the first to disappear. Dalquist was last seen leaving Tropical Nites, a downtown bar popular with students from Central Lakes College, in the early morning of Oct. 30.
Sgt. David Holtz of the Brainerd police said Dalquist was waiting for a taxi after the bar closed at 1 a.m. when she saw a man she recognized. She told her friends, who did not know the man, to cancel her cab, Holtz said, "and she walked away with this man."
Next was Christopher Jenkins, 21, a senior and co-captain and goalie of the lacrosse team at the University of Minnesota. Dressed as an American Indian, he had gone to a Halloween party at the Lone Tree Bar and Grill in downtown Minneapolis.
Cyndi Barrington of the Minneapolis police said Jenkins left the bar alone in the early morning of Nov. 1. He had been drinking and might have been thrown out, Barrington said, although some witnesses said he left on his own and was not allowed back in.
Michael Noll, a student at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, disappeared Nov. 6 after celebrating his 22nd birthday at the Nasty Habit Saloon, a bar popular with students on weekends.
University spokesman Mike Rindo said Noll left the bar alone and intoxicated and subsequently walked into the house of a neighbor, who told him to leave. Noll's baseball cap was found on her lawn.
Police officers and firefighters believe Noll might have fallen into the Chippewa River, near his home. On Nov. 12, dogs seemed to have found his scent near the water several hundred feet from his house, but a search found nothing.
"What's unusual about this," said Sheriff Jim Kostreba of Stearns County, who is handling the search for Guimond, "is that we have four young people missing within a relatively small area. They're all about the same age and they all disappeared at night."
Families and friends have helped the authorities search, have offered rewards, held prayer services, set up Web sites and pasted posters "from Iowa to Fargo," as Guimond's girlfriend, Katie Benson, put it.
In Brainerd, the police have tried to interview everyone at the bar the night Dalquist vanished and people who know her. On Nov. 12, 160 volunteers canvassed the city.
The police say no money has been taken out of any of the bank accounts of Dalquist, who grew up in nearby Cushing.
"Erika is a very outgoing, bubbly person and can make friends easily," said her mother, Colleen Dalquist. The FBI's Minneapolis office has sent information about all four cases to its behavioral science unit in Washington for analysis and has been helping local law enforcement agencies, agent Paul McCabe said.
Paul Cheney, Guimond's uncle, said he saw similarities in the disappearances. "Josh and Chris Jenkins look a lot alike," Cheney said. "The three boys have the same build, same height, same coloring. Josh is about 5 feet 10, 170 pounds, with an athletic build. All were well known on campus, outgoing, bright kids with good grade point averages."
Cheney pointed out that all of the disappearances were "just off Interstate 94."
Kim Lucas, a University of Wisconsin senior, said Noll was studying to be a teacher and "loved helping kids," adding, "He was an awesome guy, the kind of guy who everybody likes."
Kent Pederson, 21, Noll's roommate, said on Friday that he had been searching for his friend every day. More people are coming over the weekend to continue the search, Pederson said.
If nothing is found, said Lt. Karl Fisher of the Eau Claire police, "we'll probably send the dogs out again Monday." The police do not believe that the Noll case is linked to the disappearances of the other students, Fisher said.
Friends and relatives of Jenkins held a candlelight vigil for him and hired private investigators.
More than 200 volunteers have searched the banks of the Mississippi River and others asked businesses for permission to view their surveillance tapes from the night Jenkins disappeared.
Some families are offering rewards, from $5,000 to $50,000, which has been put up by Steve and Jan Jenkins of Burlington, Wis., for information leading to their son.
Web sites have been set up for three of the missing: www.findchrisjenkins.com; www.erikasmissing.com; and www.csbsju.edu for Guimond.
Guimond was writing a paper for his history class on the day he vanished, said his roommate, Nick Hydukovich, and when he stepped out to play cards that Saturday night, he did not take a coat or a case for his contact lenses.
"I came home late," Hydukovich said. "He wasn't back. I thought he was at someone else's place."
More than 250 volunteers, including students and friends from Guimond's home in nearby Maple Lake, helped the police search the campus on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, 100 National Guardsmen searched until dark. The sheriff brought dogs and then divers to search the dark waters of Stumpf Lake, which divides two areas of campus housing.
By Friday night, Guimond's friends, red-eyed from exhaustion, had crowded into his apartment to cut pale yellow ribbons to hand out "so people won't forget about him," Benson said. Signs on the windows read, "Find Joshua."
ERIKA MARIE DALQUIST, 21
Worked for telemarketer
Missing since Oct. 30
CHRISTOPHER JENKINS, 21
University of Minnesota
Missing since Nov. 1
MICHAEL NOLL, 22
University of Wisconsin
at Eau Claire
Eau Claire, Wis.
Missing since Nov. 6
JOSHUA GUIMOND, 20
St. John's University
Missing since Nov. 9