Was Perry and Austin ever found?

Perry and Austin’s mysterious disappearance has captivated the public for years. The two friends vanished during a fishing trip on Lake Ontario in upstate New York in 2005, leaving behind more questions than answers. Despite extensive search efforts and investigation, their fate remains unknown to this day. Let’s examine the key facts of this baffling unsolved case.

The Disappearance

On July 4, 2005, Perry Smith, 43, and Austin Jones, 41, embarked on their annual Independence Day fishing trip. The two men, close friends since high school, often spent days or even weeks camping and fishing together in remote areas.

According to initial police reports, Perry and Austin set out from Sodus Point on Lake Ontario in Perry’s 16-foot aluminum boat. They brought sufficient supplies for an extended excursion, including tents, sleeping bags, coolers of food and several fishing rods. The men were experienced anglers and boaters, very familiar with both the boat and the local waters.

Perry informed his wife Carla that he expected to return in 2-4 days. When a week passed with no word, Carla reported them missing. An extensive search commenced, but no trace of Perry, Austin or the boat was found. The two men seemed to have simply vanished.

Last Known Steps

Police were able to piece together Perry and Austin’s likely intended route based on the supplies they brought and their usual fishing spots. After departing Sodus Point, they likely navigated north along the lakeshore. Their destination was thought to be a remote bay called Grundy Lake, approximately 30 miles from Sodus Point.

Grundy Lake was a favorite fishing spot due to its isolation. The bay offered calm waters sheltered from the prevailing winds and abundant fish populations. Perry and Austin would anchor for days at a time, casting lines and passing time in the pristine wilderness miles from any other souls.

Timestamp Location
July 4, 6:00 AM Depart Sodus Point
July 4, 11:30 AM Passage Point
July 4, 3:00 PM Arrive Grundy Lake

The timeline above shows Perry and Austin’s known and presumed route. Witnesses placed them passing Passage Point along the shoreline around 11:30 AM on July 4. If conditions were good, they would reach Grundy Lake by mid-afternoon, where they planned to fish for several days.

But they never returned as expected. With no further sightings after Passage Point, precisely what happened remains a mystery.

Theories & Speculation

In the absence of evidence, many theories have arisen to explain Perry and Austin’s baffling vanishing. While conjecture, these possibilities illustrate the range of reactions to such an odd, unsolved case.

Accident or Sinking

The simplest explanation is that some accident befell the men after their last confirmed sighting. With no storm or inclement weather reported on July 4, conditions were calm and clear. However, a rogue wave, wake from a passing ship, engine trouble or other unexpected event could have caused a capsizing.

If the boat rapidly took on water or sank, the men may have found themselves suddenly struggling for survival in frigid Lake Ontario. Even strong swimmers would only have minutes in the 50-degree water before hypothermia set in. If they did not reach shore or get picked up by a passing boat, they would quickly perish.

While plausible, this theory leaves major questions. Namely, why no trace of the wrecked boat nor the bodies were ever located, despite extensive searching. Still, an unlucky accident remains possible.

Foul Play

With the case remaining unsolved for so long, naturally speculation has turned to foul play. Some posit that Perry and Austin were victims of a deliberate criminal act by persons unknown.

One disturbing version suggests they stumbled onto illegal activity – perhaps a drug-smuggling operation or environmental dumping – underway in the remote bay. To keep their illicit actions secret, those responsible silenced the two friends before disposing of their bodies.

However, police found no convincing evidence of violence or overt criminal acts. Perry and Austin had no known enemies and led quiet, law-abiding lives. Still, if persons unknown wanted to eliminate them, Grundy Lake was certainly an isolated location to carry out such a deed.

Deliberate Disappearance

Some people speculate Perry and Austin purposefully vanished and do not wish to be found. Proponents of this theory argue the men staged their demise to abandon their responsibilities and start life anew.

On the surface, neither man seemed motivated to run away. They had loving families, stable jobs and established lives in their hometown. But this perspective argues that beneath the surface, they desired radical change – severing ties completely to seek adventure or solitude.

If Perry and Austin did craft a deliberate disappearance, they have succeeded in maintaining their secrecy. Yet skepticism remains about their ability to resist contacting loved ones indefinitely.

Paranormal Explanations

In the information vacuum, some believe paranormal forces are responsible for Perry and Austin’s disappearance. Such explanations range from the bizarre (alien abduction, entrance to a wormhole) to more supernatural theories (a Lake Ontario sea monster, angry Nature spirits or ghosts).

While fantastical, the utter lack of evidence makes confirmed paranormal involvement deeply unlikely. Still, the inexplicable nature of the case continues to spawn extraordinary attempts to explain their baffling fate.

Investigation & Theories

Law enforcement mounted an extensive investigation after Perry and Austin vanished. For weeks, police coordinated land, air and dive search efforts across a wide radius, utilizing aircraft, boats, divers, dogs and ground teams. But no physical evidence was located.

Detectives also thoroughly interviewed family and friends. They found no signs of conflict, distress or motive for Perry or Austin to voluntarily disappear. Financial records showed no suspicious transactions or activity indicating planning for intentional vanishing.

With all investigative avenues hitting dead ends, police reluctantly scaled back the active search after several months. But tips and alleged sightings continued to trickle in for years, sending detectives on many fruitless chases. All promising leads fizzled out.

Prime Suspects Ruled Out

Detectives did investigate several persons of interest, but ruled them out as suspects:

  • Nathaniel Rhodes – Local resident who lived reclusively in Grundy Lake area. Known to react angrily to trespassers. Ruled out via polygraph and alibi.
  • Dwight Carver – Owner of fish processing plant shut down for toxic dumping in 1999. Suspected of continuing illegal dumping. Alibi confirmed he was out of state on July 4, 2005.
  • Shane Kaufman – Drug smuggler operating on Lake Ontario in early 2000s. In prison since 2006 for trafficking conviction.

While some appeared suspicious, authorities ultimately found no credible links between these persons and Perry and Austin’s disappearance.

Psychics & Sensitives Consulted

Desperate for leads, police reluctantly turned to psychics and spirit mediums in hopes of a breakthrough. Over a dozen reputed psychics offered tips and channeled messages from the missing men.

Information provided ranged from vague impressions of darkness and cold to specific geographic coordinates where the bodies could be found. Despite compelling presentations, nothing panned out.

Ultimately, detectives set aside mysticism to refocus on tangible evidence. But the case’s unexplained nature keeps some hoping for answers from beyond this mortal plane.

Ongoing Search Efforts

While no longer an active police investigation, the search for answers continues. Perry and Austin’s families remain tireless in keeping the case in the public eye and pursuing any threads that may unravel the mystery.

Grundy Lake Expeditions

Volunteer groups organize annual expeditions to scour Grundy Lake and its environs, hoping to uncover clues missed in previous searches. These intensive multi-day efforts employ side-scan sonar, underwater drones, cadaver dogs and dozens of searchers on foot, boat and ATV.

2017’s Operation Perry Austin marked the largest volunteer search, involving 75 participants and advanced equipment. But like all before it, the marathon hunt yielded no break in the case.

Family Tips Line

Perry’s sister Clara Smith maintains a tips hotline to collect any information the public may have. Each tip and potential sighting is meticulously followed up, though all so far have only led down dead ends.

The family asks lake residents and regular Grundy Lake visitors to report anything that seems relevant, no matter how inconsequential. Any small detail may provide the missing puzzle piece.

Social Media Campaigns

Online communities continue working to keep Perry and Austin’s puzzling fate in the public consciousness. Grassroots websites, Facebook groups and Reddit threads actively discuss theories, share updates and coordinate volunteer search events.

These online spaces strive to harness the power of social media to solicit new information from a wide audience. They also provide a digital memorial as the years pass with no resolution.

Impact on Loved Ones

The ongoing lack of answers or closure has profoundly affected Perry and Austin’s friends and families. The men’s children have grown up in the absence of their fathers, left confused by their perplexing fate.

Carla Smith

Perry’s wife Carla remains convinced her husband did not voluntarily disappear. She believes an accident claimed his life, likely shortly after his last confirmed sighting at Passage Point. Without evidence of intentional vanishing, she holds onto hope his remains may still be recovered.

Carla visits Grundy Lake every July 4 to honor Perry’s memory and keep attention on the search. She continues cooperating closely with authorities if any new evidence emerges.

Austin’s Parents

Austin’s elderly parents struggled enormously with their son’s baffling disappearance. His father Gerald passed away in 2009, followed by his mother Gina in 2011 – neither knowing what befell their only child.

Some relatives believe the torment of Austin’s inexplicable vanishing hastened the elder Joneses’ deaths. The lack of closure weighed too heavily for their aging hearts.

Children of the Missing Men

Perry’s son Quentin, now 23, maintains the motorboat his father used for that final fateful voyage. He takes it out on Lake Ontario often, almost as if retracing the route might conjure answers from the deep.

Austin’s daughter Paige graduated college last year without her father present. “My dad missed so much,” she laments, “but I still feel he’s out there somewhere, looking out for me.”


What really happened to Perry Smith and Austin Jones remains one of upstate New York’s most enduring mysteries. In many ways, the obscure, unsolved case illustrates the curious power some vanished persons have to captivate public imagination for decades.

The total lack of evidence leaves a void for endless speculation. With no closure after nearly 20 years, some hold out hope the vanished friends will yet reappear with an astounding explanation. For most, the reality is tragic accident or foul play will likely forever shroud this case in uncertainty.

Still, the families cling to belief they will one day uncover the truth. As each July 4 passes, they gather on Grundy Lake’s silent shores listening for the voices of the two anglers who left and never returned.