OZARKS UNSOLVED: The mysterious death of Dr. John Forsyth

Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 9:36 PM CDT
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CASSVILLE, Mo. (KY3) - Dr. John Forsyth’s family has been searching for answers since May when he was found shot in the head 45 minutes from the last place he was seen in Cassville, Missouri.

Details of the case have baffled investigators, and with more questions answered, more questions are brought to the surface.

Dr. Forsyth was a physician in Cassville, a father, and a crypto millionaire. Gina Forsyth-Farlaino, Forsyth’s sister, spoke fondly of him, saying, “My whole life, I’ve bragged about him. He’s a genius. He’s always been super smart but super funny.”

A sentiment many would share. Family and friends knew Dr. Forsyth to be adventurous and fun. His younger cousin Nile Forsyth says their time together was always memorable.

“[He was] always looking for adventure,” says Nile Forsyth.

John grew up in a large Mormon family of five sisters and one brother.

49-year-old Forsyth managed to work 80-100 hours a week at Cassville Mercy’s ER while simultaneously founding a side business in the cryptocurrency space.

Richard, John’s brother, said, “We got into the crypto space in 2010, which was pretty early. Bitcoin was founded in 2009. And its early years were slow and a struggle.”

But Forsyth’s social crypto venture, “Onfo,” took off, leading to a 2020 Forbes magazine article naming him a bitcoin millionaire. His work schedule even prompted Mercy to allow him to keep a luxury RV in the hospital parking lot, providing him a place to rest between grueling shifts.

However, on Sunday morning, May 21, Forsyth’s life took an inexplicable turn.

Surveillance cameras at the hospital captured him leaving the ER after his 12-hour shift and walking towards his RV, intending to return for his next shift at 7 p.m. But 7 p.m. came and went, and Forsyth did not show up for work.

“When my mom said that he didn’t show up for work, that was a big red flag. Because he never just didn’t show up,” Gina says.

By Monday morning, Cassville police were on the case. As they sifted through their notes, they discovered something peculiar. On that same Sunday morning, a mile away from the hospital at the Cassville Aquatic Center, there had been an unrelated search for a missing child.

Detectives had noted all the cars in the parking lot, and one vehicle caught their attention: a black Infiniti. It turned out to be Dr. Forsyth’s car.

Returning to the park on Monday morning, the police found the car still parked there. Inside, they discovered Forsyth’s keys, passport, wallet, a cracked cell phone, and his laptop.

Later investigations would reveal three more phones in his RV. Despite these discoveries, there were no immediate signs of foul play.

Donald Privett, interim police chief of the Cassville Police Department, explained, “There are numerous things to look for foul play. Items discarded inappropriately. Property damage to the vehicle--to the residents. Different types of scuff marks on the ground. Signs of bodily fluids. Blood. There was none. None of that.”

Search dogs were brought in to comb the park, but they only indicated one spot—right next to Forsyth’s car. Yet, this lead did not yield any concrete evidence.

Further scrutiny of the surveillance video from the park revealed a black car entering the parking lot at 7:12 a.m., followed by a white SUV. However, the quality of the video was so poor that police couldn’t definitively determine if it was Forsyth’s car or whether the people in the cars had interacted.

No footage showed Forsyth walking around the area, and the white SUV eventually departed despite rumors that it did.

“The quality of the video was so low. When we saw what we believed to be the doctor’s car pulling into the parking lot. He described it as a black blur. The fact the black blur never comes back out of there, and the car is discovered is what leads us to believe that was the doctor’s car that pulled in,” Privett says.

As the days passed, previously undisclosed stories about Forsyth’s life emerged, surprising even his family.

“We learned about the abduction from a year ago. That was brand new information, and it was very shocking and very scary because we realized how serious it was,” Gina says.

Richard added, “It should be said that he was kidnapped in 2022, and that was crypto-related. A lot of people are connecting that dot with recent events.”

In the days following Forsyth’s disappearance, a friend came forward with a story from the year before. Forsyth had claimed he’d been kidnapped, bound with zip ties, and threatened. However, he never reported the incident to the police. Now, his family wondered if history had repeated itself.

Gina was initially optimistic.

“I was very quickly going ‘no.’ He is the smartest person I know. He planned something. It’s going to be this mission-impossible escape plan. He’s going to come back, and everything is going to be okay,” she says.

Richard echoed this sentiment, saying, “I thought, as did many around me who knew him, that he was in trouble and that he made a clever and daring escape.”

But as days turned, there were no credit card activity, no communication, and no sign of Forsyth. More details about his life began to surface. Forsyth was in the midst of a divorce, having married and divorced his high school sweetheart twice.

His seven children lived with his ex-wife out of state, and the divorce had been finalized just ten days before his disappearance. The judge had divided Forsyth and his ex-wife’s significant bitcoin holdings, valued at over $800,000, and ordered him to pay substantial child support and alimony, totaling $19,000 monthly.

Tiffany Forsyth, John’s sister, emphasized his dedication to being a good father, saying, “Johnny said that is how I measure men. That is the most important quality that a man can have is to be a good dad.”

Adding to the complexity of Forsyth’s life, three days before he disappeared, he had proposed to his nurse girlfriend, who was pregnant with his ninth child.

Nile suggested, “It sounds like he was waiting for the divorce to tell anybody anything.”

His 8th child is up for debate. Forsyth told his brother there was the possibility that he had another child. The family says the relationship between them and the mother of that child has been rocky. They’ve asked for a DNA test.

“I think that he had buckets that he put stuff in. You know? This is what you get to know about me. And this is what you get to know about me,” Tiffany said.

Time passes, and there are still no leads. Out-of-state family members joined the search effort. They turned to social media to circulate missing person posters, but their efforts yielded no new information.

“No signs of anything,” Privett says.

But that changed on May 30, nine days after Forsyth’s disappearance.

While navigating Beaver Lake in Arkansas, located approximately an hour south of Cassville, two kayakers made a startling discovery in the water. Witnesses tell KY3 that they saw what they thought was a dead animal and paddled close to investigate. Realizing it was a body, they immediately called 911.

Gina vividly recounted the moment when police officers appeared at her family’s doorstep.

“There was a police officer there, and even when I saw the police officer, I didn’t believe [it],” she says.

The Benton County, Arkansas Sheriff’s Office took over the case as the lead agency. Detectives confirmed that Forsyth had suffered a gunshot wound to the head, prompting a homicide investigation.

However, as the family prepared to lay Dr. Forsyth to rest, they realized no one had asked them to identify his body positively.

“We asked them very pointedly how the body was identified. And the lead detective said that he did. And we asked how, and he said by facial recognition,” Richard recalled.

With a closed-casket funeral, the family was left with lingering questions. Gina pondered, “What a closed casket means, you really have to keep a tight rein on your imagination.”

“That was my first thought. Did I carry a casket of rocks or weight?” Nile says. He explains that during the funeral, there were talks between family about who identified the body. That’s when they realized no one had.

“I can all add up if you take it at face value, but also, that’s a great way to cover things up. To remove a piece off the table without actually killing them.”

In the subsequent week, a public vigil was held, where friends and family gathered to share stories, light candles, and offer prayers.

Now, months after Forsyth’s disappearance, the coroner’s report remains finished but unreleased, pending the ongoing investigation. The Benton County Sheriff’s Office remains tight-lipped, and the family reveals that detectives have executed over 20 search warrants, interviewing family members and friends.

Forsyth’s brother Richard, including. The sheriff’s department executed a search warrant of his home and took one of his guns. He has since been interrogated and taken a lie-detector test.

Amidst the dearth of information, amateur sleuths have emerged on social media and in podcasts, attempting to unravel the mysteries surrounding Forsyth’s perplexing disappearance and tragic demise.

Many questions remain unanswered. Was it murder, suicide, or something far more intricate? Suspicion lingers around Forsyth’s brother, while other questions about the white SUV, Forsyth’s abandoned belongings, and his previous abduction continue to baffle investigators and the community.

Privett, a seasoned law enforcement officer, summed up the case, saying, “17 years in this field, and this is one of the strangest cases that I’ve witnessed and personally been involved in.”

As the community grapples with the uncertainties surrounding the disappearance and death of Dr. John Forsyth, they remain steadfast in their pursuit of answers, longing for resolution in this perplexing and tragic tale. If you possess any information that could shed light on this cryptic puzzle, do not hesitate to contact the sheriff’s department immediately at (479) 271-1008.

As long as there are still questions about the disappearance of Dr. John Forsyth, we’ll continue asking them.

Join Elizabeth VanMetre on Sept. 15 at 10:30 a.m. on the KY3 Live Desk. She is doing a live interview with Richard Forsyth and answers viewer questions. Nothing is off-limits. CLICK HERE to watch that interview live.

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com