Family: Foul play possible in cruise case

Cruise Disappearance
A photo provided by the Smith family shows George Allen Smith and his wife, Jennifer Hagel-Smith, while on a cruise on July 5, 2005. George Smith disappeared aboard the ship as it sailed between Greece and Turkey.AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The family of a U.S. man who disappeared from his honeymoon cruise in 2005 says federal authorities believed he was the victim of foul play, according to records released Monday.

But the man's widow disagreed, saying the FBI told her there is a 50 percent chance he was the victim of foul play.

George Smith of Greenwich, Conn., was aboard a Royal Caribbean ship when he vanished somewhere between Greece and Turkey. His body never has been found.

The FBI has investigated Smith's disappearance, but no one has been charged. A telephone message was left for the FBI, but the agency usually does not comment on ongoing investigations.

According to records from a hearing administering the estate, attorneys for Smith's family asked his widow, Jennifer Hagel Smith, about a meeting with the FBI that included prosecutor Peter Jongbloed.

"Do you recall Mr. Jongbloed actually interjecting and looking right at you and saying, 'Jennifer, we also believe there was foul play,' meaning the Department of Justice and the FBI," an attorney for Smith's family asked.

Hagel Smith disagreed. After some back and forth, she eventually said an FBI agent told her he didn't rule out foul play or an accident.

"But the fact of the matter is in his mind that it was 50-50," Hagel Smith said.

She said federal authorities told her they didn't have enough information to indict anyone and they were near the end of their investigation.

Night of drinking
George Smith's family is challenging a nearly $1.1 million settlement Hagel Smith reached with Royal Caribbean. The deal was approved by a probate court, but Smith's family appealed to Stamford Superior Court.

Records from the probate hearing were released Monday.

Smith's disappearance followed a night of heavy drinking. The cruise line said his wife was found passed out on a floor far from their cabin.

Hagel Smith has said her husband's family refuses to acknowledge the possibility that George Smith's intoxication from alcohol and prescription drugs may have been a factor in an accidental death. Instead, she said they have insisted Smith was a victim of foul play despite a lack of evidence.

In the appeal, Smith's parents and sister said his widow agreed to an inadequate settlement with the cruise ship line to avoid embarrassing disclosures about her conduct.