CASSVILLE, Mo. (AP) — John Forsyth was known as a hardworking doctor who cared deeply about his patients and often teased nurses in the emergency room to ease tensions. He was the father of eight children and had just become engaged. He also co-founded a cryptocurrency business with his brother.
His sudden disappearance from a southwestern Missouri town last month – and the eventual discovery of his body in an Arkansas lake – left those who knew him wondering what happened to the man who seemed happier than he had been in some time. A lack of information from law enforcement has only deepened the mystery, prompting amateur sleuths to espouse Facebook theories.
“It's like the world is falling on us; we are just in shock,” her sister Tiffany Forsyth said. "There's a part of me that's still not quite sure it's real. I guess it comes in stages.
Forsyth, 49, disappeared on May 21 from a public swimming pool parking lot. His body, apparently with gunshot wounds, was found nine days later. An autopsy has been done, but a report is not expected for at least two months. Law enforcement has released almost no details except to say there is no danger to the public.
The doctor's family is adamant that his death was not a suicide: he had just become engaged and his fiancée was pregnant.
Some true crime followers on social media have speculated that his death may have been linked to the cryptocurrency company he co-founded with his brother, Richard Forsyth. Several other theories have also surfaced in a Facebook discussion group that has over 1,000 members. Messages from this group are now closed from public view.
Just 10 days before he disappeared, a judge finalized Forsyth's divorce - his second from the same wife. The split was amicable, according to family members and the ex-wife's attorney, Ryan Ricketts, who said he was "devastated" by the doctor's death.
Richard Forsyth said his brother was excited about his upcoming wedding and new child and had a plane ticket to see one of his daughters.
"He said, 'I can't wait to introduce her to you. We're going to have a wonderful life together. We're all going to be spending a lot of time together,'" Richard Forsyth said. happy for a long time."
Forsyth even texted his fiancée the day he disappeared, saying he would see her soon, according to his brother. The fiancée did not respond to a request for an interview on social media.
Along with hopeful comments about his future life, however, John Forsyth had recently made some cryptic remarks about the possibility of being in danger, his brother said, adding, "I think he's come across bad guys and he didn't tell me about it."
There has been some confusion over what happened near the public swimming pool where John Forsyth was last seen in Cassville, 64 kilometers west of the Ozark Mountains tourist destination of Branson and about half a mile from a hospital where he worked. On May 21, the pool had not yet opened for the summer season. Beaver Lake, a man-made reservoir used for recreation and where his body was found, is at least an hour's drive from Cassville on winding highways that wind through the Ozarks.
Initially, Richard Forsyth said security camera footage showed his brother getting into someone else's vehicle. He now says footage shows that minutes after the doctor parked his car, a white SUV drove up and then drove off shortly after. About 10 or 15 minutes after that, the doctor got out of his car and drove away, never to be seen alive again, Richard Forsyth said. Inside his unlocked car were two cell phones, a laptop and important documents, he said.
So far, authorities have not publicly stated whether they believe he was murdered, accidentally shot or committed suicide. They did not say if they found the weapon that was used or if the SUV was linked to Forsyth's disappearance.
Richard Forsyth said family members were told the wait for answers could be long, but they had confidence in the investigators.
Authorities have also not indicated how closely they are examining Forsyth's ties to crypto.
Online publications covering the industry were quick to take note of his death, which was confirmed just seven weeks after authorities in San Francisco charged a tech consultant with the stabbing death of Cash App founder Bob Lee. Prosecutors believe the murder took place following an argument involving the suspect's sister.
John and Richard Forsyth founded Onfo LLC, what they called a "network mining" company, in 2018. At that time, Onfo's website stated that account holders could earn credits without paying money, by referring others to the business.
Onfo's website features a nearly eight-minute video titled "The US Dollar is Doomed," which says all government currencies could crash. The video promoting Onfo's launch portrayed bankers and politicians as pigs in suits, describing them as "drunk on expensive booze, resting in palaces".
A 2020 Forbes magazine article online described John Forsyth as a bitcoin millionaire.
But Richard Forsyth said he and his brother are looking to give large numbers of people, including poor people in developing countries, a chance to invest in a decentralized digital currency. He described Onfo as fighting what the brothers thought crypto had become: driven by greed, “about Lamborghinis,” and “billionaires and tax evasion.”
Paul Sibenik, senior case manager for CipherBlade, an agency that investigates cybercrimes involving crypto, said Onfo's business model resembles pyramid schemes, which rely on an ever-increasing number of referrals and cannot be maintained.
“There is not a single legitimate cryptocurrency project that works this way,” Sibenik said in an email to The Associated Press.
Richard Forsyth acknowledged that others might question whether Onfo was a "multi-level marketing" operation, but added: "The main difference is that we never sold anything". And, he said, it probably cost them millions of dollars, rather than generating a profit.
"What we're doing is telling people, 'Let's build this together,'" he said.
John Forsyth held significant cryptocurrency holdings when his second divorce became final last month. The divorce decree also split his and his ex-wife's holdings into bitcoin and another digital currency, Ethereum, valuing them at more than $800,000. The executive order also required him to pay an additional $15,000 a month to his ex-wife as well as $3,999 a month to support four of their children, ages 10 to 18. The executive order estimated the value of John Forsyth's business interests outside of his cryptocurrency holdings at $1 million.
A FAREWELL BETWEEN FRIENDS AND FAMILY
John and Richard Forsyth were among seven siblings in an extended family of over 100 cousins. The brothers grew up in both southwestern Missouri and Alberta, Canada, and held dual American and Canadian citizenship, Richard Forsyth said.
The family had a private funeral on Saturday, followed by a public wake on Sunday evening at a park in Monett, just north of Cassville. There, about 40 people, mostly family members, lit memorial candles and shared poignant and humorous stories about her.
Colleagues recalled how Forsyth often tried to lighten the air in the busy emergency room at an Aurora City hospital where he worked. Nurse Leah Tate remarked that he enjoyed seeing "how he could annoy you", making those gathered for the memorial service laugh. She said Forsyth made it a point to have a nurse throw something at her at least once a day.
Louise Hensley, a Monett resident and former neighbor of John Forsyth, said he cared for her husband, who had Lou Gehrig's disease, for several years.
“He was always very caring towards his patients. He was so helpful to my husband and me during this time," said Hensley, who called Forsyth's death "tragic."
"I was shocked when I heard a doctor was missing, then I saw it was him."