LAS VEGAS WORLD NEWS INVESTIGATIVE REPORT — There appears to be evidence supporting the theory that a smiley face serial killer or killers are at work murdering college-aged men but, so far, authorities refuse to confirm or deny that they are actively investigating the smiley face serial killer theory.
The murders date back to at least 1997, and the vast majority of them have been ruled as accidental drownings.
I remember reading about the drownings of so many young men before there was any discussion of a smiley face serial killer and, even back then, I thought that it was odd that so many men had drowned.
Serial killers are often given a moniker to bring awareness to the case. Sometimes the nicknames are created by the task force investigating a cluster of killings but, more often than not, the media comes up with a catchy moniker.
The smiley face serial killer received his name because an evil type of smiley face was found near the bodies of some of the men who have been found dead. Our investigative sources have told us that just because a smiley face had been found near some of the victims doesn’t mean that it is the calling card of a smiley face serial killer. They say it could simply be a coincidence or perhaps it is only graffiti.
The FBI is not convinced that there is a smiley face serial killer preying on young men and said,
To date, we have not developed any evidence to support links between these tragic deaths or any evidence substantiating the theory that these deaths are the work of a serial killer or killers. The vast majority of these instances appear to be alcohol-related drownings.
Still, for the family’s of the dead young men, the details of their loved ones deaths just do not add up and some believe that the smiley face serial killer could be responsible for their deaths.
The smiley face serial killer or killers, might be responsible for numerous murders of college aged men. There could potentially be hundreds of victims. Or thousands. The murders, if they were indeed murders, seem to share a number of similarities that appear, on the surface, to be too similar to just dismiss. Many of the dead men fit the following profile:
Placing dead bodies in water is a surefire way or erasing key evidence and is a tactic that many other killers have utilized.
Although some of the men listed here may have truly drowned accidentally the possibility of a smiley face serial killer simply cannot be dismissed.
Patrick McNeill. McNeill was a 21-year-old Fordham University College student who was last seen February 16, 1997, at the Dapper Dog bar located in the Upper East Side of New York City. He told his friends he was taking the subway back to Fordham. His friends said that McNeill was drinking but not very drunk. They say he was fully coherent. Patrick McNeill never made it home, and his body was found floating near a Brooklyn Pier on April 7, 1997. The Medical Examiner ruled his death as an accidental drowning.
Brian Welzien. To ring in the 2000 New Year, Welzien, a 21-year-old student at Northern Illinois University, and two friends drove to Chicago to attend a party where a friend of theirs was the disc jockey. Welzien who did not drink much became sick after drinking with his friends. Their disc jockey friend drove the three men to their hotel in the early hours of January 1, 2000. The two friends got out of the car and went to their hotel room. Welzien was throwing up and got out of the car while the man who had driven the trio parked the car. He returned moments later and Welzien was gone. His body washed up on a Lake Michigan beach in Gary, Ind., on March 17, 2000 in an area that was over 25 miles away from downtown Chicago yet his death was ruled as asphyxia due to drowning.
Chris Jenkins. The 21-year-old student and star athlete at the University of Minnesota disappeared on Halloween 2002. He was out with friends partying and was last seen at the Lone Tree Bar & Grill in downtown Minneapolis, Minn. He was intoxicated and thrown out of the bar. His coat, wallet, cell phone, and keys were left inside the bar. Nearly four months later, his body was found in the Mississippi River. Jenkins death was initially ruled as an accidental drowning. His blood-alcohol level indicated he was very intoxicated, and since he was still wearing his Halloween costume authorities believed that he had accidentally and drunkenly fell into the river. In 2006, nearly four years after Jenkins death, a tip from a man in jail caused police to reclassify his death as a homicide. In 2007, however, prosecutors declined to press any charges. Jenkins murder remains unsolved.
Michael Knoll. Knoll celebrated his 22nd birthday at the Nasty Habit Saloon in Eau Claire, Wisconsin on November 6, 2002. He left the bar and, presumably drunk, somehow ended up in an elderly woman’s home. She persuaded him to leave and that was the last time Knoll was seen alive. His body was recovered from the Half Moon Lake on March 25, 2003. His death was ruled as a probable drowning.
Josh Guimond. Guimond, 20, was a junior political science major from Maple Lake, Minn., who was reported missing from St. Johns University on November 9, 2002 after he failed to show up for a “mock trial” meeting. He was last seen about midnight leaving a party at a friend’s apartment on campus and was going home. Guimond was writing a paper about sex abuse on campus and there are theories that his death was somehow connected to his research since information from his computer was erased. Some believe that because authorities were searching bodies of water for Guimond, lending credence that authorities believe that the Smiley face serial killer does exist, that they did not investigate other credible leads.
Chad Sharon. “Smiling Chad” as he was known to his friends and family was last seen in the early morning hours on Dec. 12, 2002 at a party. He was having a good time so the Notre Dame honor student declined a ride home with friends and said he would walk back to campus. On Feb. 12, 2003, his body was discovered partially submerged in the St. Joseph River under the Angela Street bridge in South Bend by a construction employee working near the site. His cause of death was ruled a drowning.
Glenn Leadley. Leadley, 23, was last seen Feb. 8, 2003, at a party in a friends apartment on Chicago’s Gold Coast. He left to catch a cab after he got sick. His frozen body was found in Lake Michigan on February 23, 2003. According to authorities his death was the result of drowning or hypothermia.
Chris Hansen. Hansen, 22, from Traverse City, Mich., was found by a boater in the Leland River on October 29, 2005. Hansen was reportedly last seen at a bar and was drunk when he left to walk home. Authorities found nothing suspicious about his death and believe he fell in the river by accident.
Matthew Kruziki. Kruziki, 24, was last seen alive on Christmas Eve, 2005. He was on a road trip with a neighbor. The men ended up at the River Queen Lounge in East Dubuque, Illinois, a strip joint. Kruziki was involved in a dispute over a bar bill and thrown out of the bar. He left without his coat, wallet or cell phone. His body was found on March 18, 2006, in the Mississippi River near his hotel. His death was ruled a drowning.
Josh Szostak. Szostak, a 21-year-old college student was last seen in downtown Albany, New York on December 22, 2007 at the Bayou Cafe celebrating a friends birthday. He became separated from his friends and simply vanished. Szostak’s body was found on April 22, 2008, by a boater on the Hudson River. His death was ruled an accidental drowning.
Dan Zamlen. Zamlen, 18, was a freshman at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. He was at a party located close to the campus when he was last seen on April 5, 2009. Zamlen was allegedly upset about something. Friends of his have said that he was confused about his sexual orientation. He is said to have spoken to a female friend Anna Chappius at 2:30 a.m. and she allegedly offered to pick him up. During the conversation she said he began to yell for help and the line was disconnected. Zamlen’s body was found in the Mississippi River on May 1, 2009. Zamlen’s mother Sally Zamlen said that her son’s cell phone records do not reflect the call that Chappius described and pointed out many other inconsistencies about information that had been released related to her son’s death.
Harsha Maddula. Maddula, an 18-year-old Northwestern University sophomore was last seen on September 21, 2012. He and a few friends had smoked marijuana in a dorm room and, interestingly or perhaps tellingly, they consumed vodka that had been purchased by a stranger that they met in the street. Maddula and friends spent the night partying and, somewhere along the way, he became separated from his friends. Five days later, he was found floating in Wilmette Harbor. The zipper to his pants had been pulled down and authorities speculated that he attempted to urinate when he fell in the river since his iPhone and cash were found in his pockets. His blood-alcohol level was extremely high and authorities concluded that his death was not caused by the smiley face serial killer or attributed to any other form of foul play. They ruled his death resulted from an accidental drowning.
Nick Wilcox. Wilcox, 24, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student, was last seen on January 1, 2013, partying at the popular Irish Rec Room bar. He was thrown out of the bar and was last seen with a man that he had just met at the bar. The body of Nick Wilcox was found in the Milwaukee River on March 28,2013 and his death was attributed to an accidental drowning.
Thomas Hecht. Hecht, 28, was last seen in Milwaukee on March 10, 2013. He became separated from his friends and was last seen at Rosie’s Bar. His body was pulled from the Milwaukee River on March 22, 2013. Hecht’s death, according to authorities, resulted from an accidental drowning.
Could all of these young men drowned? Although drowning is certainly a possibility, is it a plausible explanation? Were some or all of the dead men victims of the smiley face serial killer or did they meet with some other form of foul play? Many of the dead young men were physically fit. Some had high blood-alcohol levels while other did not.
Is it possible that young men are simply prone to drinking, going off by themselves and simply falling in the water and drowning? Were they drugged before they drowned?
Family members of some of the victims are convinced that their loved ones did not die from an accidental drowning, although not all are convinced that there is a smiley face serial killer preying on young men.
What’s truly frightening is that there are many more cases like these. Hundreds of cases and possibly thousands. Deaths that have been ruled as accidental drownings but share shockingly similar characteristics with other young men who have died and who may have been victims of a smiley face serial killer.
Since there is no evidence of foul play there is no smiling face serial killer task force investigating the deaths or truly exploring the possibility that they are tied to the smiley face serial killer. Or even looking at other possibilities that led to the deaths of so many young men.
Retired New York City Police Detectives Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte have gained a lot of publicity for their role in publicizing the possibility of the smiley face serial killer. They claim to have conducted their own investigation into a number of deaths that were ruled as accidental drownings and beleive that a band of killers are responsible for many of the deaths that have been ruled as accidental drownings.
Gannon has repeatedly gone on record to say that more could be done if he had access to autopsy and investigative records from other jurisdictions, but overall he has been unable to produce credible evidence of a smiley face serial killer. Although there is support for the theories that Gannon and Duarte have presented some have spoken out unfavorably of Gannon.
According to Ruben Rosario of the Pioneer Press, there is evidence that suggests that Gannon was the target of a criminal investigation for the sexual assault of a student while he was investigating the disappearance of Dan Zamlen. When Rosario called Gannon to ask him about it he said that Gannon hung up on him.
Other critics of Shannon include Bill Szostak, a retired New York firefighter and arson investigator whose son Josh Szostak was found dead in the Hudson River. He said,
I feel Kevin is like a sponge – he latches onto the families, sucks the life out of them, and when he has nothing else to suck, he dumps them. Do I think he has revictimized families and done more harm than good? Yes, I do, and that’s a shame.
For the families of the deceased men whose lives were cut short not knowing what really happened to their loved ones is painful even many years later.
Is there really a smiley face serial killer or band of killers praying on young men, or could all of the hundreds of drownings of young men simply be a coincidence?