I had heard about this case a few years ago but there really was not enough information to make any type of judgement. Almost as soon as the story appeared in main stream media it seemed to be gone. I guess the story did pop up every so often, there would be a mention of another young man found dead from drowning who they possibly linked to a serial killer, or, a group of serial killers. The theories would be mentioned but no follow-up.
I thought that it had been eventually settled by the FBI, that the official word was that the cases were not connected even if the ‘profiles’ of the young men and the causes of death were somewhat similar. I knew that there were a few people who still tried to hold on to the idea that the men were killed rather than died from drunkenness or stupidity. As a mom I understood the families want to hold to that and figured the 2 retired officers sympathized with the families and a hoped that they could make things better for them.
I have read what I could find on the Smiley Face Murders out of curiosity since it seems they are back in the news. I kept an open mind and tried to see all sides and possibilities.
I am not connected to any law enforcement and I do not get ‘inside scoops’ so my opinion is based on information that is available to everyone.
Basically the theory is that somewhere between 40 – 80 young men have been killed in multiple states over about 14 years. This is not a case of a lone serial killer traveling the roads it would have to be multiple killers due to the time line of deaths. There have also been, at some of the scenes, smiley face and other graffiti that the 2 retired police officers say tie the crimes together and show that there is communication between the different killers. Some of the families of the deceased back the retired officers and there have been a few journalists that have been convinced of this theory as well.
Before I dismissed the idea of a group of killers working together I thought about the Zebra Killings, the Manson murders and even gang killings. The problem is when you have a group killing people it is very hard to keep it quiet. Even in cases of serial killing duos one usually screws up enough for both to get caught. Also, secrets like this do not stay secret for very long. This is supposed to have been going on for about 14 years and not 1 person has been caught or connected to the murders. If it was supposed to be 1 killer then it is very possible. That is not what is being suggested. There have been multiple murders committed on the same night many miles apart. It would be impossible for 1 person to have committed them, so it has to be at least 2 and probably more people committing the crimes. I know it would make a great horror movie plot but it does not make sense in real life.
I keep reading that the families have unanswered questions and many of these have to deal with why their sons went to the water’s edge. These young men were usually last seen leaving a bar, late, after drinking. The bodies of water they were found in were in the area, it is not like they had to stumble 2 miles to fall in.
I live in New Orleans and have had a great deal of experience with drinking and with drunk people. I have had friends that have either woken up on the levees or have been woken up by the police sleeping near the river. I see people sleeping in doorways and passed out on other people’s stoops. I am not talking about homeless people, I am talking about people with apartments or that are visiting and are paying a good deal of money for a hotel room. Why are they asleep on stoops, sidewalks or levees? They were drunk. We can not assign rhyme and reason to an intoxicated person’s actions. In one case the family states that their son would not have walked that way even though it was on the way to the pancake house his brother and him sometimes visited because it was raining. I know many people who after a night of drinking will walk far out of their way to get food, it seems like a good idea at the time.
Saying that these drowning are linked to serial killers because the actions of the intoxicated men do not make sense to sober people after the fact is like saying that middle-aged men killed in drunk driving accidents are killed by serial killers since everyone knows better than to drink and drive.
I also wondered why there was no police or government backing. Besides the families of the dead, the few reporters and 2 retired NY police officers there is no backing for this case. There is no official press release from any law enforcement group asking for information.
I saw sites accusing the local police departments of not doing their jobs, of shoddy investigations and hints of police cover ups. I can only assume that the FBI would have to be involved in the cover or hush up as well since they have stated that there are no connections.
This means that not only is there a group of killers that have been able to keep this hushed up for many years there are also multiple police agencies and multiple government agencies involved in a cover up. Why? In every serial case I have read there are always a great deal of could haves and would haves that the police, the FBI and other people realize. Hindsight is 20/20. In police investigations there are always mistakes, things overlooked but usually things do come together, even if it is years before the cases are solved law enforcement does start working together across county, state and even sometimes country lines.
The FBI and other law enforcement agencies have come forward with other unsolved killings. They make web sites, put up bill boards and make press releases. They ask for help, information they also alert the public. Why in this case have all departments remained steadfast that these are individual cases, tragic accidents and not connected? We are talking many jurisdictions, there is not even 1 that is looking into this as a serial case.
I have also seen a few disturbing reports about the 2 retired police officers that are pushing this case. I had believed that they were doing the investigation from their hearts, for the families but I am beginning to doubt that. Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte are beginning to lose the faith even of the families. Some of them still believe that the dead were murdered but the faith in the investigators is beginning to wane. Gannon and Duarte have went on television and told the families that there is all kinds of evidence but they also seem to show up with empty hands promising soon. They investigators are also being criticized since they are now claiming that they need money to prove more.?
And now a growing number of family members who once considered Gannon “a knight in shining armor,” as the father of one victim described the ex-cop to me, believe it’s time for him to put up or shut up.
“I still believe my son was murdered, but I also think it’s time that (Gannon) stop going on TV and come out and show some proof,” said Kathy Geib, mother of a Michigan drowning victim. “I have not heard from him in a year and a half.”
“I, frankly, never bought into it,” added Carol Noll, the mother of Michael Noll. The body of the Rochester, Minn., teen and former UW-Eau Claire student was found in Half Moon Lake five months after his disappearance more than seven years ago. Noll and her husband, Jeff, resent that their son’s name still shows up in numerous articles and Web sites promoting the serial-killer theory.
Bill Szostak, a retired New York firefighter and arson investigator whose son died under similar circumstances in Albany, N.Y., was the most blunt about his dissatisfaction.
“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,” said Szostak, who doesn’t remember one conversation he had with the ex-cop in which Gannon didn’t mention needing money to continue to investigate the deaths.
“Do I think he has revictimized families and done more harm than good?” Szostak said. “Yes, I do, and that’s a shame.”
Another critic is the former KSTP-TV investigative reporter who “broke” the “smiley-face killer” story in April 2008 and appeared alongside Gannon at news conferences and in national TV appearances.
“I stand by the original story I reported,” said Kristi Piehl, who won an Emmy for her coverage but was among several staffers laid off by the TV station in budget cuts last year.
“But now, frankly, I don’t buy Kevin’s story,” Piehl said last week. “He was partially right, but I think he has gone down the wrong path. … The ‘smiley-face killer’ name is a joke and tainted.”
Then there is the smiley faces themselves.
I have seen smiley faces all over this area. We have a lot of college students and younger (early to late 20′s) drinkers around here and that symbol seems to be a favorite to draw by students out drinking. Hearts, flowers and smiley faces can be seen in marker, make up, pen, paint and even in pencil on storefronts, private buildings, inside bathrooms at stores and especially in the bathrooms.
The graffiti in the case is not always the same face. Different colors, some with devil horns, some that appear to be very old, some fresh, some with backgrounds and some without mouths. There is nothing suggesting that the faces were connected to the deaths at all.
There was one word that the investigators thought could have turned out to be a location where another young man’s body was found. I have yet to see a clear picture of the “Sinsinawa” graffiti. I am not sure how clear the word was. I do know that there is much speculation. I have read that the word means grave in the Ojibwe language and some how that is more proof?
There is even a website that links the Zodiac Killer to the so-called Smiley Face Killings. The author of that site expands on the graffiti with quite a bit of flair.(That site here)
The retired detectives seem to walk around and look for graffiti and then state that that is the spot where the young man was killed and put into the water. It is almost comical to me, the tragedy of the families just makes it sadder instead of funny. I could not help but to ask myself if somehow they were not inspired by Keith Jesperson’s Happy Face killer moniker.
In this one smiley face theory we have a conspiracy of multiple serial killers killing in many states with double-digit victim counts that go back over 14 years.
The fact that these killings are all related is being covered up by multiple law and government agencies for blurry reasons. This law enforcement cover up has also been going on for years and years.
We have all these young victims killed just because they lived near bodies of water and choose to go out drinking.
We have a common graffiti sign that is somehow becoming the ‘sign’ that the killers are communicating.
We also have 2 retired police officers that have come up with this conspiracy theory and their credibility is starting to fade. They are becoming tv bobble heads who can offer only scary stories and empty promises of proof. They pick up supporters who are full of belief and enthusiasm at first. The supporters finally seem to realize that there is no solid proof, just smoke and mirrors that some families hold on to rather than to allow their little boys to have made the ultimate bad decision that led to their untimely deaths. The families do not grieve, they rage against an unknown evil and the “investigators” not only encourage but instigate this.
That is the real crime here.
In my opinion there is no Smiley Face Killer.
There are young men who drink too much and who have horrible accidents.
I hope that the families find some kind of peace.
FBI Statement Regarding Midwest River Deaths
April 29, 2008
FBI National Press Office
“Over the past several years, law enforcement and the FBI have received information about young, college-aged men who were found deceased in rivers in the Midwest. The FBI has reviewed the information about the victims provided by two retired police detectives, who have dubbed these incidents the “Smiley Face Murders,” and interviewed an individual who provided information to the detectives. 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. The FBI will continue to work with the local police in the affected areas to provide support as requested,” said Supervisory Special Agent Richard J. Kolko, Washington, D.C.