Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Smiley Face Murders

Two retired New York police detectives say they've discovered a link between the drownings of at least 40 men in 25 cities in 11 different states. The symbol of a smiley face was found at the various locations where the bodies went into the water. A nationwide criminal network is suspected of the murders.

How did the members of this network meet, if they really are from different parts of the country? Could they all have known each other at one time? This would suggest they went to school together or attended the same gathering--a music, political, or social festival. It could be they all come from the same geographic area and simply travel around the country seeking victims.

Many like-minded individuals first meet each other on the internet. This group could have met in a chat room or on a message board, thought of a plan, and moved their discussion to email or phone and they agreed to meet in person or made plans for killing their intended victims, even though each person may live in a different part of the country.

What motivates a network like this? They could be "unaffiliated" and simply share an evil mentality and desire to be serial murderers, perhaps having read about famous killers. They could also be Satanists or members of another religion. It's possible they are Islamist terrorists and are executing a plot hatched by their masters abroad.

Precious little is available on the idea of a criminal group meeting over the internet to engage in serial murder. Most crimes involving the use of the internet (other than cybercrime) are individual adults soliciting underage kids for sex, or adults soliciting other adults with a crime as the end result of the eventual personal encounter.

UPDATE: 8/29/08: A Smiley Face Victims Investigation Fund has been established to fund the efforts of Gannon and Duarte, and gather signatures to get the FBI involved in the investigation. A fundraiser will be held Sept. 5 in Latham, NY. Bill Szostak, who started the fund, plans a big announcement in October. Police in Albany say the death of Joshua Szostak was a “tragic accident.” Otherwise, there hasn’t been much news lately about the Smiley Face case.

UPDATE 5/29/08:
This morning Megyn Kelly, on the Fox News program America’s Newsroom, interviewed an investigator about the disappearance of Brandon Swanson, a 19-year-old from Marshall, Minnesota whose abandoned car was found in a ditch May 14 and hasn’t been heard from since. Gary Peterson, the investigator in charge of the Swanson search (he also led the search for Nick Garza, who was found dead Tuesday), said Swanson had been talking on his cell phone to his dad and the call ended abruptly. His phone continued to ring for several days afterwards. “Something interrupted this young man’s journey and we’ve got to find out what it was,” he said. Peterson can’t say if there is a connection to the Smiley Face deaths because he hasn’t been to the scene yet but will be there tomorrow. Peterson said he has a list of 104 missing young men who suddenly disappeared and some are found later in a river. “There is something that’s happening to these young men, be it an organized gang or some sort of a drug that renders them helpless.” Police say these are college kids getting drunk on Saturday night and they fall into a river, but “if they are so inebriated then how are they able to walk for a mile or two miles?”

UPDATE: 5/21/08: CNN prominently placed a story on their website with some noteworthy details. Nine of the deceased attended the University of LaCrosse. Detectives Gannon & Duarte believe the victims were given a drug that can’t be detected by an autopsy and were sometimes physically abused—the water washing away the evidence. But of course, all that is conjecture since there is no evidence to back it up. Duarte speculated on a profile of the killers “The type of person that would be the opposite [of the victims], not smart, someone not good in school, maybe doesn’t have a job, not popular.” A second congressman, Mike McNulty (D-NY), has asked the FBI to reopen the case.

UPDATE: 5/18/08:
The Mirror (UK) writes about the case and says the killings “bear a striking similarity to the cult Watchmen comic book series” in which a murder (or murders) was committed and the body found next to a blood-stained smiley face, which is a recurring symbol in the series.

UPDATE: 5/16/08:
Greta Van Susteren on Fox News hosted an extensive segment on the Smiley Face case. The death of Chris Jenkins, originally thought to be an accidental drowning, has been reclassified as a homicide. The Chief of Minneapolis Police was interviewed and said he has suspects, and “we know what we need to get those people charged.” The Chief isn’t sure if these suspects are affiliated in any way with others across the country, or if the other drowning are related, but told Gannon and Duarte the police need evidence to support that idea. He has “very good leads” on the suspects—not enough to bring charges yet, but enough to reclassify the case, and the coroner was supportive as well.

Mark Fuhrman, former LA Police Detective, was interviewed for his opinion. He saw the autopsy report and “I saw nothing that is even remotely close to a homicide.” The Jenkins case was an accident that was turned into a homicide “because of a jailhouse snitch.” The smiley faces can’t be tied to the deaths. That graffiti, he added, has been around since the 1960s and isn’t uncommon. Fuhrman said the smiley face is a common sign to put on ecstasy tablets, and ecstasy combined with cocaine or alcohol causes an overheating of the body, suggesting this might cause a person to dive into a river. Another guest pointed out there was no evidence ecstasy was present in the Jenkins case. Fuhrman closed his comments by saying “the investigators are too close to the investigation and they’ve lost their perspective.”

UPDATE 5/7/08: Searchers found a smiley face somewhere in the vicinity where Nicholas Garza was last seen alive, although it’s unclear from the story the distance between the place where Garza disappeared and the smiley face. That smiley face is supposedly similar to the ones found near other supposed victims in other cities. But is there really any connection? If a serial killer gang existed, wouldn’t they make it easier to find their “calling card” and link it to their crimes? Otherwise, why draw them? So far, it just doesn’t make much sense. Police are skeptical and say the smiley face is two years old. People magazine has a story advertised on its cover (no online link to the story yet). In the story, the police chief of Eau Claire says he asked Gannon and Duarte for specifics, but “I heard theory or conjecture, not evidence.” Police found a smiley face somewhere near the place where Tommy Booth disappeared. Gannon & Duarte now have their own website, but it is extremely disappointing in that there is very little information available there. I suspect people with an interest in their theory are expecting much more.

UPDATE 5/1/08: Law enforcement officials around the country remain skeptical of the Smiley Face serial murder theory. Albany police believe a smiley face near the place where Joshua Szostak was last seen is a prank. Iowa police believe Abel Bolanos’ drowning death was accidental and not a murder. South Bend police doubt Chad Sharon’s drowning death was anything but an accident. An editorial in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram criticizes the two retired detectives, accusing them of presenting “shoddy” evidence and suggesting they are exploiting the victims’ families for their own purposes.

UPDATE 4/30/08: The FBI issued a statement late yesterday rejecting the Smiley Face murder theory. A New York Police Commissioner said there was no evidence linking two deaths in NY to serial killers. All the supposed victims were male and 93% were white, according to an Ohio-focused story. Gannon and Duarte suggest as a link that many of the victims have high GPAs, athletically-inclined, and well-liked, but it seems unreasonable on the face of it that murder victims would be selected based on those criteria, and at least one of the killers would have needed to know the victims personally and be familiar with their academic records and social status. A smiley face has been found in at least 12 of the crime scenes, so it would be helpful if the detectives would provide all the photos together on a website for comparison and commentary. At this point, the ball is in the court of the two detectives to provide more evidence linking the smiley faces with the victims, and the victims with a gang of killers. Apparently there are no marks on the bodies that would link them.

UPDATE 4/29/08:
Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner writes a letter to the FBI asking that they reopen the case. Minneapolis Police say they don’t have enough evidence to support a criminal prosecution, and they can’t confirm the Smiley Face murders theory. The New York Daily News has a story focusing on the NY angle.

UPDATE 4/28/08:
The Fox News story (see below) says the FBI and others don’t agree the drownings are linked and the work of a gang. I think that would depend whether there is evidence suggesting the victims were tortured, as has been suggested, and if so, were they tortured in the same way. And are the smiley faces the work of the same hand? A smiley face isn’t exactly an uncommon graffiti, and their appearance somewhere near the scenes of the crimes could be a coincidence. The public hasn’t been given enough information to know the answers to these questions. Shepard Smith discussed the story on Fox News today and a story is on the front page of their website. The Chicagoist has a story ("Did a Serial Killer Group Hit Chicago?") about Brian Welzien, who drowned in Lake Michigan several years ago, although from the story, I dont see that anyone found a smiley face near his body. And from KSTP: "Jenkins Investigation Goes National."

UPDATE 02/10/10: Several young males in the Midwest have gone missing recently but there is no "smiley face" link to any of them. It is unknown if foul play is involved. The missing include Jonathan Lacina, Sylvester McCurry, and Eric Peterson.

UPDATE 02/14/10: Police have closed the Dan Zamlen case and found no evidence of foul play. His mother found a street sign nearby with "smiley face" graffiti on it, but police said they found no connection.

UPDATE: 02/17/10: Serial drowner on the loose? The body of Craig J. Meyers was pulled from the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Police believe alcohol is responsible for the area drownings, not foul play.


  1. I've been following this smiley face killing for several weeks now. Has anyone considered what seems to me to be an obvious pattern? Reports state that at least ninety percent of the victims are White. No mention has been made of the other ten percent. The only deaths discussed seem to be the ones involving White college students. Given the PC climate today I can't help but suspect that the other ten percent is merely a red herring to dispel any suspicion on the part of the public that this is a campaign directed against White males, who have lately been demonized as the most evil group on the face of the earth.
    If the victims had all been Black there would be an immediate investigation into the possibility that some White supremacist group was responsible and that these killings were definitely hate crimes.
    Given the fact that there is a precedent for anti- White crimes such as the Zebra killings and the Yaweh murders and when you have hate mongers such as the "Reverend" Wright, Luis Farrakhan and his acolyte, the late Khalid Muhammed and countless others like the so called "Professor" Kambon who in a speech called for the extermination of the White race from the earth, I am surprised that this angle hasn't received any public attention.

  2. I never even heard of these murders why is there not more public mention of this matter, I heard about this just through general conversation for 2 seconds, no one really knew anything about it, of course there is so much out there going on, although something is usually mention in a matter like this, I mean we all know about the GA killings of black men/boys or is it because these students are white, just a thought.

  3. Ok I just heard about this smiley face murders from a friend who just wanted to warn me not to let my guard down cause im out the hood. and word on the street is it is a gang hitman whos tag is a smileyface killing these people. some people say its ms13 some say its a dominican gang hitman. I dont know shit about ms13 and i dont even think i have ever seen a member of the gang nor do i ever want to met one. but i know they exist because everyone says they exist. but from what i have heard some gang members will befriend and party with a kid they targeted for wearing the wrong color or busting his hat the wrong way or something. YOu can even learn about these practices on the history channels show called gang land. all i know is some friends of mine warned me not to let down my guard just cause im out the hood. I dont know how true any of this is. But when people in the street whisper its usually good info so i listen.

    OK on another note. I have been reading about this ever since i have been told about it by my friend in the ghetto.

    And I wonder. Do any of these victims have similar majors. I wonder if the killers arent somehow all Criminal justice majors or maybe forensic majors. If it isnt one person/ hitman/ serial killer aided by gang members in each new city.

  4. "Police say these are college kids getting drunk on Saturday night and they fall into a river, but 'if they are so inebriated then how are they able to walk for a mile or two miles?'"

    That's so retarded. That's like saying at a DUI trial, "It couldn't have been me, Your Honor, my blood alcohol was twice the legal limit so I couldn't have driven into that building/car/et cetera!" You can be completely fucked up without being incapable of some function.

  5. I think your on tho something Mr. Leary and if you contact me I will share some simularities not in the press. One of the boys Abel was my daughters best friend. He disappeared and the explanation of his drowning leaves alot to be desired. In fact there are some other circumstances that would explain it to us. I would love to share the lead with you maybe you can get it to the right place. contact point.

  6. I live in southern Minnesota.Last friday night a young man was stopped (in Spirit Lake Iowa) and asked for directions.As he approached the vehicle he was grabbed from behind, his hands were tied and he was tossed in the back seat. The 2 men drove him to a remote country lake, untied him and held him under water until they thought he was dead. This young man is a swimmer and has a record for holding his breath under water. He faked he had drowned. Terrified he remained in the water for what he felt was hours then found his way to a farm house where the local police were called. This young man is related to my sister through marriage and when my sister related the story to me I suggested she call the FBI She was told they ddn't see any link!! I don't understand the lack of follow up on theses cases.

  7. Any update?

    The smiley face could be symbolic of Exu, one of the most known deities of the Yoruba ...the god of sex and revenge; also the trickster.

    If so, it wouldn't be the first time something like this happened in the mid-west.

    There was a racially motivated series of murders, in the 70's I think, in the Chicago area. The group was called de mau mau. People were tried and convicted.


  8. I have a 20 yr. son and he walks alot. It scares me to death about this smiley face killing. Is it that all these young men are in college? Whats to say their are some that are not my son isnt but that to me does not matter. From what I hear they are alone when this happens. I do believe someone is out there killing our sons and something should be done about it. Find them before more have to die. A concerned mother.

  9. Interesting assumption about all the victims maybe having the same major (forensics or criminal justice). Josh, the college student killed in Albany, was actually a communications major. I know this because he and I went to the same college in upstate New York. So that debunks that thought.

  10. Ok, so here are a few things that stick in my craw about this whole thing...

    1.) Mark Fuhrman is the last person I would ask about a murder case.

    2.) It sounds like a tag team group of 2 - 4 members.

    3.) This group could have any smiley face connection... Yahoo IM, Wal-Mart, Forrest Gump... anything.

    4.) How are these guys subdued? Most Date Rape drugs have a life in the body of about 12 hours. It would show up in an autopsy. Maybe a Tazer? Not as the cause of death, but the method of knocking these guys out.

    5.) The theory and conjecture as reported by People (not the most reassuring journalists) tossed around by Gannon and Duarte can be easily enough explained. They are both retired cops and as such they both play cards close to their chest. Don't give out info you don't have to.

    6.) Is there any way to determine how long the smiley face was in-situ? Put the smiley face there before, kill, dump the body by the face... see what I mean?

    Larry King had a nice show on this, but I have to say, not every boy in the water has to be linked to this cabal. Not every dead girl found by the Green River was killed by Gary Ridgway.

  11. Well i'm a college student in IA and have just lost faith in any sort of defense AGAINST THE BAD enforcements need to dig they're fucking heels into the ground and actually get something done...cuz if i end up in a river my parents will raise hell to assure they're found

  12. It is a big hoax. I believe many of them are suicides. Males tend to keep their suicidal feelings to themselves and then commit suicidal without anyone knowing it.

    Why are White men treated better when they are murdered but everyday non whites are murdered and they are treated like their lives don't matter. Shame on the media.

  13. I've been following the smiley face murders since I heard of them and i'm kind of wondering if these young men that are being killed are possibly gay.Thank about it because when they come up missing not a single person sees them after they leave point A and don't show up to point B.This suggest to me that perhaps they don't want anyone to now their gay and being prayed upon at a gay bar or internet.This is something a high achiever could't afford to let anyone no about,could get in the way of a government job perhaps.Or lets flip it on its ear and go the other way and thank about this,a group of gay men tired of being put down and made fun of by the young guys that have everything going for them.At any rate I thank the murders could have been avoided by keeping alert and when you go out always leave with a group of well trusted friends trust no one on the internet but if your going to meet someone take a friend with you in a mall or busy area never go alone and always tell someone where your going and what time you will return.Be safe everyone

  14. so just got to thinking perhaps the murders are a group of criminal justice students trying to see if they can get away with something.maybe its the thrill of the hunt.Another thought could be a group of alcohol abused woman that have banned together to hunt down what they might think are future abusers,taking out their anger and hurt out on those that in their minds are an ex-husband or boy friend but case and point are clearly young guys out have to good of time.think about this what is #1 in a mans fantasy?sex and not just sex 2,3,or even 4 women at a time.tell me how hard it would be to get a young guy out of a bar or from the internet with that fantasy in mind.They could tell him dont tell anyone we just want you come alone,and with that kind of thing happening around a young guy the last thing hes thinking about is being murdered so on that note does any of these guys have a history of abuse on woman?maybe thats a peace of the puzzle thats missing

  15. Watch the surveillance video of Josh Szostak outside of the Bayou Cafe in Albany, and you will see 4 of the killers in action.

    Two heavy set women enter the frame from the left, act erratically, and reappear numerous times throughout. They are the bird dogs. Two abductor males enter the frame from the right, watch the victim intently, one begins to approach then both back off and exit the frame to the right. Our victim looked too sober to them; more time was needed for the drugging to take effect.

    Also notice that there was at least one and seemingly two vehicles which repeatedly drove by the club.


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