(Photo Credit: KTSP.com)
There is a nationwide gang of murderers operating in small cells targeting young, male, predominantly White college students. The killers have covertly murdered dozens of young men in the last decade, perhaps as many as forty, disposing of the bodies in rivers and lakes where the deaths could be explained as accidents. At each scene they leave a spray painted Smiley Face as mute witness to the unrelenting horror that they perpetrate on their fellow man for no other reason than the celebration of their own evil.
On its face it seems absurd, a theory that sounds like the plot of a bad movie or one of those delusional stories told by paranoid conspiracy theorists. It is a scenario so beyond the pale that upon first hearing it you don’t want it to be true.
But two retired police detectives have come forward with the results of their investigation into these deaths, dozens of deaths that span several states, and have provided convincing evidence that a cult of killers has been hunting young men for over ten years, and taunting the police with a bizarre and easily overlooked signature:
A spray-painted smiley face with a taunting grin could be the disturbing signature of a nationwide network of killers who target promising college students.
The chilling symbol has been found at at least 12 sites where young men fitting a distinct profile have been drowned in incidents that were ruled accidents.
Found by two retired NYPD cops, the link could be evidence that at least 40 men in 11 states were victims of a syndicate of serial killers. Four area students were among the victims – all found floating in New York City waters more than a decade ago.
“I believe we’re looking at an organized group that has a hierarchy and is involved in murder and other criminal activity,” retired NYPD Sgt. Kevin Gannon said Monday, noting that some of the deaths in different cities occurred on the same day.
Gannon, a 20-year veteran who worked homicide and missing persons cases, said trademark graffiti left at the sites where the victims have been dumped in the water reveal a pattern of intent – along with the near-identical profiles of the drowned men.
In every case, the victim has been a 19-to-23-year-old white male with high academic achievement and active in competitive sports, said Gannon.
“If this was a random thing, we’d have a wider range of victims,” he said.
Gannon, who has partnered with retired Bronx homicide Detective Anthony Duarte, said the 12 smiley faces have been found at drowning scenes in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa. The crude drawings vary in size, shape and color and at least one had a chilling message written next to it: “The evil, happy, smiley man.”
“They’re laughing at the police,” said Gannon. “They’re happy they’re getting away with this and they’re getting a little more brazen.”
The killings happen in regional clusters – not unlike the time four young men in the city went missing and then surfaced dead in waters surrounding the five boroughs in 1997 and 1998.
Pat Brown has gone on record before as saying signature killers are exceedingly rare. And while there have been serial rapists and murderers who have worked together in teams there has not been, to my knowledge, a network of killers this large (unless you believe the theories of Maury Terry concerning the Son of Sam “cult”) who kill seemingly for sport or pleasure. Gangs that kill do so for materialistic reason or in some cases status, and there is more variety in the victims. These killers have a definite victim profile they work from.
Almost all the victims were White, from 19-23 and were last seen in a bar. All also have some general similarities, each having a “jock” look and being the clean cut, straight laced type. All have very similar hight, weight and even grade point average.
The detectives involved say they have names of suspected gang members, so maybe they will eventually be able to shine some light onto what the motives of these murderers are.
The case has gone national but it was Kristi Piehl who worked with the families and the detectives for a year who broke this story and her reports are as in-depth as you’d expect. KSTP.com has the story written up and accompanied by a video report as well as a collection of evidence and reports to go through. It includes an interactive victim map and an interview with Kristi Piehl on a morning talk program where the ineptitude of the local cops is exposed as playing a part in the killings going undetected.
Fox News is reporting, and there’s a clip of Shep Smith getting details from Eric Shawn available on YouTube.
The Upstate New York town of Canton has reacted to the news with disbelief. The police there have announced they will not reopen the case and are sure Victor Falcon, believed to be one of the Smiley Face Killers victims, drowned accidentally.
If this turns out to be true it’ll be one of the most important discoveries in criminology. A nation wide serial killing cult would be considered an urban legend until now, and their exposure would change how we view gangs, serial killers and everything we think we know about crime.
Update: MSNBC has coverage and video from The Today Show.
Also Huffpo put up a story using a link to the very same Pat Brown Crime Library essay I used. To make the same point. About twelve hours later. Just saying.