4The Smiley Face Killer
Two former New York detectives think they have an answer to explain over 40 accidental drownings throughout the United States.
Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte had promised the parents of Patrick McNeil that they wouldn’t rest until they could sufficiently explain the death of their son.
McNeil was a student at Fordham
University in 1997 when he went missing, having been seen for the last time leaving a bar in New York. Two months later his body washed up along the banks of the East River.
In 2002, another college student, Chris Jenkins, disappeared in Minneapolis. He, like McNeil, was a popular, athletic and successful student. He had also disappeared after a party where he had been drinking.
Police originally ruled his death an accidental drowning once his body turned up in the Mississippi River, but they reopened the case as a homicide at the insistence of his parents.
The case caught the attention of Gannon and Duarte. Working backwards from where both bodies were found, using GPS and information on water flow, the detectives believe they have been able to pinpoint where the bodies were dumped into the rivers.
At each site they found some version of a smiley face painted on a nearby tree or wall. For that reason, the theory came to be known as “The Smiley Face Killer” theory.
The two put their methods to work on numerous other accidental drowning cases across the country. They believe they have uncovered the existence of either a single killer or gang of killers responsible for over 40 deaths in the Midwest and New York.
All of the victims are young, athletic college students who were last seen leaving a party, probably intoxicated. They have also been able to pinpoint a dumping site for each victim and managed to turn up a painted smiley face at each one.
Some law enforcement officials dismiss the theory. No arrests have been made in any of the cases.