“I can honestly tell you that I’ve walked every step of the way and it is hard for me to believe,” Chris Jenkins’ mother Jan Jenkins said.
Between New York and Minneapolis there have been recorded several deaths. These are of young men, all of them handsome, most if not all Catholic, all were last seen at a bar, each was intoxicated when he left, and each was found in circumstances that would indicate he merely died some natural death by falling in a creek, lake, or river.
These deaths would otherwise have been forgotten if it had not been for a sensational theory promulgated by 2 New York City detectives. Those who follow True Crime are familiar with the Smiley Face Killer Theory. It has brought forth these victims of death from the shadows, but sadly there is a Catch 22 to it all. The theory seemed so outlandish (at least elements of it) that it has helped obscure the cases as well. There remains great skepticism whether as many as 40 victims of similar “natural death” could be the victims of a gang that seems to have no other purpose but to kill young, handsome, Catholic college men and make it look like drowning.
But what about 12 young men? What about just 5? This does not minimize the tragedy. Five dead young men are 5 too many. But you get my point. After hearing about 40 victims of a massive plot, 5 doesn’t seem too many. Nevertheless, 5 victims is the tally of Jack the Ripper. We have within the litany of 40 victims of the Smiley Face Killer Theory the possibility that a serial killer/s had picked 5 or 6 off. He remains hidden because the Smiley Theory is written off as outrageous and therewith further scrutiny is not given to the individual cases. Yet if done so it could reveal a pattern does exist between a few of them, that is to say, a pattern far more intricate than the general one that formed the theory to begin with.
Of the many deaths, only the first death in New York and the death at the other extreme of the corridor have been declared murders. This last one is the death of Chris Jenkins around November 1, 2002. His body was found about 4 months later floating in a thawing Mississippi River. At first he merely appeared to have drowned, though it would have taken a very amateur eye not to be suspicious. His parents didn’t believe it. They took it upon themselves to dig further and this got the case reopened and reclassified. It was obvious the young man had been murdered.
But there was no motive. He had last been seen at a bar near the Mississippi by the Hennepin Bridge. He was at a Halloween party inside, got a little smashed, and was ejected, cruelly, on a night where the temp was freezing. He only had his Indian costume on, no overcoat, no wallet.
No one is sure what happened thereafter. But when his body was found frozen months later in the Mississippi it was found in rather peaceful repose, rigid, arms folded in front, his loose moccasins still on his feet. Police first deduced that he had fallen or had jumped into the river the night he went missing. The position of the body in the river, floating face up and with the moccasins still on, however, was not reflective of the drowning position, which is preceded by much writhing under water, and a fall from the tall bridge would have taken off the moccasins. Further examination proved he had been drowned and gently placed in the river. Supposedly, some of his hair was found clutched in one hand.
This last clue was a tragic reminder of murder. It has been deduced that his head was forced under water and he was held there. In fighting to survive, he clutched at the hands of his attacker as they clutched his head. In grasping to rip his attacker’s hands off, he ripped some of his own hair out.
What Jenkins’ death proves is that someone murdered him for no known reason and tried to disguise (albeit poorly) his murder as a drowning. This same thing was done with the first victim, Patrick McNeill, in New York. Thus at the opposite polls of the major highway that connects both locations the Smiley Face Killer theorists have uncovered a similar MO. Both victims were last seen in bars, with the first possibly drugged and then followed. Both were placed in a river and both were found much later.
It is time to assess all those deaths in between New York and Minneapolis, in between the death of Pat McNeill and Chris Jenkins, to see what victims fit and do not fit the theory or, more importantly, to see which ones truly suggest a pattern. In doing so we can finally winnow down the cases to make for a believable theory that a serial killer/s is traveling the highways between New York and Minnesota, and selecting a very distinct type of victim for some unknown reason. In future posts I will try and get at this task.
If there is a cult of crime, it needs to be established succinctly and not given form merely from generalities and theory based on nothing more than suspicion.
The next post will critically and logistically examine the Smile Face Killer Theory.
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Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.