Thursday, December 11, 2008

Kristi Piehl Star Reporter Laid Off

KSTP layoffs include Emmy winner Piehl
By Amy Carlson Gustafson
agustafson@pioneerpress.com
Updated: 12/04/2008 09:52:41 PM CST


Kristi Piehl (KSTP)RelatedMedia cutbacks
Star Tribune seeks union cost cutsEmployees at KSTP-TV, Channel 5, learned as many as 18 people had been laid off on what one person dubbed "black Thursday." A stationwide meeting was planned for this morning to discuss staff cuts.

Among those laid off was Emmy Award-winning reporter Kristi Piehl, who has been with the station for nearly three years.

"We knew that we were in rough economic times, but I don't think anyone expected 18 people to be laid off in the newsroom," said Piehl, whose "Smiley Face Killers" investigative report earlier this year landed her in the national spotlight and included an appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Piehl said news director Lindsay Radford told her she'd been let go Thursday morning and was told other on-air people also had lost their jobs. While Piehl said she was hurt by the news, she's not angry and doesn't regret her time at the station.

"I'm proud of what I've done," she said. "I had no warning this was coming."

KSTP is an ABC affiliate and the flagship station of Hubbard Broadcasting Corp. Messages left for Radford and station general manager Rob Hubbard on Thursday were not returned.

Piehl, who is married and has two children, said she wants to continue reporting in the Twin Cities.

"I'm hoping that one of the other news directors in town hears I'm available and gives me a call," she said. "My noncompete was waived, so I'm out there."

Other local TV stations also have had layoffs this year. Gannett-owned KARE-TV,

Channel 11, the local NBC affiliate, and CBS-owned WCCO-TV, Channel 4, have cut staff, and KARE recently offered a round of buyouts to some of its employees. The highest profile layoff came in April, when WCCO cut popular meteorologist Paul Douglas.
Ken Stone, a University of Minnesota instructor who teaches TV reporting and newscast production, said he expects to see more job cuts at local TV stations.

"I would think it's not going to stop at this point," Stone said. "And how bad it gets, no one knows. For my students who are graduating right now, it's not a great time. The jobs have just sort of frozen. If they're not laying off people, they're cutting jobs."

Amy Carlson Gustafson can be reached at 651-228-5561.

Friday, October 24, 2008

PIEHL: Smiley Face - This is the day

From Investigative Reporter, Kristi Piehl

It's October 15th. This is the day the petitions were going to be delivered to the FBI.

More than 10,000 people signed petitions asking the FBI to launch a formal investigation into the drowning deaths of 40 men. As you know, there is a belief that the deaths are connected and perpetrated by people now known as "The Smiley Face Killers." Parents of several victims worked over the summer to collect the petitions.

So why aren't the petitions being delivered today? When this date was discussed, it was several months ago. It was before the troubling economic times and before election coverage dominated the local and national news.

The parents are going to wait to deliver these petitions to the FBI. They hope their delivery will create more public pressure for the FBI to take a look at the drownings. If the petition delivery is not front page news, they are concerned the petitions, that they worked so hard to gather, will not make the kind of impact they are hoping for.

I'll let you know when there is a new time table.....

Friday, September 26, 2008

PIEHL: Smiley Face: Petition Update

From Investigative Reporter, Kristi Piehl
The deadline is passed, but the petitions are still coming in. That's the word from Chris Jenkins' father, Steve.

I've blogged before that Bill Szostak, the father of a drowning victim, is trying to pressure the FBI to launch a formal investigation into the drownings of 40 men over the last decade. The calls by three Congressmen have not helped so Szostak believes the best way is the power of the public.

All summer, Szostak and Jenkins have gathered signatures for a petition that will be delivered to the FBI in October. Even though the deadline for the petition drive was Sept. 15, they are still accepting and soliciting petitions. Right now, they have more than 9000 signed petitions. Their goal is 10,000.

At the Chris Jenkin's 5K run and fundraiser in October, Chris' friends and family will be gathering more petition signatures.

As for the "Smiley Face Killer" investigation, there is still an active one by Bill Szostak with the assistance of Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte in Albany, NY. I'll keep you posted.....

Friday, September 12, 2008

Smiley Face Killers News Conference

Kevin Gannon Speaks At The News Conference:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

PIEHL: Smiley Investigation: Advice From Parents


Many of the emails that I've received ask about the pattern of the drownings. The majority take place between September and April.

Police officials say this is because it's when schools are in session and college parties are in full swing.

The retired NY Detectives actively investigating the connection between the drownings and the Smiley Face Killers have a different explanation. They say the victims are killed or placed in the water in colder weather because fewer people would be outside to witness the crime. Because of the ice on the water, the Detectives say the killers know it will take months before the body is discovered. When the body is in the water longer, nearly all of the forensic evidence is washed away.

While there is disagreement about what happens to the men, we do know that these drownings continue to happen. Now that it is fall, parents of the young men who have drowned, tell me they fear that the pattern will begin again. There are ways to keep your sons and brothers safe. It's pretty simple---drink responsibly and don't leave bars or house parties alone.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Saturday, August 23, 2008

PIEHL: 'Smiley Face Killers' - Your Questions


Almost everyday, someone emails me a question about the Smiley Face Killer story or a missing persons case. If one person has a question and sends it to me, then there must be more people thinking the same thing.

Here are the answers to a few questions that I've recently received.

1. "I thought I heard an arrest was about to be made. Any word on that?"

The FBI has said agents are not investigating these drownings and blame the cases on alcohol. While some of the drowning cases are classified by the local police departments as "open", my information is that one or two could considered "active."

The father of one of the victims is involved in an investigation in Albany, New York with retired NYPD detectives, Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte. Bill Szostak has told me, that through his work, he believes he knows what happened to his son and has nearly enough information that he could get a conviction in court. Since Szostak isn't licensed in law enforcement, no official action could happen without the involvement of the Albany Police Department. Szostak tells me that his son's case was closed just hours after Josh's body was pulled from the water.

Of the cases that Gannon and Duarte believe are connected, only Chris Jenkins' is classified as homicide. Right now, the homicide investigation in Minneapolis is open. Police have identified suspects and turned data over to the Hennepin County Prosecutor. Last July, attorneys determined there was not enough evidence to put together a criminal case.

2. "What about Brandon Swanson?"

Brandon Swanson disappeared near Marshall in May. Dedicated search crews are spending some weekends looking for him. Swanson's car was recovered, but there hasn't been any sign of him.

There is no reason to believe that Swanson's case is related to any others. However, many people have asked me about it because Swanson fits the general description of other men who have disappeared or been found drowned.

3. My son heard that the body of a missing boy was recovered "on the banks of the Mississippi River in St. Paul... why is there nothing in the news?"

The missing St. Paul boy that this person is referring to is Joey Kaiser. He was last seen leaving his home on his bike in May. His bike was found in the Mississippi River, but there hasn't been any sign of him.

A body was recovered in the Mississippi this week near the area where Kaiser went missing. St. Paul Police tell us that it will take DNA tests to determine identity. There are dozens of people missing in St. Paul and officers are NOT currently connecting the recovered body to Kaiser's case.

Officially, Kaiser has not been classified as "endangered." His family told the media that Kaiser was angry and was dealing with some mental health issues when he biked away from his home in May.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ravenna death possibly tied to 'smiley face killers' killing spree

PLEASE VISIT THIS LINK BELOW FOR THE NEWS VIDEO COVERAGE:http://video.woodtv.com/wvx.php?video_id=13581&ad_id=126


Todd <span class=
Todd Geib
The killers usually leave behind a calling card - a smiley face.
The killers usually leave behind a calling card - a smiley face.
Kathy <span class=
Kathy Geib

RAVENNA, Mich. (WOOD) -- In 2005, the Ravenna community scoured the area after 22-year-old Todd Geib went missing for three weeks. They found his body floating in Obenhall Lake.

Local police say the case is officially closed - ruled as an accidental drowning. But Geib's family says it was deliberate, as they continue to look for answers.

Those in his hometown are coming together and signing their names to a petition, asking the FBI to look into the possibility that Geib's death was something more sinister - a part of what some investigators think is a nationwide crime ring that targets people just like Todd.

"It's hard, it will always be hard, the reality when you lose a child. But then we come back here with a lot of questions...what happened to him?" said Kathy Geib, Todd's mother. "For three years we couldn't do anything, you know, knowing that what we believed was foul play, but there was nothing to do, no leads to go on."

She said she thinks her son's death may be part of a national chain of murders - a crime spree recently profiled on the "Today Show."

New York City private investigators, including some retired FBI agents, say they are looking into more than 40 seemingly accidental drownings, mostly in the Midwest, that have too many similarities to be coincidental.

The detectives linked those deaths together and believe the "smiley face killers" - a group they say targets college-aged athletic men who leave bars or parties - committed the crimes, leaving the victims in a body of water.

"In our hearts, we do think Todd's death is very, very, very similar to these 'smiley face' gang murders," said Kathy.

"Generally speaking, a victim will know their murderer. In these cases, we would say that these victims are not picked randomly. Generally speaking, the victims are stalked and they are chosen for a very specific reason."

The killers usually leave behind a calling card - a smiley face.

The investigators are looking into five potential "smiley face"-related murders in Michigan - four occurred near the Michigan State University campus and Geib's.

"So even if my son turned out not to be connected to it, it would be a passion of mine to make sure that the FBI went through and investigated every one of these murders. They're too much alike," said Kathy. "This is a lot of other mothers' sons, and it could be any boy that leaves a bar or party tomorrow night. We don't know where they're gonna be or when they're gonna hit."

Geib's family and investigators aren't releasing many details about the investigation as it is in its early stages. The family said the detectives from New York are coming to West Michigan to see if Geib's death is actually connected to the "smiley face" murders.

On the Net:

Nationwide Investigations - Justice for victims, their families, and society

Smiley Face victims investigation fund

Monday, August 11, 2008

PIEHL: New developments 'Smiley Face Killers'


Another Congressman wrote a letter to the FBI Director requesting a formal investigation. This time it's from Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri. This letter is the third from an elected official to Director Robert Muller.

In a new development, the Medical Examiner concluded his report for Tommy Booth. He is the young man who was found drowned in Ridley Township, PA. After seeing our report on Good Morning America, the detectives went to the bar where Booth was last seen and found smiley face graffiti. Since then, the PA detectives have worked with the retired NY detectives who first looked into a link between the drownings. The Medical Examiner concluded that the cause of Booth's death was "Undetermined." While this is not the result Booth's loved ones would like, the cause was not ruled "Accidental" which is the case in the majority of the drownings.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

PIEHL: Smiley Face: A new controversy

Albany, NY is the location of the latest Smiley Face controversy. Again, it's the police against the parents. As I reported in an earlier blog, Bill Szostak believes that he knows what happened to his son Josh.

Albany Police closed the case hours after Josh's body was found drowned. Bill has been working with retired NY Detective, Kevin Gannon. As you first read here, they believe that there is enough evidence to tie Josh's drowning to the Smiley Face Killers and dozens of other drownings across the country. Bill won't reveal all the evidence, but a smiley face was found spray painted on a tree near the river.

In past and current newspaper articles and radio interviews, the local investigators have accused Bill of painting the graffiti himself. The Medical Examiner ruled Josh's death accidental with no signs of foul play. The Police say they are confident in that ruling and their own work.

They've also said that if there is new information or evidence, they would like to see it. To date, the Albany investigators say they've never been given anything new in the case from Bill or Kevin Gannon. Bottom line: the official investigation into Josh Szostak's death is closed while the unofficial one is wide open, active and (I'm told) gaining ground.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Albany Police: Smiley Face Killers, Still No Evidence in Szostak Case

Albany Police: Still No Evidence in Szostak Case

Monday, August 4, 2008

IF YOU'VE GOT THE EVIDENCE...LET'S SEE IT. THAT...FROM ALBANY'S PUBLIC SAFETY SPOKESMAN, JIM MILLER...WHO'S TELLING 810 WGY'S AL RONEY THAT NO ONE HAS APPROACHED THEM WITH ANYTHING IN THE CASE OF JOSHUA SZOSTAK, WHOSE BODY SURFACED IN THE HUDSON RIVER THIS PAST SPRING, SEVERAL MONTHS AFTER HE VANISHED. A RETIRED NEW YORK POLICE DETECTIVE, KEVIN GANNON, SAYS HE NOW BELIEVES SZOSTAK WAS DRUGGED, ABDUCTED , AND MURDERED--POSSIBLY BY THE "SMILEY FACE KILLER"....BUT JIM MILLER SAYS LACKING ANY EVIDENCE....THE CASE IS CLOSED. THE SO-CALLED "SMILEY FACE KILLER" THEORY HAS EMERGED AS GANNON AND COLLEAGUES HAVE TRIED TO LINK THE DEATHS OF ABOUT 40 COLLEGE-AGE MEN IN 11 STATES OVER THE PAST DECADE.

Ex-cop: Szostak murder victim Retired policeman says he believes drowning was work of "Smiley Face" killer

Ex-cop: Szostak murder victim
Retired policeman says he believes drowning was work of "Smiley Face" killer

By JIMMY VIELKIND, Staff writer
Click byline for more stories by writer.
First published: Sunday, August 3, 2008
ALBANY -- A retired detective says Joshua Szostak, whose body was found in the Hudson River four months after he was last seen leaving a downtown bar, was abducted and murdered by the "Smiley Face" killer.

Kevin Gannon, a retired New York Police Department detective who has tracked the case through his company, Nationwide Investigations, said his assertion is based on markings found in the Albany area as well as the circumstances surrounding Szostak's Dec. 23 disappearance.

"We have a cumulative amount of evidence to substantiate that Josh was probably drugged, abducted and murdered," Gannon said by phone last week. "I can't tell you exactly what it is, because it would warn the Smiley Face if he knew anything about us."

The Smiley Face theory emerged as Gannon and his colleagues have tried to link the deaths of some 40 students who went missing and later were found drowned in 11 states over the past decade. In each case, a smiley face was found spray-painted nearby. Gannon's investigation has been reported in newspapers and on radio and television.

All the victims are white men between the ages of 19 and 23 who were high academic achievers and many played competitive sports. Gannon said Szostak, a 21-year-old SUNY Plattsburgh student, fit that profile.

Detectives in Albany, and elsewhere in the country, have rejected the theory.

Szostak's death was ruled an accidental drowning shortly after his body was discovered in April by a Catskill fisherman, based on autopsy findings. A spray-painted smiley face was found on a tree near the Port of Albany, but police spokesman Detective James Miller said it was not linked to Szostak and was likely a "cruel hoax."

Bill Szostak, Josh's father, always suspected foul play. In addition to contacting Gannon, Bill Szostak had an independent autopsy of his son performed by noted pathologist Michael Baden. It concluded Josh drowned and had a blood alcohol content of 0.126.

Gannon said Baden's report did not specify how long Josh Szostak had been in the water, leading him to believe he did not drown accidentally.

"So much evidence has been found that I don't understand why the case was closed (by Albany police) within two hours of finding my son's body," Bill Szostak said recently. He said he has formed a nonprofit organization, the Smiley Face Victims Investigation Fund, and will hold a fundraiser Sept. 5 at the Verdoy Fire Department to raise money for Gannon's efforts.

Detective Miller stood by Albany's investigation.

"We worked on it in excess of multiple days from the course of his initial disappearance, and there had never been any credible evidence from retired detectives working on the investigation that gave us any indication that anything happened beyond a tragic accident," he said. "This should not have gotten to this point. This was strictly a tragic accident, and no one should be using it to further their own agenda."

Jimmy Vielkind can be reached at 454-5043 or by e-mail at jvielkind@timesunion.com

Friday, August 1, 2008

PIEHL: Smiley Face update: Your suspicions





From Investigative Reporter Kristi Piehl:






The emails keep coming and many of you are finding unsolved or closed cases that fit the pattern. Individually, these accounts got a blurb in a newspaper or a mention on the evening news. Now that the NYPD Detectives theory about a connection with drownings is out there, you're taking another look at these cases.
In most cases, the young man was last seen with friends at a bar. After an exhaustive search, his body is found in a river and his identification and wallet are in his pocket. The Medical Examiner finds no signs of foul play and the case is either closed or goes cold.
Many of you have asked for a list of the 40 men that NYPD Detectives Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte claim are victims of the Smiley Faced Killers. At their New York news conference, a spokesperson for their company agreed to release a list. To my knowledge, this has not been made public. It's unfortunate, because it leaves many families wondering if their child's drowning was investigated. During my interviews with the Detectives, they discussed many names and cases. The majority of these have been included in my stories or have been intentionally excluded because the family does not want more publicity.
From the emails that I'm receiving, there are many people out there doing their own investigations because they are frustrated that law enforcement appears to be uninterested.
Here are a few men who's cases I hadn't heard about until they were emailed to KSTP this week.
DANNY CLUNE: www.finddanny.com
This account is from the website:

"
Dan Clune disappeared from the Long Bridge Bar and Grill (Sandpoint, Idaho) on November 6, 2004 just before 2AM, he was wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt and blue knit ski cap. Detectives, family and friends have searched the surrounding areas and don't believe Danny wandered off alone. Danny had just recently moved to Sandpoint from New York City. He loved his new small town life and was looking forward to settling down.

Friday November 5th Danny and some friends went to The Long Bridge Grill outside of Sandpoint, ID. Just prior to the bar closing, he and his friends began to regroup for the car ride home. The last time Danny was seen, he was looking for a friend and retrieving his blue hooded sweatshirt from the bar at about 1:45am. Cell phone records show Danny tried to call one of his close friends at 1:57am, this was the last call made from his cell phone to date.

Friends waited about 15 minutes in the parking lot, but didn't see him. Thinking he may have decided to walk home, they began driving toward Sandpoint, stopping to see if he was among the pedestrians on the Long Bridge walkway, but he was nowhere to be found.

On December 17, 2004 a duck hunter discovered a badly decomposed body in an Idaho river. On December 22, 2004 dental records were used to positively identify the body as Danny.

Danny's case is still open and we will continue to search for answers."

This account is from the website:
"Arvin had been missing since April 15, on the night he had gone to a club in downtown Washington, DC, with a group of friends. When his friends gathered to leave the club, Arvin could not be found. After looking for him frantically and calling his cell phone, they contacted the police. The family put out appeals for any information about his whereabouts and waited anxiously for any news throughout the following week. Tragically, his body was pulled from the Anacostia River Monday morning, April 25."rong>
Shankar Palaniappan: DISAPPEARED IN TOLEDO, OHIO ON OCTOBER 9, 2005
This account is a compilation of stories from the "Toledo Blade:"
"Toledo police are looking for a 26-year-old physician that authorities said disappeared near Gumbo's Bayou Grille at The Docks early Sunday. Sgt. Tim Noble said Dr. Shankar Palaniappan, a first-year resident at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ypsilanti, Mich., was with friends at the restaurant on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Sergeant Noble said Dr. Palaniappan drove to a friend's house in Toledo, and both took a taxi to the bar at Gumbo's."
"A preliminary autopsy of a young doctor who was found dead in the Maumee River close to downtown revealed the man likely drowned, authorities said yesterday. The body of Dr. Shankar Palaniappan, 26, of Ann Arbor was retrieved Saturday morning from the Maumee River near International Park. He disappeared Oct. 9 outside a restaurant at The Docks complex in East Toledo."

PIEHL: Smiley Face Update: Another man connected?

From Investigative Reporter Kristi Piehl:



There is a new chapter in the Smiley Face Killer story and the author is Josh Szostak's dad, Bill.

Josh went missing from an Albany, NY bar just before Christmas 2007. Weeks later, his body was recovered. According to his dad, the police closed the case just a few hours after Josh was found. Their answer? Josh accidentially drowned. It was not an answer Bill would accept.

Since then, Bill has worked countless hours investigating his son's death. After our story aired on Good Morning America, Bill began talking with retired NY Detectives, Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte. Bill told me today that Gannon and Duarte have determined that Josh was murdered as part of the Smiley Face Killings. He said, "all the factors are present." He won't talk specifically about the evidence, but he isn't just convinced he could get an arrest, he says they are close to having enough evidence to get a conviction.

Bill is now teaming up with Gannon and Duarte to work on Josh's case and others. He told me he has started his own corporation and has the paperwork ready to go. His website isn't ready yet, but it will be soon www.smileyfacevictimsfund.com.

The petition that Bill launched in an effort to get the FBI to launch a nationwide investigation is also on that site. The parents of the drowning victims have teamed up and are circulating a petition (CLICK HERE).

Stay tuned. After talking with Bill and hearing the passion in his voice, he is just getting started!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

PIEHL: Smiley Face Update: One mother's story

From Investigative Reporter Kristi Piehl www.kstp.com

Chris Jenkins. Matt Kruziki. Patrick McNeal. Those names and faces have become attached to the Smiley Face story. I've received dozens of emails from parents who say their children could be part of the list, but their loved ones died long before anyone suspected the drownings were connected.



One mother, who I've been emailing, is allowing me to share the first email she sent me and photos she's sent me since. She is now trying to get investigators to take another look at her son's case and is talking with another mother who's son drowned earlier this year.

While the FBI and many local law enforcement agencies are discounting the Smiley Face Killer possibility, the parents of the men who have drowned should not be discounted. They are passionate, diligent and will do almost anything to find the truth.

"Hi,

I have been living in pure hell for over 10 years, since my son disappeared from a bar in PA, and his body was found 2 days later in the water. I just found out about these young men yesterday, and about the men investigating the possible links. Is there any way you can put me in touch with these men. I don't know the time frame they have on the young men found, but my son went missing on April 4, 1998, and was found on April 6, 1998.

Please I beg of you help me find out more information on this investigation. I am living a nightmare!

Thank you,

Danny's Mom"

Sadly, I have an entire folder of emails much like this one.


Monday, July 7, 2008

Does man's vanishing act have 'Smiley' connection?

Father looks for son last seen in Peoria, wonders about tie to national serial killing theory

By Leslie Fark
of the Journal Star
Posted Jul 05, 2008 @ 10:04 PM
PEORIA —

Roger Ryan never dreamed the last case he would be trying to solve would be one involving his own son.

"My personal feeling is - he's deceased," said the retired Decatur police detective, who suspects foul play by the hand of a serial killer or an organized group of killers. "It's been so long. He had no reason to leave."



Keith Ryan, 22, a Springfield resident, traveled to Peoria with friends the evening of April 12, 2005. Drinking and enjoying each other's company, the group stopped at several Downtown Peoria bars.

It was hours later, early the next morning, about 3:20 a.m. at Adams Apple, that the younger Ryan told his friends he was going outside to get some fresh air. Little did they know that would be the last time they would see their friend.

The missing-persons case has stumped Peoria police, who've viewed hours of surveillance footage collected from Main Street and neighboring side street businesses.

In some, there was no Keith Ryan. Others, however, show the handsome, 6-foot-tall, 210-pound bartender, clad in blue jeans, a short-sleeved black shirt and black dress shoes, walking alone next to the strip of bars.

One camera - probably the best piece of evidence police have - captures Keith Ryan walking northeast in the direction of Interstate 74, which at the time, was

under construction.

"We don't know if he continued walking or stopped or what," Peoria police spokeswoman Ann Ruggles said. "He took a turn around a building and was out of sight."

What's also puzzled detectives is the fact Keith Ryan's body has never turned up.

But the elder Ryan thinks there's more to his son's disappearance, which is eerily similar to more than 40 other missing-persons cases involving young men in the Great Lakes region.

Linking those cases is a crime theory hatched by two retired New York detectives who believe those cases are part of a calculated, cross-country plot by the "Smiley Face" killer.

Part of a team called Nationwide Investigations, detectives Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte have investigated cases dating back to the 1990s that span 25 cities in 11 states.

All 40 involve young, athletic college-aged men who vanished while out drinking with friends and whose bodies were found in a lake or river. They said the men's deaths could be the work of a serial killer or network of killers who target, then drown their victims.

"I sent (Gannon) an e-mail the day I saw an article about the 'Smiley' case murders," Roger Ryan said. "He's interested in it and is going to try and connect" his son's case with the others.

The detectives have discovered a spray-painted smiley face near where the victim is believed to have entered the water in about a dozen of the cases. The sizes of the faces and color of paint used varies, but they're convinced it's a calling card claiming responsibility for the homicide.

The graffiti has been found in Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Two Illinois deaths also are believed to be connected to the "Smiley Face" killer, according to KSTP-TV, a St. Paul, Minn.-based television station, who interviewed Gannon as part of its own investigation into the death of a 21-year-old University of Minnesota student. The Journal Star could not reach Gannon for comment.

Several police departments across the country and the FBI already have discounted the retired detectives' smiley-face theory, saying a "majority of these instances appear to be alcohol-related drownings," according to the Philadelphia Daily News in a story about another young man's drowning death.

Keith Ryan was an experienced swimmer from the time he was a child, his father said.

Still, Roger Ryan can't shake the possibility his son's disappearance is linked to the killings.

He and his brother drove to Peoria and searched the banks of the Illinois River here and in East Peoria. They were looking not only for any traces of the younger Ryan, but also for the smiley-face insignia. They didn't find one.

"The scenario of Keith's disappearance fits the same MO (mode of operation) as the rest of the 'Smiley Face' victims," said Roger Ryan, adding his most recent contact with Gannon was last week. "Since neither one of us are involved in law enforcement anymore, getting access to the police reports has been difficult. I understand that. . . . I'm in the process of trying to get copies and evidence to give to Gannon."

Peoria detectives also entertained the theory of the "Smiley Face" killer during their investigation.

"They just didn't seem to think it had anything to do with his disappearance," Ruggles said.

Days after the younger Ryan was reported missing, police alerted the media, hoping to attract attention to the case. The newspaper articles and broadcasts generated only a few calls and produced no solid leads.

"You wonder. I wonder what happened," Ruggles said. "You can't get it out of your head. You can only hope that one day he will turn up or we receive information that he's somewhere alive or we get some proof or evidence that he's not."

The case remains open, but Ruggles said it has sat dormant for years.

"We've had no leads, no sightings, no calls. Without that, there's not much we can do," she said.

Roger Ryan's more than 25 years on the force taught him anyone can be a victim.

"Young kids when they go out and drink feel like they're invincible, and they're not," he said. "They're very vulnerable. They obviously don't realize that and can be victimized very easily. They need to be aware there are people out there that will do them harm."

Despite his tough-cop persona, it's apparent the now more than three-year disappearance of his son has taken a toll on the elder Ryan. He's determined to solve his son's case, even if it means talking to the media, something many cops despise doing.

"Now it can only help," he said. "If anyone has any information, we would love to hear from them."



Leslie Fark can be reached at 686-3188 or lfark@pjstar.com.

PIEHL: Smiley Face Update: New Case?



A 2005 disappearance is getting new attention because of the Smiley Face Killer theory. It's a story of another college-aged man walking out of a bar and vanishing. Unlike many of these missing person cases that I've been reporting on and blogging about, this man's body has never been recovered.



Keith Ryan a 22-year-old from Springfield, Illinois was last seen on April 12, 2005. After a night of drinking in Peoria, Ryan told his friends that he needed some fresh air. He never returned. According to reports, surveillance cameras captured him walking alone on city streets.

His father, a retired Decatur Police Department Detective, has always suspected foul play. He is now considering that his son's disappearance is connected to 40 others across the country.

Ryan heard about the Smiley Face Killer Theory that we first reported in a 5 Eyewitness News Investigation in April. Since then, he's searched along the river for signs of a smiley face.

According to a new article in a Peoria newspaper, retired New York Detective, Kevin Gannon is now working with Ryan. The two are trying to gather police reports to piece together new evidence. In the article, Roger Ryan says, "I sent (Gannon) an e-mail the day I saw an article about the 'Smiley' case murders. He's interested in it and is going to try and connect" his son's case with the others.

Peoria detectives also heard about the Smiley Face Killer theory and considered it in the Ryan case. The newspaper reports that the Peoria detectives determined that there is no evidence to suggest a connection.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Blackwell Brief: Smiley Face Killers Profile

The Blackwell Brief: Smiley Face Killers Profile

PIEHL: Smiley Face (Killers) Investigation UPDATE


From Investigative Reporter, Kristi Piehl
It's been two months since we aired the Smiley Face Killer investigation and questions from people around the world keep coming. I've received news clippings, pictures and letters from people all over the country and emails from interested folks in Canada and Europe.

The Canadian emails are actually quite frequent. There are many people there who have wondered about a string of drownings that have a lot in common with the U.S. cases. Because of the attention our investigation got in the States, many amateur sleuths are hard at work in Canada.

The FBI still, to my understanding, is not launching a new investigation into the drownings of 40 college male students. The parents of the drowning victims have teamed up and are circulating a petition. This has only been distributed by the families for the last week and one father has already collected over 8,000 signatures! Steve Jenkins in the Twin Cities has received several petitions signed by strangers sent to his house. The families plan to spend the summer collecting the signatures hoping a groundswell of support could sway the FBI.

A couple cases of interest:


TOMMY BOOTH:

He's the young man who was found drowned in a creek behind a bar in Ridley Township, PA earlier this year. The Detectives working the case in PA feel his death may not be an accident. The Medical Examiner has done new tests to see if foul play was involved. His mother is anxiously waiting for results.


BRANDON SWANSON:

There is no reason to include him in this case except that so many of you have emailed me about his case. Since his body hasn't been recovered and the Police aren't sure what happened to him, his disappearance is still a mystery. Swanson went missing in western MN earlier this summer. Extensive searches have been done and there has been no sign of him. The searching is now focusing on a nearby creek.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Families circulate 'Smiley Face Killers' petition around country

From Investigative Reporter Kristi Piehl


Two months after a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS investigation into the mysterious river deaths of as many as 40 young male college students around the country, the families of possible victims have begun circulating a nationwide petition urging the FBI to take a closer look into the case.

"We request that Robert Mueller, Director of the FBI, order his agency to conduct a full and thorough investigation into the deaths of these young men," the petition states. "We believe that insufficient resources have been applied to these cases thus far to bring them to conclusion."

Since our investigation first aired in April, two congressmen have called on the FBI to take a broader look at the cases.

Dubbed the 'Smiley-Faced Killers' case, two retired New York City detectives believe that the deaths of dozens of young men around the country may be connected.

The detectives believe that the killers leave smiley-face graffiti behind at the scene of their crimes.

The case that brought the story together for the detectives was when the 2002 death of Chris Jenkins in Minneapolis in was ruled a homicide in 2005. Jenkins' father Steve is one of the family members helping to distribute the petition.

Read the petition

Families ask that signed petitions be sent to:
Steve Jenkins
8124 Foxberry Bay
Savage MN 55378

Follow our investigation from the beginning.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Smiley Face Killers - Cincinnati and St. Cloud police to review cases

The Cincinnati and St. Cloud Police Departments want to re-examine cases to see if they're linked to the Smiley Face Killers. Kristi Piehl (Investigative Reporter KSTP-TV) broke the story on the Smiley Face Serial Killers' investigation being conducted by retired NYPD detectives Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte who are now confident they've discovered a nationwide criminal network, concluding that a large, organized group with a hierarchical structure is responsible for the killings. 29 April 2008.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Mysterious Deaths Piling Up

Mysterious deaths piling up
June 19, 2008


It’s almost like the opening of a Hollywood thriller. Except that unlike in the movies, the disappearances of young men around the Lower Mainland is very real. This year alone has seen at least four men vanish without a trace.

Chilliwack resident Michael Scullion, 30, was last seen in Agassiz on April 10. Burnaby resident Kellen McElwee, 25, went missing in Langley March 19. On Jan. 17, White Rock resident Wade Mackenzie, 23, disappeared. Langley resident Derek Kelly, 32, was last seen at Bridge Lake on New Year’s Day.

But these are just some of the latest cases. Earlier this month a Vancouver Courier feature story showed some staggering numbers. Going back to 2003, as many as 22 men aged 18-52 have vanished with no real leads whatsoever. The similarities are there, however hazy. Most are young, athletic, work construction or labour jobs and have tattoos, and go missing after a night of drinking or partying with friends at crowded places. Some have vanished during the day and a ton of false sightings have occurred.

These apparent victims of foul play weren’t grouped together for some male version of the Downtown East Side women story. The newspaper’s investigation started with a list of 60 missing men from around B.C. whose cases dated to the 1990s. The list was whittled down to 22 relatively young, healthy men who vanished with virtually no leads.

All the families talk similarly about how their boys were “happy” and how each disappearance was “completely out of character.”

After delving into the research, I noticed the similarities myself and over time I couldn’t tell one from another; they all seemed to blend into one similar story.

Rewards offer $2,000, $5,000, up to $50,000 for any type of lead. But in general the tips aren’t coming.

The mothers of these victims, obviously going through incomprehensible suffering, offer up similar quotes for news organization. Janice Braumberger whose son, Burnaby resident Brian Braumberger, 18, was last seen on June 1, 2007 — his deserted car was the first sign of his disappearance — gave a heartfelt accounting of her anguish:

“It’s as if the earth opened up and swallowed him,” she told the Courier. “It’s hard to believe none of these men have been found. Why aren’t there any bodies?”

The no-bodies aspect is particularly puzzling. With the so-called Smiley Face murders in the U.S. Midwest, young men were reported missing, but their bodies washed up on riverbanks days later. The remains gave some form of closure, such as in the case of convicted killer Robert ‘Willy’ Pickton, when DNA samples from decomposed remains found on his Port Coquitlam pig farm were matched to missing Vancouver prostitutes.

Studies have shown that serial killers usually target vulnerable individuals such as homeless people, female prostitutes or small children. The fact all these men who’ve disappeared are big, brooding guys who played sports or worked labour jobs is even more frightening.

It’s as if they were abducted; snapped up so quickly they didn’t know what hit them. After all, most of the photos show young, hulking men with thick biceps. You don’t take one of them down without at least some kind of a struggle or path of evidence, unless they’ve been subdued.

Police have yet to sound an alarm linking the disappearances. But with the count standing at 22 in a relatively few years, within a relatively small distance, similar victims, similar circumstances, how many more does it take to have this scenario fall into the suspicious category?

The latest was 20-year-old White Rock resident Daniel Bouchard, who went missing on June 9 after walking home from a pub where he’d been drinking with friends.

Young, fit, happy, working construction, Bouchard fits the profile. False sightings have already occurred, but at press time he was still missing, still another question mark in a growing number of eerily similar disappearances.

Patrick Blennerhassett writes for the Victoria News.

patrickb@vicnews.com.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Criminal Profiler Debunks "Smiley Face Killers"
Filed under: Crime

Are a team of serial killers preying on college men across the country, abducting and then drowning them in rivers and lakes, and taunting police with with cryptic calling cards at the scenes of the crime?

The creepy theory of the Smiley Face Killers first aired locally on KSTP's 5 Eyewitness News a few weeks ago and later made national headlines when it was picked up by CNN and ABC's Good Morning America.

According to the reports, two retired detectives from New York have spent 11 years investigating 40 cases of college-age men who died under similar circumstances: They disappeared after a night of heavy drinking, and their bodies were later recovered from nearby bodies of water. The drownings occurred in 25 cities in 11 states, stretching from New York to the Midwest, including nearly 20 cases in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The detectives believe the young men were murdered, even though there was no evidence of foul play. All the deaths were officially ruled drownings, although one case--that of University of Minnesota senior Christopher Jenkins, who died on Halloween in 2002--was reclassified as a homicide after a jailhouse tip.

The detectives base their theory on clues that include one hauntingly lurid detail: In 12 of the 40 cases, the ex-cops say they found painted smiley faces near where they suspect the bodies first entered the water. Because some of the deaths occurred on the same day in different states, the detectives surmise that more than one person is committing the crimes.

Pat Brown

It's a bizarre theory, but because we don't have a degree in criminology, we decided to solicit the opinion of one of the nation's best-known criminal profilers. Pat Brown is a former Minnesotan now living in the Washington, D.C., area. She has appeared frequently as a media commentator, including appearances on CNN, FOX, and MSNBC, and she is a regular guest on CNN's Nancy Grace. When we asked her opinion of the so-called Smiley Face Killers, she didn't mince words.

"They don't exist," she said flatly. "It's ludicrous." Serial killers, Brown said, "just don't work that way."

For one thing, she says, sociopaths probably wouldn't work that hard, traveling to several states to find victims.

Second, a serial killer's motive is generally pretty clear. "It's usually a sexual assault," Brown says, which isn't the case in these drownings.

Third, serial killers prefer to work alone. "Sometimes you'll get a pair of them," she says, but not working in separate locations.

Fourth, their choice of victims doesn't match the serial killer profile. "They don't pick on big college boys. They pick on little girls, or teenage girls, or young teenage boys like 14 years old who can't fight back."

Fifth, the idea that they could abduct 40 male college students and drown them all without leaving a suspicious mark on their bodies strains all credibility.

And what about the most suggestive clue--the smiley faces? "It's not an unusual symbol. There could be millions of them around town," she says. If there were ones on the bodies of the boys, on their chests, then I'd say you've got something." The detectives can't know where the bodies first entered the water, so the entry point is only educated guesswork. "If you look in an area five miles square, I bet you could find a smiley face."

So, college students still have to worry about getting drunk and drowning, but Brown doesn't believe they have to worry about an "Internet gang" of killers. "It's just absolutely insane," she says.

*
*
*

Posted by Matt Smith at June 13, 2008 3:46 PM

Friday, June 13, 2008

Officials Question Time Conflict



Officials question time conflict
Evidence indicates Bolanos arrived home earlier than first thought
Marjorie Smith/Daily Staff Writer
Issue date: 4/6/07 Section: News


An illustrated map of the events, as reconstructed so far. Click for a larger version.
Media Credit: Katy Summerlot/Iowa State Daily
An illustrated map of the events, as reconstructed so far. Click for a larger version.

A change in the time sequence has officials questioning the events between the time Abel Bolanos, whose body was found in Lake LaVerne on Tuesday, left a party where he was last seen early Saturday morning, and the time he attempted access at a residence hall near his.

"People are in error about what time he left the Hyland address," said Gene Deisinger, commander for ISU Police.

Friends from the party initially told officials Bolanos left the 208 S. Hyland apartment between 4 and 4:30 a.m. Saturday. However, Bolanos' access card was used to attempt access twice before 4 a.m. into the unoccupied Wilson Hall, which is located west of his dorm building, Wallace Hall.

The two attempts to access Wilson Hall occurred at 3:22:57 a.m. and 3:23:12 a.m. Saturday.

"[Bolanos] had access to Wallace, but not Wilson," said Mona Wilson, clerk in facilities planning and management. "He used it on Wilson Hall those two times, but he didn't try it at all at Wallace."

A card belonging to a different student, whose name was not released, was also used at Wilson Hall shortly after Bolanos. This attempt was made at 3:26:34 a.m. Saturday.

According to activity records on the access pad outside the door of Wilson Hall, this was the only other attempt beside Bolanos' that was made after 3 a.m., Wilson said.

None of the attempts resulted in successful entry.

Records of activity on the access pad outside Wallace Hall indicated plenty of activity after 3 a.m. Saturday, which suggests people were around.

"There were several [entries] around that time," Wilson said.

Deisinger also confirmed that Bolanos' access card was found with the body.

Police are investigating the time discrepancies and have ruled out any confusion of delayed time stamps because of the change in daylight-saving time that occurred March 12.

"[We are] pretty confident that the time stamp is 3:23 [and] that is the correct time," Deisinger said.

Bolanos' room showed no signs of entry; however, everything is still being held in place until the investigation ends.

"Right now we've asked for the family's cooperation holding his vehicle [and] his room largely as it is right now as we await further information from the medical examiner's office for an investigative follow up," Deisinger said.

"It is a precautionary measure."

Bolanos' room was searched Sunday after Bolanos was reported missing.

"We found nothing that caused us any concern," Deisinger said.

The last time Bolanos was sighted in Campustown early Saturday morning has not changed to accommodate the shifts in time sequence.

"There is at least one [person] that has a very good description of Abel at about 4:30 a.m. [in Campustown]," Deisinger said.

Friday, March 30

* 11 p.m. Bolanos got off work at Red Lobster

Saturday, March 31

* 12:30 a.m. Bolanos drove and parked on Lincoln Way, and walked to the party on Hyland
* 3:23 a.m. Bolanos used access card to attempt entry into Wilson Hall
* About 4:30 a.m. Bolanos was spotted in Campustown
* 4:30 a.m. It is believed Bolanos accidentally drown shortly after
* 5:15 p.m. The annual Polar Bear Plunge took place in Lake LaVerne.

Sunday, April 1

* 11:53 a.m. Officials were notified that Bolanos was missing
* 12:12 p.m. Bolanos' car was found on Lincoln Way
* The Ames Police and the Story County Sheriff became involved.
* 11 p.m. The Iowa State Patrol put up an aircraft with heat-seeking capabilities and searched farmlands near Towers

Monday, April 2

* 10:30 a.m. Bolanos' credit cards were turned into Ames bank
* A formal request was put out during the afternoon for an organized search group
* Volunteers started a door-to-door canvas in Ames

Tuesday, April 3

* Search of Lake LaVerne began
* 3:39 p.m. An unidentified body matching the description of Abel Bolanos was removed from Lake LaVerne
* 4:45 p.m. Officials blocked off area around Lincoln Way
* 6:05 p.m. The body was positively identified as Abel M. Bolanos

Wednesday, April 4

* 8 p.m. A candlelight vigil was held on Central Campus in memory of Abel M. Bolanos.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Nicholas Garza

2/22/08: Eva Sollberger travels to Middlebury College in Middlebury Vermont to talk to students about the disappearance of freshman Nicholas Garza.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Possible Smiley Face Killers Victim Nicholas Garza's Body Found

Posted at: 05/28/2008 10:26:47 AM
Updated at: 05/28/2008 10:42:46 AM
PIEHL: Body found in Vermont


Kristi Piehl - Investigative Reporter
The body of Nicholas Garza was recovered in Otter Creek on May 27th. Garza is the Middlebury College student who has been missing since February. I've talked with his mother before and she fears her son may be the victim of homicide.

Her friends contacted me about a week after the Smiley Face Investigation was featured on Good Morning America because searchers found graffiti with smiley faces near the water's edge. The Police Department does not think the spray paint is linked to Garza's case and told reporters it had been there for two years.

Garza went missing in February. He left a college dorm and was walking to his own building about 500 yards away, but never made it. His mother was living in New Mexico, but moved to Vermont to be close to her son's investigation. There is a $20,000 reward for information in the case.



Thank you to all the people around the country and in Canada who have emailed me about Garza's investigation. Since this Smiley Face Killer Investigation broke in late April, thousands of you have become amateur detectives. You've spent many hours on the internet searching for clues that could help retired NYPD Detectives, Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte. Their investigation is ongoing and they have been in contact with Garza's family. Some of your tips have been of assistance to them.

Now that his body has been recovered, the Medical Examiner's work will begin. I will keep you posted. Our thoughts are with the Garza family. Here is a link to the website they've created http://www.nicholasgarza.org/

Monday, May 26, 2008

Friday, May 23, 2008

New Photos In Smiley Face Killers Mystery


(The drainage tunnels near where Abel Bolanos died in March 2007 contain several distinct graffiti tags, including two "Smiley Faces," in a monkey's nose and in the letter "D," but nothing about the symbols was overtly referential to Bolanos or any of the other drownings.)





05/01/2008
'Smiley Face' detectives investigated Bolanos' death; Local officials and FBI dismiss the serial killer theory
By Luke Jennett , Staff Writer

The drainage tunnels near where Abel Bolanos died in March 2007 contain several distinct graffiti tags, including two “Smiley Faces,” in a monkey’s nose and in the letter “D,” but nothing about the symbols was overtly referential to Bolanos or any of the other drownings.
A group of retired detectives and academics who have suggested that 40 drowning deaths in 11 states are the work of a group of serial killers had previously been in Ames investigating the death of Abel Bolanos.

Bolanos drowned in March 2007 in Lake LaVerne on the Iowa State University campus. Reports say Bolanos was last seen at a party on North Hyland Avenue on March 31, which he left at 4 a.m. He was found April 3 by a dive team after a three-day search.

It's unknown whether Bolanos is one of the 40 names on the list of supposed drownings the group claims are "clearly homicides and linked to each other," according to a press release. However, according to ISU's Department of Public Safety Police Division, the same group was in town a few weeks ago to speak with a patrol supervisor about the case, which one of them last year told The Tribune fit the profile of the supposed serial killings.

Local police and county officials have rejected the idea Bolanos' death was anything but an accidental drowning and say the group has never spoken to the local investigator in charge of the case or seen any of the primary investigative materials collected by police.

On Monday, the group, "Nationwide Investigations," appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" and held a press conference in New York City with several of the victim's families, asking for help from the FBI to investigate the suspected murders.

The group's theory is that a gang of organized killers murder college-aged men and stage drownings to avoid capture. The group recently announced it believes the alleged gang leaves graffiti tags near the locations of the bodies, often a "Smiley Face" insignia.

The drainage tunnels near where Bolanos died contain several distinct graffiti tags, including two "Smiley Faces," but nothing about the symbols was overtly referential to Bolanos or any of the other drownings.

Following the Nationwide Investigations media appearances this week, the FBI issued a press release saying its investigators had reviewed the evidence presented by the group and not found anything connecting the deaths or indicating the involvement of a serial killer or killers.

Nationwide Investigations is made up of two former New York Police Department detectives, Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte; a professor from St. Cloud State University, Lee Gilbertson; and a graduate student from the same college, Adam Carlson. The group has claimed to have uncovered evidence connecting 40 alleged accidental drownings in 11 states. It reportedly has asked the FBI to investigate the matter.

Bolanos is thought to have drowned while highly intoxicated - a trait the group says is common among all the victims.

Abel Bolanos' sister, Marivelle Bolanos, said she has never spoken to any of the investigators but has heard about the story on television. However, the family does believe there are unanswered questions related to Abel Bolanos' death and has offered a reward for information about the case.

Marivelle Bolanos said she plans to contact the investigators in the future and would like to donate money to their investigation. News reports mentioned that the group had "run out of money," after financing the investigation itself.

"I was just making notes yesterday of the things we still have questions on," she said. "We are not 100 percent sure of what happened."

From a police perspective, however, the case has been closed on Bolanos' death. Gene Deisinger, the ISU police captain who acted as the case agent in charge of investigating the incident, said the evidence in the case points firmly to an accidental drowning, a conclusion based upon the results of the state medical examiner's investigation.

"You always have to be driven by the evidence in a case like this, and it was the observation of those of us in investigations that worked the case that there was nothing about the situation or Abel's body that indicated that he died as a result of an intentional attack," Deisinger said. "I cannot say that he was not assaulted. I can only say that there was no evidence to indicate that he was assaulted."

Moreover, Deisinger said, if the group had investigated Bolanos' death, it had done so without speaking to him or reviewing any of the primary investigation materials. And if it had uncovered any gang signs or tags connecting Bolanos' death to the others, it hadn't shared them with police.

Story County Attorney Stephen Holmes said he also was aware of the group's theory and had heard it as connected to Bolanos' death, but had dismissed it as nothing more than a stretch for sensationalism's sake.

"I think it's terrible to tout this kind of thing," he said. "To me, this is junk science or sensationalism. It's not real police work."

A Tribune reporter accompanied the group around Ames last summer was it knocked on doors, walked the path around Lake LaVerne and even entered a drainage pipe to look for strange tags or symbols. At the time, Gilbertson was quoted as saying Bolanos was a perfect fit for the profile of a victim of the alleged serial killer group.

According to Tribune reports, the two detectives spent more than an hour in the drainage tunnels near Lake LaVerne searching for tags.

Phone calls and e-mail messages to the group this week have not been returned.

Luke Jennett can be reached at 232-2161, Ext. 343, or ljennett@amestrib.com.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________


(this picture was also taken, by one of the investigators, at the same scene in the same tunnel)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Are Smiley Face Killers Related to Joshua Szostak Death? FIND OUT



By DAVID FILKINS and CATHY WOODRUFF, Staff writers
Click byline for more stories by writer.
Last updated: 9:03 p.m., Thursday, May 22, 2008

ALBANY - An autopsy report on the body of Joshua Szostak, who was found in the Hudson River on April 22, shows he had a blood alcohol content of 0.126 percent.

The report was provided Thursday to the Times Union by Szostak's father, William, who sent the report to call attention to some of its caveats about the intoxication.

It mentions the BAC translates into an absorption of five to six drinks for an adult of 155 pounds. Szostak said his son weighed 225 pounds, and noted the report said alcohol levels may be raised slightly by decomposition. The report says decomposition was slowed because of the cold river.

Joshua Szostak, 21, of Latham, had been missing for almost four months when his body was found.

Szostak said he still believes his son was the victim of foul play, a possibility being pursued by two retired New York City detectives.

"He was murdered," William Szostak said. "I not only believe, I know. This should be handled as a homicide."

Joshua Szostak went missing Dec. 23 after celebrating a friend's birthday at an Albany bar. His body was discovered by a fisherman near the Coxsackie boat launch a month ago.

The autopsy said Szostak died of accidental drowning. A second autopsy, requested by the family, concluded the same thing.

Albany County pathologist Dr. Jeffrey Hubbard performed the initial autopsy and ordered the toxicology tests. Hubbard's office declined comment and referred questions to the doctor, but he was unavailable. Albany police have concluded a graffiti image spray-painted on a tree at the Port of Albany isn't linked to Szostak's death and is not an indicator the man was slain.

A theory is circulating that Szostak could have fallen prey to a roving crew of killers who are said to be targeting male college students around the country and leaving smiley-face graffiti at the scene.

Detective James Miller, spokesman for the Albany Police Department, said interviews with two independent witnesses have ruled out the possibility that the local graffiti was drawn by anyone connected with Szostak's death.

"We don't believe it's related to his drowning death at all," Miller said. "More than likely, it was just a cruel hoax on someone's part."

Szostak questions the reliability of one or both of the witnesses. He said he continues to collect evidence and collaborate on the case with the two New York City detectives who developed the "smiley-face killer" theory.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Smiley Face Killers Update


Kristi Piehl - Investigative Reporter
(from Kristi's blog)


Smiley Face Updates (May 21)

Another Congressman has asked the FBI to take another look at the drownings. Rep. Michael McNulty represents the 21st District in New York. It's the area where JoshSzostak disappeared and was discovered drowned. His father, Bill, is now working with retired Detectives, Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte. I've been told, they've found evidence that points to Szostak's drowning being a homicide and potentially connected to the other cases around the country.

The Albany Police Department stands by its conclusion that Josh's death was an accidental drowning.

I'll keep you updated....

With each day, comes more emails. Each fits into one of three categories....

1. TIPS

People from across the world are interested in the Smiley Face Killers and have done online research. These Sherlock Holmes' tips I forward to former NY Detectives, Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte.

2. KUDOS

This story continues to be talked about on blogs and websites and many people write to say "Thanks" for doing the story or offer support to continue working on the story.

3. GRIEF

This is the category that surprises me. Almost everyday, I get an email from a family who feels their loved one's unexplained drowning fits the profile Gannon and Duarte are investigating. There are so many families suffering and searching for answers. These stories I also forward to Gannon and Duarte.

Thank you for your interest... we'll keep following this story.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

A second congressman has called on the FBI to take another look at the case of the so-called ‘Smiley-Face’ killers after a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS investigation revealed new details about the case late last month.

"It has come to my attention that recent press reports indicate new evidence linking the drowning deaths of a large number of college-aged men across the country," Rep. Michael R. McNulty, D-NY, wrote in a letter to the FBI earlier this month.

"I am aware that the FBI investigated this matter previously, but it appears that some of these cases may be linked. In light of this new evidence, I respectfully request that the FBI re-open its investigation."

McNulty is the second member of congress to contact the FBI regarding the case. At the beginning of May, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., R-Wisconsin, made a similar request of the FBI after seeing our investigation on the national news.

The investigation at the end of April presented information from retired New York City detectives Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte regarding the mysterious river deaths of young men around the country.

The detectives believe the deaths of as many as forty young men around the country may be connected, including the death of Chris Jenkins in Minneapolis in 2002. Jenkins' death is the only case to be classified as homicide.

At many of the scenes, Gannon and Duarte discovered graffiti of what appeared to be a smiley face.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

KRISTI PIEHL: 'Smiley Face Killers' Update


Kristi Piehl - Investigative Reporter

Since our investigation into the Smiley Face Killers aired, I've gotten hundreds of emails.

First of all, thanks for your interest and all the gratitude and support you've offered. I've forwarded dozens of emails to parents of the young men who drowned and to the retired NY detectives.

Many of you are wondering what is happening in the case now?

The detectives are following up on the leads they've received since this story broke. They got new evidence and new contacts. All the information they've received from the public is energizing their investigation.

They're working with Pennsylvania detectives on the drowning of Tommy Booth. I've reported on this case and talked with his mother several times. The detectives in Pennsylvania are interested in working with Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte. After our story aired on Good Morning America, the detectives in PA found a smiley face on the building where Booth was last seen. Gannon will meet with them soon. Booth's mom is hopeful this will bring her answers.

According to Rep. Sensenbrenner's office, the FBI has not responded to the request to reopen all the drowning cases.

Gannon and Duarte have much more evidence that they aren't reporting. They say that the smiley faces are just one kind of graffiti they've found. People often ask why they aren't releasing everything they've got. They think it could tarnish any possible criminal case. Their goal is to get people arrested. Kevin Gannon promised the parents of the victims that will happen and he's working 6 days a week to make sure that happens.

Check back here for more updates.
(Kristi's latest update from Coast to Coast AM. Her interview starts at 01:18)