So how did all these people investigating and/or researching drowning deaths come to work together?
Decorated former NYC police sargeant, Kevin Gannon, has been trying to resolve what caused the death of at least one college student since 1997. In fact, he made a promise to Patrick McNeill's mother that he would not allow her son's death to go unsolved. He "joined forces" with NYPD Detective Anthony Duarte in a concerted effort to solve the case.
In 2003, they traveled to Minnesota where college student Chris Jenkins was found dead in the Mississippi - thought to be a drunken accident. "It screamed homicide," said Gannon. Jenkins was found floating on his back with his arms crossed on his chest - an unusual pose for a drowned person. Jenkins' death was reclassified as a homicide, and the retired NYPD cops found the spot where Jenkins might have been thrown into the water. It was there that they discovered the first smiley face. Since that time, Gannon has dedicated his life, his work, even his own monetary means to finding the true circumstances surrounding the deaths of McNeill, Chad Sharon, Christopher Jenkins and dozens more young men across the Midwest.
In the early months of 2003, St. Cloud State University's criminal justice professor, Dr. Lee Gilbertson, invited his students to take a closer look at drowning death patterns of male college students in the region. Five young men had all turned up drowned in a three month period starting October, 2002.
During their investigative work, the Chad Sharon case (South Bend, IN // December, 2002) was one of more than a dozen the criminal justice students reviewed, according to other students in the program.
It has not been confirmed publicly, but it appears the culmination of the Gannon/Duarte investigation with that of the St. Cloud State students lead law enforcement to change the cause of death (CoD) for Chris Jenkins from "undetermined" to "homocide". Additional information gathered from study of more than 100 drowning deaths of young males during the same time period (1997 - 2002) provided a link between at least 40 cases.
Gannon explained, "Right now really, we're out of finances and really can't do any more on the cases. In fact, we looked at 89 cases in totality. We knocked out 30 right away and there was 19 cases that we haven't even done yet -- and out of those 19, it looks like at least 10 or 15 of those could be connected."
In mid-2006, Dr. Gilbertson and St. Cloud criminal justice graduate student, Adam Carlson, are officially working with Gannon and Duarte. Here is some data on the investigators as known thus far:
- Retired NYPD Sargeant
- 20 years service
- Highly decorated
- Retired NYPD Detective
- BA in Criminal Justice
- 20 years of service
- Several commendations
Dr. Lee Gilbertson
- Associate Professor; St. Cloud State University
- Criminal Justice Department
- MS in Criminal Justice
- PhD in Sociology
- 16 years military service
- Certified Gang Specialist
- Criminal Justice graduate student at St. Cloud State University
- Former student of Professor Gilbertson
- Certified Gang Specialist
The investigators, who have been working unpaid on the cases for two years, met four weeks ago with Minneapolis police to present their evidence, but approached the national media after local authorities didn't act, Steve Jenkins (Christopher's father) said.
It was bloggers and the media who dubbed the reported serial killer(s) as the Smiley Face Gang or Smiley Face Murder Club.
Sources: Minnesota Daily and Nationwide Investigations