Smiley Face Murders Overview
Updated: Apr 18
As a college girl living in Milwaukee, WI one of the cities of the perceived smiley face murders this intrigues and frightens me. I live here with my boyfriend who is in his early 20s, Caucasian, tall, fit, and handsome; the exact type that fits a victim for a smiley face murder. We go to many events and restaurants near the Milwaukee River, right where the body of Nick Wilcox was found many years ago. Not to mention we go to the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee as well. So this is a very close to home crime.
Although this happened long ago and there are many different theories about what really happened to all these college aged men the idea of a group of serial killers is not that far-fetched. Although we would all like to believe that there are not many unknown serial killers out in the world the harsh truth is that there are. Now, I am not here to terrify you, just here to inform you and I think that everyone should be careful anyways. Hundreds of thousands of murders go unsolved every year and I think it is safe to assume at least a few of those are connected but you are free to assume whatever you want. So, let’s get into it.
Why the Smiley Face Murders?
The ‘Smiley Face Murders’ name comes from two retired NYPD detectives, Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte. They came up with this name simply because of a graffiti smiley face found on bridges near where the bodies of these missing men entered the river. Let me tell you my take on this whole smiley face connects the deaths theory; simply, it doesn’t. Only 22 of the perceived 45 killings linked to this theory have smiley faces by where they believe the bodies entered the water. That is another thing I find very interesting, as suggested by Pat Brown, a criminal profiler, finding the smiley faces is a coincidence based on the guess of where the body entered the water. We cannot be sure where these bodies entered the water therefore we do not know if they were ever even close to the smiley face. Lastly, a smiley face is a very common thing in graffiti and out of it. A smiley face really means nothing within this theory, it is simply the name given to the group of killers that are suspected for these deaths.
Arguments to Why This Isn’t True
The Center for Homicide Research gives a long list of why this is a baseless theory including there is no criteria, graffiti is present on most bridges, none of the smiley faces match, etc. You can read that article here, http://homicidecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Research-Brief-on-Smiley-Face-Murder-Theory-FINAL.pdf
There are two main points that I have a problem with in this article
Homicidal drowning is extremely rare, only 2/10ths of 1% of homicides in the US are drowning.
These drownings don’t fit a serial killer motive, not thrill killings and not for financial gain.
My Take on These Claims
I think that these two are fairly ridiculous to include in here. Yes, I know, they are scientifically backed but things can change and serial killers are fairly unpredictable. The statistic for how many homicides are done by drowning is based on how many drownings are predicted non accidental. The thing is, officers and coroners are not always right. Just look back at the Debbie Wolfe case I wrote about, her death was deemed an accidental drowning and there is no way that is true. In that case it was a story of police neglect and cover up but there are many cases that could be accidentally deemed an accidental drowning. There is really no way to know for sure. Prime example is this case where there are 45 men drown and only 2 were deemed homicidal but many people and their families believe almost all of these were homicidal.
Secondly, saying they do not fit a serial killer motive is a little insane to me. There have been studies done on what motivates serial killers, their process, etc. but in the end they are generally unpredictable psychopaths. The article by The Center for Homicide Research says this:
These were not thrill killings, because they require long drawn-out killing processes that include bondage, strangulation, sexual activity, and physical torture of a victim who is “alive and aware of what is happening” and able to feel pain (Holmes & Holmes, 1998, p. 114; Vronsky, 2004). None of that is in evidence in these victims [except possibly McNeill].
There was no financial motive such as the collecting of social security checks or theft of money, nor do these deaths qualify as mercy killings. There is no known serial offender who has everdrowned victims (Vogt & Morgan, 2004).
I firmly believe that there is really no set of standards for a serial killer to kill people or how to kill those people. The FBI has identified a group of serial killers called ‘mission-oriented serial killers.’ The things that classify a ‘mission-oriented serial killer’ are:
They are a type of killer that is focused on the act of killing. (they are not focused on financial gain or the thrill of killing, just killing)
Justify their murders by stating that they are riding the world of a group of people they deem unfit or damaging to society. (ties in with how all of the smiley face killers are similar in life, looks, and personality)
Very rarely are these killers clinically insane, they are just perfectionists. (this helps with no one suspecting them)
They are highly meticulous (this helps because there would be little to no evidence if they were meticulously planning their crimes)
To me this seems like the most likely type of killer to commit the smiley face murders, but The Center for Homicide Research did not include this in their article.
Other Connections Between the Cases
Let’s discuss the other ways in which these deaths are connected. These deaths are only happening to males in college once they are alone after a long night of drinking. These men are generally Caucasian, good looking, popular, and good students. Each ones night ends up going the same way. They go out with their friends for a fun night of drinking. At some point during this activity their friends loose them and these men seem to be seen wandering around the area near the bar and then simply disappear. The friends always think they ended up back at their home either by walking or by cab but then the next day no one hears from them. Normally the bodies are not found right away or even during vigorous searches but then end up in plain view on the river. That seems to me that the bodies were dumped their after searches because the river is normally the first place to check.
These cases do seem connected to me and I will be examining specific cases from this soon, so stay tuned. This was just an overview of what these suspected killings are and the different sides of the argument.
What do you think?
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