Two retired detectives say a serial killer is at work in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The detectives say they have proof local river drownings are tied to 40 other murders across the country.
Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte say 19 men were killed in Wisconsin and Minnesota alone. Family members say they're thankful to finally be getting answers, but, they want the killers caught.
Two retired New York detectives say a gang of killers is leaving its mark--a smiley face.
"It's not just a smiley face. He’s evil, happy and he drew horns which are synonymous with the devil. He’s telling you he knows murder is evil," Gannon says.
Gannon and Duarte have been investigating river drownings for more than a decade. They say while not every scene had the evil smiley face, all the deaths are the work of serial killers. That includes seven deaths in La Crosse and three in Eau Claire.
It’s an "organized killer which hunts his victims and takes real pride in what he does," Gannon says.
The detectives say the men are all young, athletic and smart.
Lucas Homan was 21-years-old when he died after drowning in the Mississippi River in La Crosse.
22-year-old Josh Snell from Hastings, Minnesota disappeared in Eau Claire in June of 2005. His brother says he was in town for a wedding and later went to the bars. Snell was found four days later; pulled from the Chippewa River. Jon Snell says he doesn't believe his brother wandered into the water.
In a phone call with a friend "he said he was scared, that he was hiding in a brushy area, that he was running from someone, that he didn’t know who it was or how he was going to get away. (He said) he didn’t do anything, but he was terrified and he was scared for his life,” Jon Snell says.
He says he's glad someone else looked into his brother's death.
“I can't thank Kevin and Tony enough,” Jon Snell says. “They’ve been amazing."
But, he says he knows his search for answers isn't over; he wants an outcome. That’s exactly what Gannon and Duarte hope to give Snell and dozens of other devastated families.
"Arrests would be ideal conclusion to this investigation, yes,” Duarte says.
La Crosse Police Chief Ed Kondracki issued a statement Monday saying in part:
"I would like to take this opportunity to once again remind and assure our community that the eight river drownings which occurred between 1997 and 2006 have been thoroughly investigated... The La Crosse area river drownings are tragic and unfortunate accidents."
In the statement, Chief Kondracki also says there is no evidence at this time to connect La Crosse area drownings with any other deaths around the country.
We could not reach the Eau Claire Police Department for comment Monday evening.
Minnesota and Wisconsin victims that detectives believe may be related (INFORMATION FROM DET. KEVIN GANNON):
1) Charles Blatz 28 yrs
Missing-9/28/97 La Crosse, Wisc.
Found-10/0397 -- Mississippi River --BAC (0.20)
2) Anthony Skifton 19 yrs
Missing-10/10/97 La Crosse, Wisc.
Found-- 10/20/97-- Mississippi River --Bac (0.23)
3) Nathan Kapfer 20 yrs
Missing-2/22/98 La Crosse, Wisc.
Found---4/04/98 -- Mississippi River -Bac (0.22) Third (3rd) child missing within five (5) months, (9/20/97 ---2/22/98). Not just the same state but the same town of La Crosse.
4) Jeffrey Geesey 21 yrs.
Missing-4/11/99 La Crosse, Wisc.
Found---5/24/99 - Mississippi River - Bac (0.42)
5) Craig Burrows 23 yrs.
Missing-9/29/02 Eau Claire, Wisc.
Found--10/06/02 - Half Moon Lake
6) Michael Noll 22 yrs.
Missing-11/06/02 Eau Claire, Wisc.
Found-----8/19/03 - Half Moon Lake
7) Nathan Herr 21 yrs.
Missing-01/10/03 Sheboygan, Wisc.
Found----3/15/03 - Lake Michigan
Third (3rd) child missing within less than three (3 1/2) months, (9/29/02--01/10/03)
8) Jared Dion 21 yrs.
Missing--4/10/04 La Crosse, Wisc.
Found----4/15/04 -- Mississippi River -Bac (0.40)
9) Joshua Snell 22 yrs. (in from Minnesota for a wedding)
Missing-6/12/05 Eau Claire, Wisc.
Found---6/15/05 - Chippewa River
10) Cullen Fortney 21 yrs.
Missing 1/08/06 Mississippi River La Crosse, Wisc.
Found---1/08/06 - ALIVE Bac (0.043-0.1643)
11) Kenji Ohnri 20 yrs.
Missing-01/28/06 Madison, Wisc.
Found----6/19/06 - Lake Mendota
12) Lucas Homan 21 yrs
Missing-9/30/06 La Crosse, Wisc.
Found--10/02/06 - Mississippi River
1) Ken Christiansen 19 yrs.
Missing-4/13/01 Duluth, Minn.
Found---4/16/01 - Chester Creek
2) Christopher Nordby 27 yrs.
Missing-11/07/01 Minneapolis, Minn.
Found-----2/11/02 - Mississippi River
3) Christopher Jenkins 21 yrs.
Missing-10/31/02 Minneapolis, Minn.
Found---02/27/03 - Mississippi River
4) Joshua Guimond 20 yrs.
Missing-11/09/02 Collegeville, Minn.
Found---( ) Never Found
5) Jeremy Stienkeoway 24 yrs.
Missing-01/20/03 Hinckley, Minn.
Found----4/10/03 - St. Croix River
6) Patrick Kycia 19 yrs.
Missing-9/23/05 Moorhead, Minn.
Found---9/28/05 - Red River
7) Scot Radel 21 yrs.
Missing-02/02/05 St. Cloud, Minn.