Smiley Face Killers: Real or Not?
Written By: JEH
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Following a series of accidental and undetermined drownings, a group of investigators started to suspect that the deaths were related. Aside from the similar manner of deaths, identical graffiti depicting a smiley face was discovered near locations where the bodies were found. Some say that this is a far-fetched theory. However, many still believe that the Smiley Face Killers are real.
The First Drowning Victim
In 1997, the body of college student, Patrick McNeill, was found in New York City. Officials ruled his death accidental due to alcohol intoxication. But after reviewing McNeill’s autopsy, Detective Kevin Gannon was convinced that there was more to the drowning incident than what may appear. Together with Detective Anthony Duarte, Gannon worked to prove that McNeill’s death was a homicide.
Eventually, Duarte and Gannon teamed up with retired NYPD detective Mike Donovan and St. Cloud University sociology professor Dr. Lee Gilbertson. The team would work years to form the “Smiley Face Killers” theory.
What Is the “Smiley Face Killers” Theory?
After going through cold cases and more drowning incidents, the team claimed that the victims had a lot of factors in common, including:
• College-age Caucasian males
• Last seen partying with friends
• Drugged before death
• Alcohol intoxication
• Delayed decomposition
• Smiley face with horns spray-painted inside a drainage tunnel near the location where the victims died
The team believes that the victims were murdered by an individual or an organized group of killers. Based on the criteria above, the team brought forth evidence of over 40 potential murders.
Are the Smiley Face Killers Real?
Experts and other investigators, including the FBI and Center for Homicide Research, also got involved in the cases. However, most police forces viewed the theory as ridiculous. Although investigators tried to consider the evidence presented, the events were dubbed as circumstantial.
In addition, investigators determined that there are no links between the tragic drownings or any evidence substantiating the theory.
Questioning the Intentions of Gannon and His Team
Unfortunately for Gannon and his team, their theory was viewed as an attempt to get fame and money. Some people also thought that the theory was beginning to emotionally harm the grieving families of the victims.
However, the group of investigators maintained that their only goal was to encourage police to re-open the cases and take time to link the drowning incidents. Up until this day, Gannon and his team continue to fight for their cause.
Smiley Face Killers in Popular Media
In 2019, the Oxygen television network released a docuseries titled “Smiley Face Killers: The Hunt for Justice”.
For fictional shows, “Scott & Bailey”, a British detective show, had a series of episodes in which the plot is based on these murders. Also, last 2020, a movie loosely based on the Smiley Face Killers theory was released. The story follows a college student who is stalked by an unknown hooded figure as a series of young men mysteriously drown.
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