The Smiley Face Killers

Journalist and investigator Kristi Piehl discussed the latest evidence in the string of nationwide deaths that may have been caused by the "Smiley Face Killers." Over the past 12 years, more than 80 young men, predominantly from the Midwest, have drowned or disappeared under similar circumstances. In at least a dozen cases, the smiley face symbol was located near where bodies were found in the water. Yet now, Piehl has come to believe the smiley face graffiti may have been a red herring, and not directly related to the cases. Interestingly though, the word 'Sinsiniwa' was written at a crime scene in Michigan, and it was later learned that a victim in Iowa had been found in a river that ran alongside Sinsiniwa Avenue.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Sikirica joined Piehl to talk about the Todd Geib case. Geib was last seen walking away from a party on June 12, 2005 near his home in Muskegon County, Michigan. His body was found in a remote pond on July 2, 2005, and authorities determined he drowned the night of the party. Yet when Sikirica examined the autopsy files, he concluded that Geib had only been dead 2-5 days. This suggests that someone could have been holding the young man captive. "Whoever had a sick individual...A lot of people have asked, who is doing this?...I think we're going to find a dark human being, of a kind we haven't met yet," said Piehl.

She also spoke about the Chris Jenkins case, in which a young man disappeared after a Halloween party in Minneapolis in 2002, and was found in the Mississippi River four months later. Initially the case was called an accidental drowning, but his death was later reclassified as a homicide. For more, see the website, about the Jenkins family's struggle for justice. 


Kristi joined 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS in Minnapolis/St. Paul in February 2006. She was previously a reporter at WDTN-TV in Dayton, Ohio. Prior to that, she was a reporter for WKEF-TV in Dayton for two years. From 1998 to 2001, Kristi also worked at KELO-TV in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, as weekend anchor and reporter. Kristi graduated with honors from Bethel University with an emphasis on professional writing. Kristi received several Associated Press awards in South Dakota and Minnesota, most notably for her live reporting of Payne Stewart's plane crash in 1998. She also worked on Dayton's Emmy award-winning 11:00pm show, and received the Cleveland Press Club Award for continuing coverage of Sick School . 

The Smiley face murder theory (variations include Smiley face murders, Smiley face killings, Smiley face gang, and others) is a theory advanced by two retired New York City detectives, Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte, that a number of young men found dead in bodies of water across several states over the last decade did not accidentally drown, as concluded by law enforcement agencies, but were victims of a serial killer or killers.

Gannon and Duarte's investigation
Letter from Congressman Sam Graves to the Honorable Robert Muller concerning new evidence and a request that FBI reopen the Smiley Face Killings.

As recently as 2008, Gannon and Duarte were examining evidence going back to the late 1990s that they believe connects the deaths of 40 or more college-age males, whose dead bodies were found in water in 11 states, often after leaving parties or bars where they were drinking. The men, according to the former detectives, often fit a profile of being popular, athletic, and good students, and most were white.

Gannon and Duarte have theorized that the young men were all murdered, either by an individual or by an organized group of killers. The term smiley face became connected to the alleged murders when it was made public that Gannon and Duarte had discovered graffiti depicting a smiley face near locations where they think the killer dumped the bodies in at least a dozen of the cases.

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