Did a Serial Killer Group Hit Chicago?

By Prescott Carlson in News on Apr 26, 2008 3:49PM

smiley.jpgWith all the hoopla that surrounded Y2K festivities, you might remember the news story of Brian Welzien. Welzien wandered away from the Ambassador East hotel on New Year's Eve of 1999 and did not return. At the time police speculated that he may have possibly been drunk, fell into Lake Michigan and drowned. That scenario seemed to be correct when Welzien's body was eventually found in March of 2000 along a Gary, Indiana beach.

But since then, as more and more eerily similar cases came to light -- "athletic, intelligent, well-liked college student goes missing" and turns up drowned -- whisperings of a serial killer began to emerge. (Hopefully to remain) Chicago's own Mark Suppelsa talked to several people who believe this theory, and there's even a blog dedicated to the subject.

Two retired New York police detectives have devoted their own time and money to the cause (one even mortgaged his own house), and they believe that as many as 40 drowning "accidents" may be the work of not just a single person, but of a group of serial killers. They have followed a trail that they say started in New York and worked its way through Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. The detectives have found several connections that seem unlikely to be just coincidences, including a similar piece of graffiti at various sites:

City after city, when they'd find the spot where the body went in, they would find something else: The symbol of a smiley face.

"It's very disturbing," Duarte said.

The paint color and size of the face varies, but the detectives are convinced that it's a sick signature the killers leave behind.

They also found the word "Sinsiniwa" at a site in Michigan, which turned out to be the street where another body was found in Dubuque, Iowa. [KSTP]

Photo by JustUptown