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smiley face killers

A student gone missing from U of P fits the profile for these missing young men.
 link to media.www.universitychronicle.com
By Marli Stewart

If you are a white male between the ages of 17 and 27, attending a major college or university, have a GPA above 3.0, are athletic, clean cut and good looking, some people think you may be a target.

There are hundreds of college-age men who have mysteriously disappeared since 1997.

They vanish from a bar, their friends lose track of them and they end up in a river nearby a few days, weeks or months later.

These accidents all happen close to Interstate 94 and Interstate 90, with Minnesota and Wisconsin having the most victims.

Most of these cases have been ruled by police as accidental drowning - case closed.

But when Chris Jenkins went missing and his body was found in the Mississippi river in Minneapolis, the investigation took a new turn. Jenkins' death was ruled as a homicide.

He was abducted, driven around in a cargo van and tortured, then placed in the Mississippi river.

Retired New York detectives, Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte, have been investigating the cases and believe they are connected.

They have teamed up with SCSU professor Lee Gilbertson to find answers to the many questions that the families of the victims are left with.

Gilbertson did an exhaustive examination of the cases after SCSU student Scot Radel went missing in 2005. He looks at time and space, as well as crime mapping to find connections between the victims and patterns in the data.

Two of Gilbertson's students, Amanda Pressenger and Jessica Claeys, found many mysterious similarities between the victims and the cases themselves, leading

Gilbertson to believe that these were coordinated attacks on precise, set and prescribed dates -- attacks on victims that fit a distinct profile.

"Because of the way the dates fall out, we believe that these cases are involved with a group of 200 or so individuals who have the same ideology and are planning these 'murders,'" said Gilberston.

Currently, Gannon, Duarte, Gilbertson and Carlson (a former SCSU graduate student) are working on this investigation.

Why are the police not getting involved? The cases spread across 10 of the northern United States. Local police departments do not have the jurisdiction to investigate murders outside their local area.

"With a local police perspective, there's really nothing within our jurisdiction that has our level of suspicion, there's different facts online and some people believe that this wasn't just an accident.

I think that any story like this is going to get some media attention, and people are going to wonder," said Sergeant Martin Fayre, public information officer.

Gannon, Duarte and Gilbertson are the only investigators who have gone to all the crime scenes and looked at the big picture.

There are two rational explanations for what is happening to these college students. The first is that these men are drinking too much and end up, accidently, in the river. The second is that they drink too much and someone abducts them.

"We want to get the word out and warn people," said Gilbertson.

The chilling evidence that leads Gilbertson to believe that these were murders is a map of where the evidence is found compared to the path the victim actually took and the destination the victim was headed for. In many cases, the victim was going home or to another party or bar.

"The evidence is not leading in the same direction that the body was found and often times, the path of where the victim was supposed to be heading hardly matches up with the path the body was found in," said Gilbertson.

The professor can also predict when the next victim will go missing with pretty good accuracy and he can generally get the region that it's going to happen in, but he can't predict the city.

Most the cases happen during the school year, in-between the months of August and May, during peak drinking hours on weekends between Thursday night and Sunday night.

He also has made a chronological map of the cities that these accidents happen in, which shows a pattern that repeats itself twice along I-94.

"It's frustrating because I know someone is going to die and there's nothing I can do about it," Gilbertson said.

After a body is found in the river, investigators try to find out where the body entered the river. In most cases, where the body entered the river is where Gannon and Duarte have found graffiti, the most common symbol -- smiley faces.

"The ideology is coming from the graffiti, which are symbols that most people wouldn't recognize; it's that unique and that bizarre. It's not gang graffiti," Gilbertson said

For now, the investigators are working to prove the cases were homicide, then look at the murders and look at patterns in the data.

So far they have 12 solid cases with all the evidence and autopsies but the murders are still in clusters, and they have to go back and investigate those clusters to find out what it is about the victims that this group is going after.

There are still many gaps in their investigation that the detectives and professor Gilbertson are trying to work through, but they lack the man power and funds to be able to work diligently on this case.

They have requested the help from the FBI but were told that there was not enough evidence to prove foul play.

"Scot's case was ruled as an accident because there was nothing to lead the police to believe that it was nothing more than a tragic accident," Fayre said.

"We deal with quite a few incidents where people end up in the river. We rewarded cops a few months ago for someone that wandered into the river, they went in there with a life vest and a rope and that person would have died also. In that case we knew the circumstances, because the person survived. And it involved alcohol; the person was having suicidal thoughts."

When a body ends up in the river there is always an autopsy done.

The problem is that the body is found in the water, the current and water temperature determines where the body is going to end up and erases most of the evidence. With ice it's even more difficult.

The police department did not have any comment on the national investigation that Gannon, Gilbertson and Duarte are working on.

There are many websites that offer information about these cases.

Gannon, Duarte and Gilbertson's website is: www.nationwideinvestigations.us, where you can blog or contact the investigators and see videos of the detectives and Gilbertson in the media.

Other websites:  link to footprintsattheriversedge.blogspot.com.

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His facebook Page 17.Apr.2009 02:54

music lover


What was his medical condition?

Was he despondent? Why? Anyone care to offer some information on Juan Garcia from University of Portland?

death in February 17.Apr.2009 07:19

MHCC newspaper-Christina Hammet

I hope a good test is done to see if he was slipped a hypnotic drug that would render him suggestable. He could have just been abducted, robbed and abandoned. Interesting. Anyone know this student from Mt. Hood Community College?

Investigation continues in Columbia Gorge death of MHCC student

Christina Hammett
The Advocate

As detectives examine the evidence behind the recent death of Mt. Hood Community College student Rafael Velichko, his former instructors and friends recount their memories and attempt to piece together the puzzle of what may have occurred.

An avid jazz pianist, Velichko played piano at his church as part of a youth group band. Sulamita Slavic Evangelical Church in Fairview posted a notice of Velichko's death on their website Feb. 13, a day after the young man's body was found in the Columbia River Gorge. The notice said, "This week we had a tragic loss in our church family. We have lost a friend, a brother, and a talented person. Rafael Velichko is no longer with us." As of press time, members of the church could not be reached for further comment.

The part-time student's former instructors, biology instructor Lee Mitchell and jazz band director Susie Jones, recall the student in different ways.

Jones, who had Velichko in class this quarter said, "He was a talented pianist and had a love of jazz. He entered my class because he wanted to learn more about music and jazz as a whole."

Mitchell, who Velichko took multiple biology courses with, said, "He picked up some material and some stuff he just didn't get at all. He struggled with some assignments and things outside of class. I think there were other things that might have been taking him away from his studies."

According to Detective J. Torrez of the Multnomah County Sheriff's Department and lead investigator on the case, Velichko was in an afternoon class with Jones Feb. 11, the last day he was seen alive. "He was last seen by his teacher Susie Jones when he was in her class at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday," he said.

Jones said Wednesday, "I suspect that I was one of the last people to see him alive." The jazz band director added that Velichko asked if he could leave class early that day.

Multnomah County Sheriff's Department Deputy Paul McRedmond, the department's public information officer, said Velichko's cell phone and keys have not yet been located, so if he received a phone call during class prompting him to leave, they have not yet been able to investigate that possibility. "If that is so, we'll find out who might have called and we'll look into that. (His cell phone and keys) haven't been located yet. It's still an active investigation and the information is top secret." Torrez said after Velichko left MHCC, he called his father, whom he lives with in Portland, and said "he was on his way home to get something to eat," but he never made it home.

Torrez said two hikers located Velichko's body the morning of Feb. 12. "Sheriff's patrol was dispatched on Wednesday the 11th at around 10:30 a.m," he said. The young man, who was found only in a pair of blue underwear, was later determined by the Multnomah County medical examiner to have died from hypothermia. According to weather.com, the low temperature in Troutdale, the gateway to the Columbia River Gorge, on the morning of Feb. 12 was 27 degrees and the winds were blowing about 10 to 15 miles per hour. Torrez believes there was about one to two inches of snow at the location where Velichko's body was found, on a trailhead by Multnomah Falls near milepost 1.8 and close to Ecola Falls.

Torrez said none of Velichko's clothing has been located despite a long search he supervised.

"I went back to the point where the hikers began seeing evidence of walking through snow in bare feet," he said. He speculates that snow is covering some of his clothing items. While he was searching, Torrez began sensing what may have happened to Velichko.

"I was very hot and I had to take my jacket off. But then (I had to) put it back on because I began getting cold within minutes. And that was during the day. I can't imagine what it would have been like at night," he said. "The medical examiner mentioned that people experience euphoria (with hypothermia). They think they're hot and they start taking their clothes off." He believes this may have occurred in Velichko's case. "It's very treacherous this time of year. Sometimes you can't tell where the trail begins and ends," he said. Torrez thinks Velichko may have gotten off the trail somehow, found his way back to a different area and in the process, simply lost his way. "There have been several instances like that. It's not uncommon."

The detective also said the Multnomah County Sheriff's Department is looking at the situation as an accidental case at the moment but "we do not rule out anything until the end." McRedmond added that "there is nothing to tag it as a suspicious death (right now.)"

The toxicology report is still out and he said it will be a while before they are able to get the results back, thereby possibly eliminating or confirming the presence of drugs or alcohol in Velichko's system at the time of death.

According to Torrez, there are no suspects yet. "We're not targeting anybody, but that may change today or tomorrow," he said. "We're investigating everything and we'll eliminate every angle that we can. We want to do everything we can to find out what happened to Rafael."

Don Oliver, director of Mt. Hood Community College Public Safety, said Wednesday that his department is not involved in the "official" investigation. However, McRedmond said Thursday that a briefcase he believes may have belonged to Velichko was turned into the lost and found in the College Center, given to Public Safety last week and then turned over to the sheriff's department. "The contents are part of the investigative piece. Once the investigation is over, the news will become public but it will be kept quiet until then," he said. He added that some public safety officers will be interviewed in the near future.

McRedmond and Torrez said they are also looking to MHCC students to help solve the case. "If any students may have talked to him, (please call us,)" said McRedmond. "Sometimes the least detail gives closure to a case."

Torrez added, "If you're up there (at Multnomah Falls) and you find clothing that looks suspicious, you could help us a lot. Do not touch (them), mark the trail where you see them and call 9-1-1," he said. "If you have any info about Rafael and why he was up there that day, let us know."

Jones, possibly the last person to see the young man alive, recalls her short time as music instructor to Velichko. "We were just getting to know him," she said.

February 20, 2009
Volume 44, Issue 18