January 1, 2000

01/01/00: Brian Welzien, 21, Chicago, IL

Brian Welzien, 21, and two friends, Nick Young and Mike Wittrup, drove to Chicago to attend a private New Year's Eve party where a former NIU student, Reid Cain, was the disc jockey. After returning back to their hotel, his friends went up to the room leaving Welzien behind near the hotel entrance. His body turned up in Lake Michigan two months later.


After checking into the Ambassador East Hotel (1301 N. State Pkwy), where the three were sharing a room with Cain and two of his friends, they went to Irish Eyes pub at 2519 N. Lincoln. Welzien, who according to Young, “wasn’t a big drinker,” had four or five Long Island Iced Teas. At closing time (2:00 am), Welzien was ready to go back to the hotel, so he rode back with Cain and his two friends. Young and Wittrup decided to go to another bar with a 4 a.m. closing. Cain stopped outside the hotel to let the men out before he went to park the car, and Welzien "just sat there, then he threw up twice," Cain said. The two other men were already into the hotel before Welzien recovered enough to climb out. Cain pulled away to find a parking spot two blocks away. When Cain returned, Welzien was gone, so he went up to the hotel room. "I never even thought about it. I had no clue till we woke up in the morning," Cain said.

While Cain and his friends were up in the hotel room, several people reported seeing Welzien getting sick near the hotel entrance: the doorman, a bartender, a man parked on Goethe waiting for his girlfriend (a waitress at the Pump Room). Welzien leaned on the man's car for support, police said. When Young and Wittrup got back to the hotel sometime after 4 a.m., Welzien still wasn't in their room, so they began to search the area around the hotel, but soon gave up and went to sleep. When they awoke around 1 pm on New Year’s Day, they saw that Welzien still hadn’t returned and called the police.


On March 17, Welzien's body was found by someone strolling on a Gary beach some 25 miles from downtown Chicago. According to a written statement, the cause of death was listed as asphyxia due to drowning. However, police called the circumstances of Welzien's disappearance suspicious,'' and one investigator has said it is ”the most perplexing case'' he has ever handled.

Unlikely victim

Welzien was on the dean’s list, never used drugs, rarely drank, called mother a few times a week.

Perplexing Questions

Police also wonder whether he could he have wandered the few blocks east to Lake Michigan. Crossing eight lanes of traffic on Lake Shore Drive to get to Lake Michigan would be a formidable task even for a sober person, police say, though he might have found the tunnel underneath the drive at Division Street, which is more plausible. A few steps down, a short walk and a few steps up could have landed him on the banks of the lake. To his right, a spectacular skyline view; to his left, a treacherously icy, downward sloping concrete surface, leading to a 15-foot drop into cold water. It happened just two years before when a young man fell into the water off Navy Pier.*

* Note: I have received comments from people living in the downtown area that there is not a 15-foot drop off in this area as reported in some news stories at the time.

Robbery was always considered a strong possibility, especially given Welzien's drunken state, but he his wallet, with money in it, was still on his body. And there were no obvious signs of struggle or foul play, supporting the notion that he fell into the water rather than being pushed or dumped, police say.

Private investigator Don Johnson, who was hired by Welzien's mother and has worked closely with police on the case, wasn't ready to dismiss foul play. "Who's to say he didn't go down there and somebody didn't give him a shove? Did he go down and slip and fall? Who knows?" Johnson said. Brian’s mother said she hopes police will continue to investigate. "It would be nice to know what happened."

Facts of Interest in this Case
Name/age: Brian Welzien, 21
College: Northern Illinois University (DeKalb, IL), finance student
Physical description: athletic (soccer player)
Last seen: 01/01/00, Irish Eyes Pub, then Ambassador East Hotel, Chicago, IL, 2:00 a.m. Recovered: 03/17/00, Lake Michigan
Cause of death: asphyxia due to drowning
Injuries: no information
Blood Alcohol Content: no information


Anonymous said...

I have just heard this story on Coast to Coast AM. We lost a dear freind the same way, it never made any sense. The police said it was a suicide, but we just couldn't understand it, it made no sense. Below is the story that ran in our local rag.... Man, 22, drowns in Leland River
LELAND - Leelanau County sheriff's officers are investigating an apparent drowning death of a local man after his body after was discovered in the Leland River.
Leelanau County Sheriff Michael Oltersdorf identified the victim Sunday as Chris Hansen, 22, of Traverse City. His body was found in the Leland River by boaters just after 3:15 p.m. on Saturday.
A county sheriff's detective said Hansen apparently fell by accident in the river late Friday night or early Saturday morning. The body was discovered near a state Department of Natural Resources boat launch along River Street, near the Bluebird restaurant where Hansen worked as a cook.
Hansen attended Suttons Bay High School and had worked at the restaurant around five years, the owners said.
The investigation is continuing but authorities said they've found nothing suspicious about the incident.
"There's nothing that would lead us to suspect foul play," Oltersdorf said.

He had left the bar drunk to walk a short distance home. He had an athletic build, was a computer keek (very intelligent), white man with dark hair walking alone. He fits the profile to a T.

Harry Hitzeman - Daily Herald said...

To the author of this blog:

My name is Harry Hitzeman. I am a reporter for the Daily Herald newspaper in the Chicago suburbs and I cover Elgin, Brian Welzien's hometown.

I am working on an article for the paper about how Brian might have been a victim of a possible serial killer ring.

I am hoping to speak with the author of this blog to find out his/her interest in the case(s) and whether the "Smiley Face" theory could be true.

I can be reached at (847) 608-2719 or email hhitzeman@dailyherald.com

More info can be found here:


Emily Booth said...

I remember when Brian went missing. I never thought he walked into Lake Michigan. He was too drunk to walk, he was in a strange city in the middle of the night and he wasn't wearing a coat. Someone picked him up and he was too drunk to fight back. It wasn't a robbery. Most likely a gang initiation.

BTW, it's Navy Pier, not North Pier.

Anonymous said...

Did autopsies show death by drowning?

BoyintheMachine said...

I sensed that at least one of these guys was either smothered or suffocated, so when I read the cause of death was 'asphyxia per drowning' I become worried.

Does this mean there is no water in the lungs? What's the difference between drowning vs. asphyxia per drowning?

E said...

They should check out where this Reid Cain has been.With so many missing being disc jockeys,he is an obvious suspect.

Sheri said...

The Ambassador East Hotel is not owned by the Omni, at least not at this time. It is confusing when you read the first portion of the article that states "Omni Ambassador East". The tip off was the street name Goethe. This hotel is located in the Gold Coast area of Chicago.

Jessica said...


did you ever write that article? There have been many more deaths since this one

Lisa said...


I believe this is it:

CyPhy said...

The most telling issue in this story, as in most of the disappearances in which the victim is found months later, is that there is no mention of how long he had been deceased when he was found. Had he been deceased for 2 months, or 2 days? No mention.