September 3, 2007

FBI says no serial killer in LaCrosse

After series of mysterious deaths since 1997, rumors and an increasing sense of public alarm caused the LaCrosse police to consult with the FBI's National Center for Analysis of Violent Crime. On August 21, LaCrosse Police Chief Ed Kondracki "announced that the FBI had found no evidence to support the serial killer theory. The chief said the report noted that eight other people who survived falls into water in the area reported no contact with anyone else, and that there had been no reports of suspicious people approaching men in the areas where the victims were last seen.The FBI also reported that student volunteers who began patrolling the park after Homan's death encountered about 40 drunk people along the water, Kondracki said."

Sep 3, 2007 4:22 pm US/Central

FBI: No Serial Killer In LaCrosse
(AP) LaCrosse, Wisc. There is no serial killer, investigators insist, no boogeyman lurking in college-area bars, waiting to drown good-looking young men.

Since 1997, eight college-aged men have drunk heavily at local taverns, then turned up dead in one of the area's rivers.

Each death rekindled the killer talk, but FBI profilers and other investigators have all reached the same conclusion: The deaths were accidents.

With no murderous stalker to blame, people will have to take responsibility for what happens when they get drunk, said Paula Knutson, dean of students at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

"The report will help students," she said. "There was doubt in their mind, which removed a sense of accountability. ... This helps say 'OK, we've got a problem here when it comes to excessive drinking."'

The city of 50,000 lies on the Mississippi River about two hours southeast of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn. About 15,000 students attend its three colleges -- UW-La Crosse, Western Technical College and Viterbo University.

Wisconsin's love affair with beer and breweries is on full display here: A set of large storage tanks at City Brewery is advertised as the world's largest six-pack, and thousands attend the annual Oktoberfest.

Every weekend students jam the downtown bars, which border Riverside Park where the Black and La Crosse rivers join the Mississippi.

The series of mysterious deaths began in July 1997, when the body of 19-year-old Richard Hlavaty was found in the Mississippi. The rumors became near hysteria in 2004 when the body of UW-La Crosse wrestler Jared Dion, 21, was found in the Mississippi off Riverside Park.

Police were heckled when they held a community meeting to assure the public the drownings were accidents. People accused them of ignoring obvious connections between the deaths -- all men, all white, all disappeared downtown.

The rumors erupted again last September, when UW-La Crosse basketball player Luke Homan was found dead in the Mississippi after a night of drinking.

A month and a half later, Minneapolis police classified the drowning there of a University of Minnesota student who had vanished from a downtown bar as a murder. In December, a criminologist at Minnesota's St. Cloud State University said more than 20 college-aged men had drowned after disappearing from bars or parties since 1997 in an area from Minnesota to Ohio.

Tired of the rumors, La Crosse police asked the FBI's National Center for Analysis of Violent Crime to review their investigations, and on Aug. 21 Police Chief Ed Kondracki announced that the FBI had found no evidence to support the serial killer theory.

The chief said the report noted that eight other people who survived falls into water in the area reported no contact with anyone else, and that there had been no reports of suspicious people approaching men in the areas where the victims were last seen.

The FBI also reported that student volunteers who began patrolling the park after Homan's death encountered about 40 drunk people along the water, Kondracki said.

Kondracki didn't release the report, saying it's FBI property. The FBI hasn't responded to an Associated Press request for a copy under the Freedom of Information Act.

Since Homan's death, city leaders have enacted a public intoxication ordinance and spent about $60,000 on fencing in Riverside Park. A consortium of local medical centers is studying ways to reduce alcohol-related injuries. Three colleges launched a safe drinking campaign.

However, signs at Coconut Joe's still invite students to "Get Goosed Up" on $2.50 back-to-school mixers.

Bars have to offer drink specials to compete, said Dave Parisey, owner of the downtown Popcorn Tavern and president of the La Crosse City and County Tavern League. The solution, he said, is teaching kids in high school and at home about alcohol abuse.

"(Parents) can't just send their kids up here and expect us to baby-sit them," Parisey said.

La Crosse Mayor Mark Johnsrud said he considered widespread drinking at house parties a greater problem than bars' drink specials, and said many students are drunk before they ever get downtown.

"You're always going to see cheap drinks in a college town," Johnsrud said.

And not everyone believes the FBI.

Viterbo junior Tina Kothbauer, 20, of Durand, said she thinks police are squelching the serial killer theory to avoid publicity, and she doesn't think the safe drinking campaign will do anything.

"College students aren't going to stop binge drinking," Kothbauer said.

(© 2007 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. )


Anonymous said...

Hello this is Ethan.Let me know if you need any assistance.I know this is a lot of work.You might consider adding this name to the athletic category.-Wade Steffy.if you sign on as a member of forum,i can send you info through mail says this about Wade Steffy here
Like many children, Wade was interested in team sports including baseball and basketball. But as he grew older and entered high school, his parents said he became more focused on individual sports. He joined his cross-country team his freshman year in high school.

Larry Williams, Wade's cross-country and track coach during his four years of high school, called Wade an athlete with a great heart.

Steffy is a name of German origin ,as are many of the drowining victims are.

here is another athlete that drowned and he was a star athlete.

one possibility said...

I believe it's time for the many police jurisdictions affected by these mysterious drowning cases to come together and compare notes, if they haven't already. Of particular interest should be the autopsy reports. Do these reports reveal similarities between a sufficient number of these cases to warrent stating that a connection exists? This is important, since a consistent pattern of evidence could rule out copycats, unrelated murder involving drowning and accidental drowning as possible explanations. I think such evidence exists.

Now the question of motive. Note the many disparate locations and m.o.'s that have always resulted in the same repetive finding by the coroner's office: accidental drowning, no sign of foul play. But if the coroners are mistaken, are these deaths, then, the work of a serial killer or killers? No. Serial killers act alone or in pairs and make no attempt to hide their crimes, only the incriminating evidence of their misdeeds, if time, opportunity and intelligence so permits them. There's an important difference here: the deaths are officially being reported as accidents, not murder. If someone goes permanently missing (e.g. Shaffer, Guimond) who is likely connected to the case, the pattern is obviously broken. Why? Because the victim resisted and was violently killed, his body being physically traumatized and therefore no longer a candidate for the river. The game must go on! Long live the game! Accidents prolong the game, not murder.

But what about all these diverse cases? Why all this change we see? I believe the answer lies in why these killings are happening, not where they are happening. What is the object of the game? It's not the victim as in serial killing, but rather one or more of the participants who attends, in most cases, the same college or university as the deceased.

The object is, in fact, recruitment via initiation. Dirty people want dirty people to work for them. You want the job, prove to us you're dirty.

So the interested applicants, the ones with the right psychological profiles, do.

What can be done? Check the backgrounds of everyone remotely connected to the victims. Do the usual investigation, but far more intensively--viz. phone calls, he said, she said, etc. And find out if any of the people of interest applied for a job with the U.S. government, particularly with any of its intelligence services, elite military groups or related law enforcement agencies. Did they complete an application for a job, at which time were given a psychological questionnaire to fill out? Perhaps they applied with a similar state or private agency instead. I raise these questions because I sincerely believe that university students are involved in these crimes, and they're not playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Alas, there is one final possibility that I will discuss in some future posting.

Anonymous said...

Seems kind of strange how close the dissapearnces of kyle fleischmann and justin gaines are related to these deaths. The age, size, appearance, time, and locations are alot alike. Maybe a closer look into these deaths may uncover more facts on these two missing guys.