July 7, 2009

07/03/09: Bryan Barker, 21, Milwaukee, WI

On Friday, July 3, Bryan Barker, 21, from New London, Wisconsin went to Sullivan's Bar on 1227 North Water Street in Milwaukee to celebrate a friend's birthday. He left the bar between 1 and 1:30 a.m. and was planning to walk home. He disappeared.

His body was spotted by a passerby in the Milwaukee River on 7/6 and was recovered by divers near the 1400 block of Water Street, about two blocks north of the bar.

Bryan Barker and some friends rented a stretch limo to celebrate a friend's 21st birthday. Sometime between 1 and 1:30 a.m., he left Sullivan's Bar at 1227 North Water Street to walk home. According to the medical examiner's report, he was very drunk and had been asked to leave Sullivan's after getting into an argument with a friend.

Barker was reported missing later on Saturday after he did not answer his girlfriend's calls to his cell phone. According to Fox11 Online, "search parties, including three Milwaukee area police agencies, began canvassing Water Street and the riverfront at 7:00 a.m. Monday.

According to the medical examiner's report, one of Bryan's friends who had been celebrating with him had been mugged and beaten that same night. It is not clear if or how this is related to Bryan Barker's death, and it is still under investigation.

About Bryan Barker
Barker a senior in Finance and Business student at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, had graduated from New London High School in 2004. He had a steady girlfriend, a part-time job installing security systems, and a summer job working at Atlas Cold Storage in Appleton, WI. According to a coworker there, he was physically fit and could bench press as much as 380 pounds. The week before his death, he moved into a new apartment, according to his landlord Larry Kosberg.

According to the UWM Post, Barker is the "second UWM student from New London to die in the past year. UWM freshman Luke Murphy was found dead in a UWM residence hall in March due to an apparent drug overdose."

Barker's body was initially identified by Bryan Barker's brother, Jonathan, who was at the scene, then confirmed by police. Officials said early on that there were no signs of foul play.

On Tuesday, July 7, the Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy and determined his death was the result of an accidental drowning. The medical examiner's report said Barker was a heavy drinker and was drunk on the night he disappared. Barker's friends had also previously stated that he was intoxicated at the time of his disappearance. The investigation is still open, but police believe this was the case of a tragic accident. It has not been reported if police have determined how Barker ended up in the river.

Funeral services were held Thursday, July 9 at 11 a.m., at Trinity Lutheran Church in New London, WI. Internment is at the Floral Hills Cemetery in New London.

Facts of Interest:
Name/age: Bryan Barker, 21
DOB: 7/23/87
Residence: Milwaukee, WI
Hometown: New London, WI. Born in Appleton, WI to Joseph and Marie (Steibs) Barker.
School: senior at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (2004 graduate of New London High School)
Major: Business and Finance
Bryan held a summer job at Atlas Cold Storage in Appleton and also had a part-time job installing security systems in Milwaukee.
Last seen: 7/3/09 Milwaukee, WI
Recovered: 7/6/09 Milwaukee River near 1400 block of Water Street
Cause of death: drowning
Manner of death: accident

Thank you, Nicole, for alerting me to this story and providing links.

Associated Press, Body found near where UWM student last seen, 07/06/09
The Post-Crescent, Family of missing New London man Bryan Barker says body pulled from Milwaukee River is his, 07/07/09
TMJ4 Milwaukee, Missing UWM Student Found Dead in River, 07/07/09
The UWM Post, Body found in Milwaukee River believed to be missing UWM student, 07/07/09
Obituary, The Post-Crescent
Memorial hopes to help missing persons searches, NBC26, 07/10/09
Body of UWM student pulled from Milwaukee River, WISN, 07/07/09
Two UWM students found dead from two separate incidents, UWM Post.com, 7/7/09

Posted 7/7/09. Revised 7/13/09.


Devin said...

thank you for this blog. These cases have interested me for a long time. I first heard about them on Vance Holme's Drowning in Coincidence site. I wish I had some more thoughts or anwers of even good questions to ask-but I dont. The only thing is that I simply can no longer believe that a great many of these are accidental drownings. For me there is just too many to be coincidence clusters and also the way the victims -at least some of them-maybe many of them-seem to have such similar backgrounds as far as popularity, school grades, etc. And of course there are all of the unanswered questions brought by the phone calls (Snell case and others) why jackets, cell phones and other things are neatly piled in certain locations (hardly what you would expect with people so drunk they can barely move-and the missing religious medals -graffiti and things like that. Thanks again for all of your hard work and my heart goes out to all of the families and friends of the victims and I hope that whoever is doing this is caught -immediately-and punished to the fullest extent of the law!

Anonymous said...

There is a BROTHER's BAR less than one block south of Sulivan's on Water St.


Monique said...

If it is true Bryan was on his way to the Trinity bar after he was kicked out of the bar he was at (according to one of his friends on the SFK site) then Brother's Bar would be en route to the Trinity Bar.
His friend also claims Bryan was kicked out of the bar for fighting.
I was informed the police were called to water street about an hour before bar closing because of a fight.I don't know if the fights are related.

I hope more facts are revealed.

There also also many survelliance cameras on water street. It is a college aged party place with wall to wall bars. The sidewalks are crowded and Saturday night (4th) was very crowded in that area.

Anonymous said...

Was Bryan's beer/drink perhaps drugged in the first bar? Did that perhaps cause Bryan's behavior to get erratic & for the fight to break out?

I hope the surveillance cameras in the area show us something helpful.

Anonymous said...

I just did some map work and found some odd proximity relations between Brother's Bar and Grill and victims. I posted this on SFkillers.com but thought you'd be interested in it as well considering you have already connected Brother's to Nathan Kapfer, Brian Shaffer, and Josh Snell.

[The real clincher is how eerily similar this particular grouping of victims seems to be in physical appearance.]

10/31/02 - Minneapolis, MN - CHRIS JENKINS was kicked out of The Lone Tree Bar and Grill. Brother’s Bar is one BLOCK away on 1st Ave.

11/06/02 - Eau Claire, WI - MICHAEL NOLL was last seen entering a residential home at the 1000 Block near Oxford Ave. Prior to this he had spent some time at the Nasty Habit Saloon on WATER St. - Brother’s is one BLOCK away also on Water St.

9/12/04 - Eau Claire, WI - JESSE MILLER voluntarily walked into the water under the E. Lake Street Bridge after being pursued by the police. Prior to this, he was seen on Water Street. Brother’s is located at 324 Water Street and is less than one mile from where he entered the water.

7/26/06 - Milwaukee, WI - MAX WALKER was last seen at the Buckhead Saloon, 1040 N. Old World 3rd Street. There is a Brother’s less than 1/2 a mile away.

9/30/06 - La Crosse, WI - LUKE HOMAN was last seen at The Vibe (bar) on 322 Jay Street. Brother’s is one BLOCK away on Pearl St.

[7/03/09 - Milwaukee, WI - BRYAN BARKER was last seen at Sulivan's on WATER St. Brother's Bar is one BLOCK south also on Water St.]

Monique777 said...

The Milwaukee medical Examiner's Office conducted an autopsy Tuesday and classified the death of Bryan Barker a drowning. Anne Schwartz, from the MPD, said the investigation is still open but there is no reason to think Bryan Barker's death is anything other than a "tragic accident".


Monique777 said...

In this article they mention the waist high "railing" that goes along the river behind the bars. They also mention the 9 La Crosse drowning deaths dating back to 2007.

Monique777 said...

I know people in Milwaukee and I was told many are talking about this drowning and the guy who was shot. Both had been out together that evening celebrating a friend's 21st birthday. They had rented a Limo and people are wondering how he ended up in the river. I was told it's in on the news quite a bit.

Anonymous said...

It seems odd, in that there is nothing to suggest that this was just an accident. Yes, he drowned, but we don't know if he might have been drugged &/or pushed, & his friend, who he had been out with, was shot to death that same night. How can anyone quickly conclude that this must just be an accident? I sincerely hope that police are investigating further.

Anonymous said...

The comment about Bryan knowing the other guy shot and being out that night together is incorrect. Bryan went missing Friday night/early Saturday morning, and the other guy was shot early Monday morning. They were not out together that night.

In the UWM Post it says a friend that Bryan was out with was mugged and beat up that night, but he was not the one who was shot.

This is a prime example of people not knowing all the information, making assumptions, and jumping to conclusions.

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to Bryan's family and friends so don't think im down playing anything. Anybody that is kicked out of a bar for fighting and being very intoxicated can not swim very well if at all. This was even said in the first comment. Its murphy's law that drunk + near river = a very good chance of drowning. Come on lots stop blaming the police and medical examiner's for people's own accidents. Now for the piling up of personal effects. Believe it or not but I know many of my friends that get drunk as heck and decide hey im going to go swimming for some stupid reason. Its that liquid courage that makes people do dumb things and take all their stuff out of their pockets and sometimes even clothes and try swimming (even in the milwaukee river). They have to be dragged out by those of us that are sober. Its good to have a questioning mind but please stop with the conspiracy theories. A man had an accident and we should focus on supporting his family and friends and stop placing blame and coming up with killers to put more stress on his beloved ones. I have met Bryan on various occasions so I am not just talking as a third party.

Jake said...

Wow !!!! I am truly amazed that some people are trying to just sweep this death under the rug so quickly.

That last post is truly UNBELIEVABLE. The one which posted at Friday, July 10, 2009 10:53:00 AM CDT. The anonymous blogger opens by portraying herself/himself as concerned by saying "My heart goes out to Bryan's family and friends ..." & then ends the post by saying "I have met Bryan on various occasions so I am not just talking as a third party."

Those types of statements are DESIGNED to give that poster crediblity & likeablity with the readers. However, then the entire lengthy post goes on to DEBATE & JUMP TO CLONCUSIONS about what really happened, steering everyon to beleive that Bryan died of an accident.

A real friend or even acquaintance of Bryan would not be so quick to simply throw in the towel & chalk it all up to being a drunken accident. I believe that the person who wrote that post is not even an acquaintence of Bryan, at all, but instead is someone trying to throw everyone off track.

All of our hearts go out Bryan's family & friends --- & it is wrong for anyone to so quickly make such conclusions.

To the readers who are kind of new to reading these blogs about the Smiley Face Murders of college men who have gone missing & ended up dead in the river (between 80-120 young men), don't allow someone on these blogs to persuade you so easily & quickly that it was all just a drunken accident.

Many of the more experienced readers/posters on these blogs are of the opinion that the real killers are also regular posters on these blogs. They try to bury evidence & sway everyone's opinions (often quite subtley) to believe that maybe it is just best to support the family in their grief, rather than to investigate.

A true friend would want a real & thorough investigation. We all know that.

Someone who comes on a blog & anonymously portrays themselves as a friend of the victim, but then goes on to essentially throw in the towel as to any possible investigation is what we call --- a debunker -- someone who is trying to throw the investigation off track.

Lisa said...


Thank you for your nice comments. Vance Holmes has a fantastic site. Vance deserves a lot of credit; he was one of the first to see a pattern in these cases. Back in 2002, the ONLY other mention of similiarities between these cases was a table called "Commonalities" on the Child Seek Network. I'm not sure which was published first, but it was Vance's writing that really humanized these young men and helped to show that something unusual was going on. His Drowning in Coincidence page inspired me to read further and then become the third site to discuss such cases.

I, too, have a gut reaction when I hear about these cases---something is just not right. I hope my site helps spur discussion.

Monique777 said...


I would like to thank you also for having such a great site.

After Dan went missing I thought I was alone in thinking there was something more to it.Then as I hung posters in area businesses people would ask questions about "all these young men drowning".

When I found your site I was so relieved to know I wasn't alone in thinking something sinister was going on.

Thanks for providing objective facts about each of these drownings. I know it must be a ton of work for you to keep up with but after reading through all the cases it became obvious to me these are not all "accidential drownings" (usually ruled that way in a day or so.)

Thanks again for allof your hard work to keep us informed.

Anonymous said...

A few people have mentioned something about belongings being found separately from Bryan, even something about clothes being folded & stacked. I know this was the case for a few of the other victims, but could someone please clarify — was Bryan’s body recovered with all his clothes in tact, & his personal belongings, wallet, etc on him ????

Devin said...

Thanks for your nice comments Lisa! I enjoy reading most of the other commenters who comment frequently here also. I have seen so many different theories about these cases it makes your head spin. But of course I think until the day comes when we know-and BTW I think we will know-hopefully soon! that all credible theories can be discussed. I have really tried to wrap my mind around this case and it is just so hard for me. I am not from anywhere near that area of the nation and do not know anyone from there. I agree with Jake (hope I am giving credit to the right commenter) about people and their pet theories. Like I say -until we know more I think we should be fairly open minded about what to expect. There is a site -I think called Brian Blackwell PI or something. Mr Blackwell (hope I have his name right) said in response to a comment by Trevor Boehms mother that she thought her son committed suicide-that HE thought suicide was highly unlikely with a drowning as there were easier and faster ways to do it. Well here-I disagree-depending on what the temp of the water was. I would think drowning oneself in a cold body of water would be a very effective manner of death if you wished to kill yourself. Of course even if that is what happened with Trevor -that still leaves an enormous amount of questions with the other cases-and I do absolutely think something is horribly wrong with a great many of these cases. I just didn't appreciate the man's know-it-all tone at the other site. Again thank you Lisa, materialeesta, monique777, Jake, Boy in the machine and others. I will try to not comment too much here unless I have a question or can add something. Finally my thoughts and prayers go out to all of these young men's families and friends. I just hope that justice is done soon-and that there will be no more victims! I did just think of a question-but one that may not have a "pat" answer. Is it most people's feelings on these cases that they cover a larger area of the nation-maybe into Canada-than first thought? Sorry for such a long comment.

Lisa said...


I agree, the multitude of theories on these cases sure makes your head spin. And we really don't know enough yet to rule out any one theory. Everyone has a favorite and hopefully by discussing them all, it will shed new light on things. I hope we do get an answer to this puzzle. We've all been racking our brains to figure it out.

I had not read Mr. Blackwell's comments, but I would imagine that Trevor's mother would be a good judge of whether he was capable of committing suicide in that way. I would also point out that although many people have a fear of drowning and would never choose that means of suicide, others find water very peaceful and may opt to go out that way. So with Trevor you have to look at the evidence as a whole, especially his recent behavior, to see what is more likely.

As with all of these cases though, we have far more questions than answers!

Regarding your question, the sense that I get is that many people do believe these cases may cover a wider area. I have not had much of a chance to look outside of the Great Lakes region, but it would be interesting to compare news reports in other parts of the country. If anything, it would be nice to know if other college towns on waterways are seeing such high numbers.

I have gotten some e-mails that there have been a lot of cases in Canada. I personally believe this is an area of concern and I am looking into this now.

Jake said...

There is another Bryan Barker, who was a punter for the Green Bay Packers, & another victim, Chris Jenkins, who disappeared from downtown Minneapolis, has the same name as a sports writer for the StarTribune newspaper in the twin cities. Could this just be a coincidence? Are young men possibly being targeted because they have the same name as some type of sports figure? or are the just randomly at the wrong place at the wrong time?

It seems that both Bryan Barker & Chris Jenkins might have been drugged in the bar they were in — they both got into altercations & got kicked out, to be separated from their friends. In that sense, it seems that each one may have been “targeted” at least while in the bar that night. Is it possible that they were even targeted further in advance of that, via facebook or myspace postings, that may have announced to their friends where they were headed that night —- Chris to celebrate Halloween in costume at bar in Minneapolis, Bryan to celebrating with bud’s going from bar to bar in a limo. It is quite possible that each one announced in advance on his facebook/myspace page what he would be doing.

Anonymous said...

I work at the place where Bryans body was recovered and saw it take place. For the people asking if he had his clothes on, yes he did. As for other personal effects I'm not sure. The police were quick to cover his body because a news crew arrived rather quickly across the river.

Anonymous said...

I doubt that he would have decided to go swimming with his close on. Is there any indication where Bryan went in (was pushed or possibly fell)?

Lisa said...

Just posted some new details I found in this case.

1) Bryan Barker was very physically fit and could bench press 380 pounds.
2) He was a heavy drinker and was very intoxicated the night of his disappearance. In fact, he was asked to leave the bar after a drunken argument with a friend.
3) Another friend he was with that night was mugged and beaten, and police are investigating.

I'm not sure how all of these things connect, but I believe it may add another piece to this puzzle.

Lisa said...


Bryan's body was found near the 1400 block of Water Street, if it helps.

Monique777 said...

Thanks Lisa!

There was a police call to water street about a fight that night.I'm not sure if this police call is related to the fight with Bryan's friend.If it was then there may be LE involvement again with a victim. He was Bryan's friend and I wonder if both acted with so much aggression(fighting) because they were drugged with something while together at the bar.
I'd like to know the specific bar he was found behind if any one knows.
Thanks for the additional information Lisa.

Anonymous said...

To Monique 777
"There was a police call to water street about a fight that night.I'm not sure if this police call is related to the fight with Bryan's friend.If it was then there may be LE involvement again with a victim. He was Bryan's friend and I wonder if both acted with so much aggression(fighting) because they were drugged with something while together at the bar.
I'd like to know the specific bar he was found behind if any one knows"

The friend who was mugged is not an aggresive person.

Monique777 said...

Okay, could someone from Milwaukee please verify if this is rumor or truth?

I have been told it is well lite behind the bars on Water St. and that many people were on their boats watching the fireworks. Do they sit in their boats behind the bars on water st? Do they watch the fireworks from the top floors of the condos on the west side of the Milwaukee river?

I know it must have been loud, but I'm trying to figure out how easily it would have been for Bryan to be noticed when he went in the water. First a big splash, then the tremendous amount of splashing and movement when someone drowns. Is it possible this went unnoticed OR do you think he went in the water at another point? What is your feeling? People from the area usually know best.

I just think Bryan's body wasn't meant to be found so soon if it was so far North. If something sinister happened, they expected it to be found further South. Just my guess. But again, LE didn't note this as being unusual.

Monique777 said...

What really catches my attention is Bryan and his friend both go out to celebrate a friend's Brithday. When the night is finished, Bryan ends up dead and his friend was "mugged and beaten". From my understanding, Bryan and his friend were not together when his friend was mugged and beaten, is this true?

Does anyone know the name of the friend who was mugged or the location where he was mugged? Was it right on Water St. around the bars?

I'm trying to determine if one has to do with the other or if it is a coincidence Bryan ended up drowned and his friend mugged and beaten.

Monique777 said...

If anyone who is a friend of Bryan Barkers reads this blog could you please answer any of my questions. I also would like to know the hundred block and street name where Bryan lived.
I am trying to determine possible routes he may have taken home if he didn't go to Trinity Bar.It's very important to determine if he could have headed East to go home.

So far, I have not been able to collect any information about Bryan (as opposed to the other drowning victims) and think this is very sad because we can't investigate with out any more facts.

Bryan deserves the same justice and attention as all of the other potential victims of foul play deserve. I wish his friends would speak up for Bryan and share some information so we can try to understand what is and what is not a possibility on the tragic night he drowned.

Anonymous said...

That sounds really creepy. You want to know where Bryan lived (or just his block as you say), so you can narrow it down further & find his exact address. It doesn't sound like your trying to help Bryan at all. What are you really up to?

My2Cents said...

People like to put the addresses onto a map so they can see how close the person was to the river, etc. Even if she had the exact address, would it matter now?

Anonymous said...

It was reported that Bryan's body was found in the river, in the opposite direction of where he lived, even if he had gone in somewhere further upstream. The press never reported where Bryan lived, other than to say if he had been heading home, he could not have ended up in the river, because his home address had nothing to do with whatever happened that night.

At least one victim's house/apt was broken into a few weeks after he went missing. If someone had a victims home address, they could pose as a reporter or something, talk to neighbors etc & tell them who knows what --- to maybe malign the victim or just tell drop hints to neighbors & friends that the family supposedly needs closure ---- all that kind of stuff causes people to stop investigating, because they think they are dropping their investigations "for the family" or maybe their were some insinuated issues that the victim had, that might cause people to be less interested in helping to solve his murder.

It's already been reported that Bryan lived blocks & blocks in the opposite direction. What more does anybody need to know? He could live 10 miles out in the suburbs -- what does that have to do with anything? Just so someone can mark it on a map?? ---- its in the opposite direction.

Trying to find out where about Bryan lived is very creepy.

Monique777 said...

What I would really like to know is if he lived North of Water Street such as on the East Side of Milwaukee where many of the students live. Then there is the possibility he may have walked North. I can rule this out if he lived on the South Side (as one address is listed for a Bryan Barker).
Just because someone lives on the East Side we can't ASSUME they walked East as it is NorthEast of Water Street.I would like to rule this out with certainty.

If there is no possibility he walked North (lived on the South Side), than I agree with 2 cents. It is very possible he was abducted and driven North. The parallels with Chris jenkins are numerous. But it's important to rule out he may have walked North.

I would encourage people to map out the geography if you haven't done so already. You may get attacked for doing so for obvious reasons but it is well worth it. You will gain a much better understanding.

Anonymous said...

We don't know which direction Bryan walked,or whatever. We probably will never know, so it's all speculation that just because he lived in one direction & was found in another direction, that really doesn't mean ANYTHING. He could have been walking home & got abducted in a vehicle. He could have walked the other way for some reason. Its all speculation, since no one really knows which way he headed.

I guess the better question is -- which way did Bryan go? rather than , where does he live?

If someone knows which way Bry headed, he probably already told the police, & I don't see a problem with telling that fact here. That could be helpful.

Monique777 said...

We are given so few facts here that we are left to speculate so much of the time. We speculate when we think they were drugged (tox. screen doesn't tell us this),we are even speculating when we believe foul play is involved.

Even if someone saw him go one way it doesn't tell us he didn't turn around to go another way although this is helpful information. All we can do is TRY to rule things out based only on what makes sense. If the bar he said he was going to and his home are both South,then have LE explain to the public how he ended up North. It makes for a stronger case to present. It's all pretty much speculation but if we put together some really strong cases where LE can't find a loop hole or some type of logical explanation as to how they ended up in the water in a particular location all the better.
I mean really, with Alexis Dillard LE is saying he went swimming home in the middle of winter! If we get enough of these crazy explanations I really believe in my heart something will be done due to public out rage.

Monique777 said...

After taking a look at the area it sure appears he might have been abducted in a vehicle.

Bryan very well may have walked North on Water to get to Lyon St. and then follow that to his home. After the bars end and one heads North that area of Water street is pretty well fenced off from the river and desolate. There are a few open spots but he would have to walk out of his way and there are condos on the west side of the river so it would have been very difficult for him not to have been seen. Especially with people on boats on the river that night.

After looking at the area it doesn't appear to me he was pushed in the river or fell in the river-but rather was abducted and later placed in the river.

Also behind Sullivan's and Trinity there is a street (alley) and on the other side of the street is a bar called the Harp which has a patio deck over looking the river. Too many people to not notice Bryan jump the fence and go in. And then there are condos and in this area one can't even access the river. It all points to an abduction.

Wisconsin girl said...

If you knew or ever saw Bryan it would take alot to abduct him!! He was a weight lifter and he was a beast!! They would have quite a fight on their hands unless they knocked him out first!