|Steve Wright (left) |
and Mark Kraynak (right)
The two had traveled from Toronto with a friend and their employer for a weekend in Montreal.
After spending some time at Vatican, they called their employer around 3 a.m. to say they were in a cab heading to the Red Lite, an after-hours rave club, in the city of Laval, 30 minutes away. They had been in the club earlier with him before getting separated.
They arrived at the Red Lite at 3:32 a.m., but never made it inside.
Ten days later, their fractured and severely decomposed bodies were found in the Demix rock quarry more than 300 feet from the Red Lite. Canadian authorities initially described the deaths as "suspicious" because despite the injuries, autopsies did not show any traces of violence. Neither man seemed to be missing clothing, jewelry or money, which might suggest a robbery. And toxicology tests were inconclusive as to whether they might have ingested anything that might have led to their deaths. It was determined that the men had suffered a 50-foot fall into the quarry below.
Surveillance video outside the Red Lite shows Kraynak and Wright dashing into an alley as the taxi chased the men. The cabbie then backed up and left a few minutes later. Police in Laval said they are considering the possibility that Kraynak and Wright might have been looking for a place to hide after they had stiffed the cab driver out of the fare for the trip from Montreal to Laval, which would have been about $40.
Laval police spokesman, Guy Lajeunesse, declined to discuss with the media whether the video showed the men exiting the taxi, as police were hoping the driver would call with details. The surveillance photos show a vehicle with no identifying words or symbols. Authorities don't know the race or gender of the driver, let alone any distinguishing characteristics, but they think he might be hiding because he has a criminal record or is an immigrant.
Janice Kraynak doubts that such a person would draw attention to himself by chasing the men down the alley near the quarry.
The police theory is that Kraynak and Wright refused to pay the driver, so they ran and got through a
5-foot-high barbed-wire fence to enter the dark quarry and ran another 20 feet in the darkness and accidentally fell into the quarry. According to The Montreal Gazette, the quarry had warning signs, but they were written in French only.
"It looks like they died for $40," Lajeunesse told the Tribune-Review. "It's unpleasant, but sometimes you do crazy things."
Mark Kraynak's mother, Janice, struggles to understand how the police could assume Kraynak and Wright had stiffed the cab driver before even interviewing him. She told the media that her son had paid his own way for much of his life, including earning money as a newspaper carrier to cover his expenses at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus where he attended school. She said the men were also carrying enough cash and credit cards to be able to pay the fare. That night Kraynak, Wright, and a third man had even left a $200 tip for a waitress at Vatican; this is evidence, she says, that her son would not stiff a cab driver for $40.
"They can theorize all they want," Janice Kraynak told the Tribune-Review. "All they're doing is defaming my son after his death."
Kraynak also says she has seen the surveillance tape, causing her to further dispute the police theory that the men were running to avoid paying a fare. The video, she says, shows Kraynak running from an intersection outside the club toward an industrial park of office condominiums. Wright is about two car-lengths behind her son, while the cab is moving behind both. "He was on the track team and I know the way he was running, he was running for his life," Janice Kraynak said. "I just have reason to believe my son knew he was in danger and that's why he was running the way that he ran."
Janice Kraynak said she believes another person was in the taxi, and that might have been the reason the two men were fleeing.
Wright's mother, Cheryl Crockett, also reviewed the surveillance tapes three weeks after Kraynak.
Both Kraynak and Wright were models for the California-based French Connection Française (FCF) agency which provides modeling for adult entertainment. The agency has offices in Toronto, Atlanta and Santa Rosa, California. Kraynak and Wright were supposed to return to the United States that day, via Toronto, after spending the summer working for FCF.
When the two men did not return from their Montreal night out, their boss--owner and CEO of FCF--who was with them that night, called police. He said the young men were always prompt and it was unusual for them not to contact him.
Wright, described as a "party boy," Kraynak, and four other Americans had been hired the previous summer to work as dancers at Remington's, a strip club for gay men in Toronto, although neither Kraynak nor Wright were gay.
Kraynak's family said he was planning to return to Fayette County to begin his sophomore year at the local Penn State campus, where he was studying business management. He had served in the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division in Baghdad, Iraq in 2003. He received a Purple Heart for shrapnel wounds he received when an improvised explosive device went off while he was under a bridge with a group of children. He became involved with the FCF Agency through an Atlanta office while he was serving with the 82nd at Fort Bragg, N.C. Janice Kraynak said her son's dream was to be a model in fitness magazines.
Kraynak had reportedly told his mother that he was in Canada to do construction work, hoping to hide his occupation from her. His boss told the media that that model had appeared in fitness magazines and in pornographic films with female partners. He had also auditioned for an independent horror film because was interested in acting. Janice Kraynak fears her son was forced or coerced into "something much more sinister," and believes she saw a contract with FCF that bound him to the agency through August 2006.
Kraynak's credentials were passed along by FCF to the producer of "Dead Boyz Don't Scream," and he was invited to audition for the role of a model who is murdered. Janice Kraynak told the Tribune-Review that the script apparently was a horror movie about male models who disappear during a photo shoot, and she says, contains "sexual type of abuse," murders, and a cover-up by a modeling agent. She said her son's receipt of the script in his Yahoo! e-mail account on Aug. 5 is "so bizarre that I have to believe it's tied" to his death.
"It describes how Todd, which is the role my son was asked to look at, was axed to death," Janice Kraynak said. "And it says, 'Todd is history.'"
She recalled that the police asked her to keep the script quiet, which she has done up until now, but she now feels that it is time for this possible connection to be made public.
"We sympathize with Mrs. Kraynak's loss and understand her grief," said Jerry Goldberg, the film's producer in a statement. "Her son was one of dozens of actors briefly considered for a role in a film we have been developing for five years. He was proposed to us by his theatrical agent, and our entire communication with him consisted of one e-mail and one phone conversation. We ultimately chose another actor for the role."
Regarding the deaths of his talent, Kraynak's boss said to the media, "There's no doubt in my mind, in my soul, that this was an accident."
He also stated that Kraynak had a day-to-day contract, though there was a written agreement through next August that required the model to notify the agency if he received work with another group. Otherwise, if Kraynak got a job, he received 80 percent of the payment and the agency got 20 percent.
But Janice Kraynak believes the people who were with Kraynak and Wright that weekend in Montreal know more than they've told police.
"I have my opinion that the (adult entertainment) industry is behind this in some way," she said. "That is my opinion, and I will do everything I can to prove that."
In 2005, Janice Kraynak said she had placed a call to Congressman John Murtha, D-Johnstown for help.
FCF Agency has faced scrutiny before. In March 2004, 23-year-old Toronto woman, Natel King, who had been represented by FCF was found dead in Montgomery County. Her photographer Anthony J. Frederick, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in 2005, saying he killed the woman after a dispute about money.
Foreman, Chris. (2005, October 14). Mom: Porn Industry Behind Son's Death. TribLive.com. Accessed 09/16/10 from: http://triblive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/regional/fayette/s_384093.html#axzz372XzfU8e
Published: 09/16/10. Updated: 07/10/14.