November 1, 2013

Chris Jenkins Homicide: Someone Knows Something

Chris Jenkins with friends,
Halloween 2002
Do you have any information in this homicide?

Christopher Jenkins disappeared eleven years ago today. His homicide is unsolved. The article below has been modified reprint from the original. Additional details, photographs and links have been added. 

Eleven years ago tonight, University of Minnesota student Christopher Jenkins and his friends left a keg party and headed to the Lone Tree Bar and Grill in downtown Minneapolis to celebrate Halloween. The group arrived a little after 10:30 pm and parked just south of the bar. An hour and a half later, two off duty police officers working security for the bar, ejected Chris and instructed staff to not allow him back inside. Chris found himself on the street in 20-degree weather wearing only an American Indian costume. He did not have his coat, wallet, cell phone, or the keys to the car and his apartment. No one is sure exactly what happened to Chris after that.

When the Jenkins family got the call that Chris was missing, they knew something was dreadfully wrong. The police believed that Chris may have attempted to walk home across the Hennepin Avenue bridge, then went off on his own somewhere. But Chris was very responsible; he was not known to stay away from his apartment without calling anyone.

When little progress was made by local authorities in finding their son, Jan and Steve Jenkins decided to take matters into their own hands. They tracked down surveillance footage of the Hennepin Avenue bridge and had it reviewed.

"There were two surveillance cameras on the Federal Reserve Bank pointing to the Hennepin Avenue Bridge," says Jan. "This was post 9-11, clearly good equipment. We have written documentation from the supervisor that more than one person viewed the tapes from both cameras late on the 31st and early on November 1. Chris was not seen on the tape. We do not believe Chris walked across that bridge. The supervisor told the FBI that it would be almost impossible for a person to sprint across that bridge and not be seen." (See 360-degree panoramic aerial view of the bridge in relation to the bank.)

Around the time Chris disappeared, I was working about a block from the Lone Tree Bar and Grill. The 6th and Hennepin bar was a hot spot for lunch or happy hour for the younger crowd working in downtown. Halloween 2002 fell on a Thursday, and I had no special plans, so I opted to head home after work. By late fall in Minnesota, it begins to get dark around 6 pm, so my commute played a large part in my decision; I didn't want to be stuck at my creepy bus stop. My stop sat on 5th and Hennepin, one building away from the Lone Tree Bar and Grill, in front of a darkened parking lot that extended to the corner. Despite the upscale boutiques, financial firms and banks nearby, this particular section of Hennepin Avenue has been plagued by crime for years. Walking from the then newly built Block E shopping center on 7th and Hennepin (a mecca for theft and scams and now largely defunct), past the Lone Tree, the bus stop and then down to 5th Street near Augie's Bar (a bar with a reputation for having a rougher sort of clientele), it was not uncommon to see working girls or drunks on the sidewalk. Drug handoffs also happened more than once in front of the bus stop, even with the local police cruising by. It was no place to be alone at night.

This photo taken in 2010 shows the general area where Chris was last seen in 2002.

Witnesses told Chuck Loesch, a private investigator hired by the Jenkins family, that a gang of at least 10 men attacked a man in front of Times Square Pizza & Subs (now closed), possibly as part of a gang initiation, on the night Chris disappeared. Though the time of the incident has not been confirmed, Times Square Pizza sits kitty corner to the Lone Tree and just across the street.

On two separate occasions, a bloodhound picked up Chris's scent on the sidewalk in front of the pizza joint, then followed the scent into the parking garage next door. The dogs, who did not work together on the same day, each took their handler to the same parking stall. Blood drops and a red feather, possibly from Chris's Native American costume, were later found inside the garage. But Chris's trail on the night he disappeared just stopped there.

2013 Google Map photo showing parking garage. The blue awning is
about where Times Square Pizza stood and where the assault took place.
Four months later, Chris's body was found on the east side of the Mississippi River near the spillway of the St. Anthony Falls Hydroelectrical Laboratory at 30 SE 3rd Street (See aerial photo). It could be seen from the 3rd Avenue bridge, floating on its back with its arms in front.

Police initially believed Chris either died accidentally or must have have committed suicide. But all those who knew Chris felt differently. Chris was a two-time team captain of his lacrosse team and an honor student at the U of M's prestigious Carlson School of Management. He was gearing up to graduate, and he had job interviews lined up. He was happy, easy going, and he had plans for the future. The medical examiner initially ruled the death an accidental drowning

The Jenkins family consulted with global experts in water rescue and recovery and renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden. They learned that the appearance of Chris's body did not fit with the suicide or accident theories held by the police. Due to a natural reaction to try to swim, most drowning victims are found face down, arms out toward their sides, clothing disheveled, and one or both of their shoes missing. Chris was found on his back with his arms crossed in front. His shirt was still tucked in to his drawstring pants. He was also still wearing both oversized slip-on shoes, a necklace, and a ring on each hand.

Faced with these new findings, the city's new police chief, Tim Dolan, agreed that the case had not been thoroughly investigated. Dolan reopened the case in 2006 and it finally seemed that the case was moving forward. Ultimately, the medical examiner changed the official cause of death from accidental drowning to homicide. Chief Dolan offered the Jenkins family a public apology.

That same year, a man in jail facing felony charges for another crime came claimed that he was present when Chris was thrown off a bridge. The inmate told investigators that an acquaintance had robbed Chris and thrown him off the Hennepin Avenue bridge. But the mention of the Hennepin Avenue bridge was problematic.

According to Loesch, the killer would have had to stand on the brightly lit bridge in heavy traffic without being spotted by passerbys or the bank security cameras with a full view of the bridge. The killer would then need to lift a grown man (an athlete) over a high safety railing and throw him 4- to 5-feet out over a steal support beam, avoiding the vertical cables in the process--a nearly impossible feat, even with help. (See 360-degree panoramic view of the bridge.) Chris's body was not found to have any broken bones, nor did anyone report seeing anything unusual on the bridge that night, making the claim all the more unlikely.

Hennepin Avenue Bridge, 
September 26, 2008.  Courtesy of
photographer Susan Lesch. 
Loesch, in fact, believes it unlikely that Chris was thrown from a bridge at all. Given the fall and the river's current, Chris's shoes would not have stayed on his feet. (Watch video clip for more information.)

In July 2007, Hennepin County declined to press any charges against the inmate, citing lack of evidence. Chris's case remains unsolved.

Eleven years ago, the slogan on Chris's missing poster was, "Someone Knows Something." If you have any information about the night Chris Jenkins disappeared or his death, please call the Minneapolis Homicide Unit at (612) 673-2941, send an e-mail to, or call 612-692-TIPS (8477).

Additional Links


tennessee111 said...

Killers like to take trophies and souvenirs from their victims. Keeping some memento — a lock of hair, jewelry, newspaper clips of the crime — helps prolong, even nourish, their fantasy of the crime.

Here’s what to look for in an investigation: Is there anything missing that belongs to the victim? Often police will mistakenly look for valuable missing items. But I’m not talking about a stereo component — that’s an impersonal item. I’m talking about something more personal — a ring, earrings, even costume jewelry — something the victim was wearing at the time of the crime.

Maybe they’ll keep the victim’s driver’s license. Some will leave it intact. Others will get rid of everything but the picture, so they just have a little wallet photo of the victim, as if they had some kind of relationship going.

In the more sadistic cases, some killers will take locks of the victim’s hair, or even go so far as to cut off the head or other body parts.

Turbo said...

I've been to MPLS quite a few times, and I'm familiar with the area where Chris was last seen. While Hennepin Ave. is full of people partying in the bars up and down that strip, the Lone Tree was situated at a point where the area becomes rather sketchy, especially late at night.

As you head toward the Hennepin Ave. bridge, the nightlife thins out very quickly. The Brass Rail has a view of the street, while The Gay 90s has little to no vantage point. I can easily see Chris being a target if he were wandering around there intoxicated.

Lisa said...

@ Turbo,

Very good observation--the nightlife does thin out as you get closer to Hennepin. I also want to thank you for opening up the discussion about this area and Chris's case.

Like many big cities, in parts of Minneapolis, there are pockets of areas that are not as good as others. In general, it is still very safe, and it isn't the kind of place where you have to worry about accidentally driving into the wrong part of town. No one bothered me at that seedy bus stop. With that said, given enough time, or had I seemed more vulnerable/less aware of my surroundings, things could be different. I guess that it is why I feel so connected to Chris. And it really could happen to anyone, anywhere.

Lisa said...


More about the area, for those interested.

On the West end of Hennepin Ave (near 12th Street), you've got a community college, St. Thomas University, many upscale restaurants, apartments, theaters, and 5-star hotels. Not really too familiar with that end of town, but when I was there it seemed really quiet and not very well lit.

Around 9th Street, the street gets brighter, and you see a lot of people out and about. Hot reputable spots were the Rock Bottom Brewery and the Palomino, but there was not much else within walking distance around there back then.

Starting about 7th Street is where you saw most of the nightlife. People would come into town to watch concerts or games at the Target Center--a few blocks west--partying before/afterward at some of the trendy Irish pubs, the Loon Cafe, or Brother's Bar. But things on the main drag start to change around 7th. The Block E complex had just opened in 2002. Block E which brought in Borders bookstore, GameWorks arcade, and Hard Rock Cafe, was plagued with crime. (The whole enterprise ultimately failed and businesses closed up shop.) A lot of people hung out on the street in front of Block E, using the the ruse that they were waiting for the bus. Robberies were happening, so I remember specifically deciding against changing to that bus stop. But things were pretty desolate and not at all well lit by 4th Street (there are rougher bars in that area too), so I wasn't at all thrilled about that bus stop either. Turbo is right, as you go closer toward the Hennepin Avenue bridge, the nightlife does begin to thin out.

I would add that the blocks are actually very long too. (Try doing a Google Map street view and following the route.) It would have been one long, cold walk in a sketchy part of town had Chris decided to go that way. And he was just way too smart for that.

Turbo said...

No problem, Lisa. I wanted to give people some perspective on the area. The change is quite drastic and occurs within just a block or so. It goes from nice/upscale bars and restaurants with people everywhere to strip joints, sketchy dive bars and questionable people loitering and dealing drugs right on the street. Your assessment of the area is spot on as well.

I can't stress enough how noticeable rough the area gets once you pass 5th/6th Streets. Someone drunk and/or unfamiliar with the area could easily wander into trouble. Walking around during the day can be unsettling in that area....I would not want to be caught out there alone in the early morning hours.

Lisa said...

@ Turbo,

I'm sorry I missed your last post. It sounds like we're in agreement on downtown. I haven't actually spent much time past 5th/6th at night, mostly because I had my fill downtown after using that bus stop! But I bet it is just more of the same, or even rougher. The Twin Cities are safer than many big cities, yet this isn't a great place to be at night, especially if you stand out in a crowd.

Katie Brunelli said...

Ive never been kicked out of a bar....but how can they keep your keys in 20 degree weather? Am i missing something? Wouldnt it be obvious he was under dressed and really intoxicated? 2 plus 2 equals 4?

Juanita T said...

I am with Katie on this one. How incredibly heartless to kick someone out of a bar with no coat and the temperature being so low. I think it would be absolutely necessary to go back and find these two men who were working in that bar that night and kicked him out. It very well may be that a bartender and a bouncer or two are in on it and throw these young men out after having administered something in a drink or merely seeing that they are going to be in need due to weather or distance when ejected. They could then have either a security guard in a car or a real or fake cop outside to "help" these men while really taking them captive to do them harm. If these bouncers mentioned were not questioned thoroughly and given lie detector tests, much has been left undone. May God help those who are trying to uncover this evil and prevent more from being harmed!

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C said...

I'm just now finding this site after hearing multiple podcasts regarding the missing/MURDERED college men. Just like others, I'm outraged by the actions of these "bouncers" and how they think removing an intoxicated individual from an establishment and leaving them to fend for themselves during late nights and freezing temperatures is acceptable. I hope these places are sued and shut down for their involvement. Clearly, if not for being thrown out of the bar that night , this young man would likely be alive.


Why doesn't the FAMILY sue the Bar for their grosse act of negligence.

Jan Jenkins said...

I am Chris Jenkins's mother. For all who speculate about how intoxicated he 'was' please read my book, Footprints of Courage, and you will read about forensic evidence that points to a very different reality. The bar has been gone for years. Families have no rights other than media. We appeared countless times on national and local media to stand up for our son and now, well over 300 young men who have met death in a similar way. Some consider it to be the largest mass murder in US history. For our family and dozens of close friends, this is up front and personal. The book, Footprints of Courage, is 100% fact-based. Stick together, stay alive.

Reb said...

I read the book and every cop who did nothing, including the ones who provided security for the bar should be fired...Jan, Steve and Sara...bless you. Chris R.I.P.

Reb said...

I read the book and every cop who did nothing, including the ones who provided security for the bar should be fired...Jan, Steve and Sara...bless you. Chris R.I.P.

Todd Lukens said...

I was one of Chris's best friends from a young age through his disappearance. I am not sure what exactly happened that night. But I am sure of a few things: 1) Chris did not deserve what happened to him, 2) there is no way that this was a suicide, and 3) Steve, Jan and Sarah are a great family, great people, and Chris would be so proud of them and what they have done to fight for him, raise awareness, and advocate for other victims. I was able to spend this last Halloween with the family, and it was an amazingly therapeutic experience for all parties.

Chris is gone, but not forgotten. He touched so many people's lives in a positive way. He is missed greatly.

Unknown said...

I watched a show a few years back about this case. Wasnt the bouncer a "person of interest" at the time? Was he ever fully investigated?: i dont remember much from that show; however, i do recall thinking the bouncer was involved.

Guest said...

I watched a show a few years back about this case. Wasnt the bouncer a "person of interest" at the time? Was he ever fully investigated?: i dont remember much from that show; however, i do recall thinking the bouncer was involved.

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name name name name? said...

I found this site and many stories like this after independently experiencing in my neighborhood in 2012 a BC student Franco Garcias death in 2012 under very similar circumstances. It's alarming now that I have researched more how common this story is. Weirdly and now depressingly I had never heard much / any skepticism or suspected foul play in Franco's case once his body was found and police said "accidental drowning", but the story just did not add up to me and it bothered me greatly for years that the story died basically immediately and that was that.

The basic logic of the situation was baffling: You don't leave your coat+wallet at the bar in the winter, impulsively run away from friends after texting "don't leave w/o me" (his last text) and run three blocks to take a dip the lake at 1AM -- i mean it just didn't add up as 'accidental.' What bothered me the most was that very likely a murder happened three blocks from where I lived, but it was never appropriately investigated. I can only imagine how complex that must be to deal with as a parent.

I had heard loose fragments and stories of similar young male / college students being found in a body of water in similar circumstances anecdotally (many being classified as suicides when that just didn't make sense) -- but having discovered this site and the many stories and the subsequent apathy / negligence in the related investigations is just so heartbreaking to have my suspensions validated: that this a real thing that's impacted hundreds and hundreds of other lives.

My deepest sympathy to everyone affected. I don't really know what the purpose of my comment here is except to say thank you for sharing your story author+family commentors+others. I am deeply saddened @ concerned about the implications of this trend being likely 1) connected 2) ongoing 3) not being taken seriously by law enforcement.


Unknown said...

I believe Chris was murdered. However I don't believe in the mass killing theory.
Whenever I am with friends or family without a doubt if we are around water the guys go pee in the lake/dam/whatever. I think young men are more likely to take risks, more likely to think they can handle any situation, more likely to be experimenting with drugs or getting drunk and these factors with the peeing in the water could explain a lot of the deaths.

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Shauna Leavitt said...

Has anyone from the Jenkins family looked into what's happening in Boston (lots of young men disappearing after a night of drinking, found in bodies of water and ruled accidental drowning)