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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"Jack the Pusher"


A spate of cold weather river drownings -- 17 in one year alone -- has ignited fears in France that the deaths may be the work of a serial killer. And so certain are French citizens that this is in fact what's happening that they've even named the mystery murderer "Jack the Pusher".

Residents of  the affected cities, towns and villages have also organized massive public protests demanding an official investigation into the matter as well as calling for heightening of security all along their riverbanks.

Police, community leaders, and even bars and restaurants, are also warning young males, who are the exclusive targets for this death-by-drowning scenario, to be on their guard at all times whenever they're out partying now, especially late at night or very early in the morning:

33-year-old John Ani disappeared October 7, 2010 after a night of drinking. His body was found Oct. 11, 2010 in the Deule River. Toxicology testing confirmed alcohol and drugs in his system, according to French media reports.

On Februrary 5th, 26-year-old Thomas Ducroo disappeared while walking home and turned up dead in the same river on the 23rd of February. Toxicology tests also confirmed drugs and alcohol in his body tissues.

And, on February 21st, Jean-Meriadec Le Tarnec, age 22, also mysteriously vanished. Rescue divers located his body in the Deule River on Feb. 25th. Toxicology results are still pending.

In 2011, nearly 1000 protesters marched along the riverbanks in Lille France demanding answers in these troubling deaths. Autopsies concluded they all were accidental drownings, but family members and friends of the victims totally disbelieve it.

Posters in the town of Lille now warn students to watch out for a killer nicknamed "Jack the Pusher."

Attorney Laura Robinson, a 28-year-old Californian who's younger brother now resides in Lille, said the issue is a very curious one indeed, "because the victims all left nightclubs in the center of the old part of town, but their bodies were found in the Deule River near a wooded area on the outskirts of the city."

She added that repeated police rulings of 'no foul play' in these drownings "doesn't make sense" because "after falling into a river and possibly landing on rocks, there must be bruises and cuts present on the bodies."

But, as with similar drowning in the northern US,  there aren't...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Drowning Forensics

Anatomy of a Drowning

For those who think that drowning is a pleasant way to go, think again. Drowning is a violent assault on the body during which the frightened victim fiercely, albeit briefly, battles to survive. Death follows exhaustion within only two or three minutes.

Technically, it is true that a person can drown in as little as a cup of water. A cup, a puddle, a ditch, a bathtub—anytime liquid enters the air passages and lungs, even if someone doesn’t die immediately, it can still turn fatal because there are a host of medical complications which arise that are always life-threatening, such as pneumonia and renal failure. These type of delayed fatalities are known as “secondary drownings” and, although their symptoms may develop over the course of several days, or even longer for some patients, they’re usually triggered within only a few hours of the initial incident.

But most victims drown fully submerged in water when the nose and mouth inadvertently become covered. Sometimes, when there is an instantaneous glottal spasm blocking off oxygen, or a preexisting medical condition, death can be automatic without any signs of a struggle. In the majority of drownings, however, this is not the case. Struggling is one of the key stages leading to unconsciousness and death. In fact, so intense can this final fight for life be that, in more than ten percent of drowning fatalities, an autopsy will actually reveal bruised and ruptured muscles, particularly in the shoulders, chest and neck. Evidence of injuries of this nature suggest to a medical examiner the strong likelihood that a victim was alive in the water at the time of their demise and not placed there already dead.

The stages of a full-immersion drowning event are fairly quick and, because the victim’s airways are being blocked, either by water and/or the epiglottis, it’s often completely soundless. There will be panicked thrashing as the victim desperately attempts to get air and to grab onto nearby objects for security, and then, when they can no longer hold their breath, they’ll begin to inhale water in large quantities, gulping it into their stomach as well. This action also rapidly circulates water throughout their other systems and bloodstream with differing biochemical reactions depending on whether they’re in saltwater or in fresh. This last stage of drowning ends with coughing, vomiting, convulsions, loss of consciousness, death, and rigormortis.

Very shortly after the victim dies their body will start to sink. If retrieved soon thereafter, their arms and hands may display cadaveric spasm, a posture in death borne out of extreme mental anguish and which reveals the person’s final thoughts and movements as they frantically fought to stay alive.

If a victim is not promptly retrieved at death, then, without exception and no matter how deep or how swift the water may be, their corpse will continue to drift downward until it reaches the bottom. This is where it will remain in a somewhat fetal position until gases from putrefaction cause it to rise to the surface once more.

A semi-fetal posture is the norm for all drown victims, so if divers do locate such a body before it ascends, but it isn’t in this pose and/or the head is seen to be tilted to one side, they must include these observations in their police recovery report, as it reveals the victim died on land and was put in the water post-rigormortis.

Typically, once the body does emerge on its own, it will surface in the general vicinity of where the victim originally went under. From this location the water may then carry the corpse along for quite a distance, depending on the strength of the currents or if it becomes ensnared and is thereby prevented.
Refloat largely varies on the water’s depth and temperature, taking only a matter of hours to occur if extremely warm and up to two weeks or longer if at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less. The timetable, therefore, is not fixed but is loosely as follows: at 40 degrees Fahrenheit it takes approximately fourteen to twenty days for a drown victim’s corpse to resurface; at 50 degrees ten to fourteen days; at 60 degrees seven to...read the rest for FREE here 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

MISSING PERSON: $10,000 Reward

One of law enforcement’s major arguments against the popular theory of a serial killer targeting college-age men for death-by-drowning in the northern corridor of the United States is that, not infrequently, two or more victims in different states go missing in the same timeframe, or even within only a few hours of each other.

In the spring of 2005, both Todd Geib and Josh Snell mysteriously disappeared in this manner, each phoning a cryptic SOS to their friends before their cellphones went dead, and each later found drowned in nearby bodies of water.

So too, victims Sylvester McCurry (of Wisconsin), Eric Peterson (of Minnesota) and Jon Lacina (of Iowa) all vanished in early 2010 between the 19th and 22nd of January, and likewise perished.

This, however, just doesn’t fit a serial killer’s motif, the experts adamantly insist—serial killers don’t target able-bodied young males, they don’t drown their victims, they don’t kill more than one at a time, and they don’t operate in groups, either. A group of killers being implied in this case for these alleged abductions to be occurring simultaneously over such a broad region…

In March of this year, 26-year-old Tom Hecht of Milwaukee Wisconsin and 18-year-old Colin Gillis of Upstate New York vanished on the same night. Both men somehow becoming separated from their friends in the wee small hours of morning, and both exhaustively searched for by their loved ones, volunteers from the community, and police agencies, in the days and weeks that followed.

Tom Hecht was ultimately discovered drowned, as fits a troubling pattern in hundreds of these cases, but Colin Gillis was never heard from again.

The pre-med student from Brockport University had briefly come home from college to visit for Spring Break. His family said that Gillis was in typically good spirits and especially looking forward to seeing some of his old high school friends at a large gathering planned for the evening of March 10th, 2012.

According to eyewitness reports, Gillis eventually left that party on foot early in the morning of March 11th,  and he was last seen shortly thereafter walking on State Route 3 between the villages of Tupper Lake and Piercefield, where his family resides.

It was, in fact, an area newspaper reporter who happened to be driving his mother home who last spotted the young man “walking against the traffic” and “flailing his arms” as if signaling for help. It was a frigid hour to be walking but, because the reporter’s mother was elderly, the man didn't feel it prudent to stop and offer Gillis any assistance. He did however, promptly drive to the nearest police station to file a report concerning the incident.

Police state they then immediately drove out to the area in question and searched for the individual themselves, but they say by the time they arrived there the young man was already gone. Massive efforts to find Gillis began on the very next day, and, in the frantic weeks and months following his bizarre disappearance, thousands of volunteers and professionals scoured thousands of square miles of land and water, in hopes of rescuing him.

State Police have since downgraded the official search for Colin Gillis to “Limited Continuous” and say they have not ruled out foul play in the matter. They urge anyone with information about this missing person to telephone them at 518-897-2000. Additionally, the Gillis family is offering $10,000 for his return. To view the specific terms of this reward and to find more updates visit http://www.facebook.com/colingillissearchupdates

Gillis  is described as a white male, about 6 feet tall and170 pounds, with blond hair and blue eyes. He was last seen wearing a white shirt with black stripes, blue jeans and red sneakers.  It’s now been over four excruciating months since the Gillis family has seen their loved one.  Help find Colin Gillis, and bring the young man home.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Blood and Alcohol

A Cautionary Note For Medical Examiners:
Accurately determining blood/alcohol levels for victims of drowning

The National Institute for Health and the National Study Center for Trauma and Emergency Medical Science has recently urged medical examiners and police forensic teams not to jump to conclusions about toxicology reports for drown victims which show extremely elevated BAC readings.

A victim's high blood/alcohol content does not provide irrefutable evidence that he was intoxicated at the moment of his death, they are warning.

In the published results of a study these well-respected institutes jointly conducted on over 500 males who died in both cold and warm water, it was proven conclusively that, in the case of a drowning, alcohol production from decompostion begins as soon as 12 hours after death from submersion. In part, this advanced decay is promoted by water and the effect it has on the lungs.

The comprehensive report, titled Evidence For Early Endogenous Alcohol Production In Bodies Recovered From Water: Implications for Studying Alcohol and Drowning, cites the hallmark drop in mean lung weight of drown corpses as the chief trigger for early postmortem decay. Alcohol is a natual byproduct of putrefaction in all deceased bodies, but, as the study demonstrates, this substance is significantly enhanced in those who have perished in water:

"Endogenous alcohol production can increase the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of drowning victims following submersion and confound epidemiological studies of the role of alcohol," the authoritative analysis unequivocally states.

And yet, in the case of the drowning men syndrome that's been vexing America's northland since 1997, this empirical data is routinely being ignored by local law enforcement officials in a rush to judgement of "no signs of foul play." Time and time again, police and medical examiners have swept these matters under the rug in such an offhand manner, leaving unanswered one of the most important questions about these water fatalities: If a young man, headed for home after midnight, was in fact not drunk when he went missing, then how in the world did he drown?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Odd Drownings & Drowning Odds

Mishaps or Murders?

Since the mid 1990's the drowning men phenomena has become the norm in America's northern corridor, with literally hundreds of these cold-water fatalities tallied up so far...and stll counting.

Police don't think it's weird that young men are drowning on their way home at night in wintertime. They insist, over and over again, that it's just the natural byproduct of young men and too much alcohol. They're not alarmed by these statistics.

But, statistically speaking, just how common is it to perish in water? What exactly are the odds of death by accidental drowning?

The odds that a male or female will die during water recreational activities, any time of the year, are surprisingly slim, with or without consuming alcohol--of the many, many millions of people who engage in boating and swimming annually, approximately only 1 in 84,000 of them will actually drown.

The odds of a person of either sex and any age dying in freshwater are even slimmer than that, with only 1 in 186,000 such fatalities occurring each year.

And the odds of falling into a body of water and drowning is virtually impossible, the statistics assure us. Only 1 in 720,000 people, drunk or sober, will die in this unlikely manner.

The odds of being murdered in any given year?

Significantly higher, unfortunately. Nearly 1 in 19,000 people will die every year as a result of foul play.

* Numbers rounded - Source = Book Of Odds / Accidents & Deaths / Death Rates / Annual

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Missing/Drowned in 2012

More Serial Drownings, Or More Serial Murders?

The following are just a few new cases for this year that I'm still tracking and/or waiting on toxicology reports for, but which aren't included in my special investigatory report THE CASE OF THE DROWNING MEN:

1. Honor student Eric Duffey briefly spent the eve of his twenty-first birthday at a bar in Stevens Point Wisconsin in the company of his many classmates and friends. He left that establishment relatively early--and alone--because he had plans to meet his family the very next morning. They were coming into town to celebrate the special occasion with him.

But Duffey never made it home that night. Instead, his drowned body was discovered days later in a location which was in the opposite direction from where he had been headed:

"Preliminary autopsy reports show a 21-year-old University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point student died earlier this month from accidental drowning.  Eric Duffey went missing March 3 after leaving Joe's Bar in Stevens Point. His body was found March 5 in the Wisconsin River. The Stevens Point Journal reports Portage County Coroner Scott Rifleman released the preliminary autopsy results Friday."


2. Boston College honor student Franco Garcia quickly stepped out of a local bar he'd been attending with his friends so that he could withdraw some funds from an ATM machine. He would be right back, he texted to them from just around the corner."Don't leave without me."

But, ultimately, those friends had to do just that, because Garcia never returned from his errand. His corpse was discovered many weeks later in the nearby reservoir, a place which had already been exhaustively searched by authorities and dive teams at least a half a dozen times, or more...

"The Boston College student whose body was recovered yesterday in Chestnut Hill Reservoir, seven weeks after he went missing upon leaving a nearby bar, died of an apparent accidental drowning. Officials said 21-year-old Franco Garcia's preliminary autopsy indicated that 'there are no signs of foul play. Everything is consistent with accidental drowning.' But Justin Billard, a private investigator working for the family, questioned how Garcia could have fallen down the gently sloped wall of granite blocks that line the inside of the reservoir, considering there was no ice on the warm night of Feb. 22 when the student disappeared."  There were no signs of injury on Garcia, and water in his sinus cavity."


3. Pre-Med student Colin Gillis, 18 of Tupper Lake New York, had returned home in early March to visit with his parents and friends during school break. He was last observed walking to his residence after attending a party several miles away...but he never made it back to his family. An exhaustive search of a massive area involving every local authority imaginable, including military personnel (and equipment) from the nearby training base has yielded no results except, according to rumor, one of his shoes and his driver's license, items allegedly found placed at the side of the highway. Colin Gillis is still missing and unaccounted for today...

"More than 1,000 volunteers have contributed so far to the search for missing Tupper Lake teenager Colin Gillis. State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Ranger Capt. John Streiff said that that means 10,000 hours have been spent by volunteers searching the woods. Gillis, 18, had just returned home on spring break from SUNY Brockport when he went missing after leaving a party on foot early Sunday morning. It's believed he was last seen on the side of the road near the line between Franklin and St. Lawrence counties, where Tupper Lake and Piercefield meet. Anyone with any information that might help find Gillis is asked to call State Police at 518-897-2000."


4. Recent Harvard Business School grad, Nathan Bihlmaier, was celebrating in Maine with his buddies in advance of their pending graduation ceremonies at Harvard, when he was mysteriously booted from the bar they were drinking at. Bihlmaier went missing shortly thereafter and an all out search was launched the next day for him when he did not return to the hotel situated across the street from the pub. A few days later, police divers fished his body out of the nearby harbor. Thirty-year-old Nathan Bilhmaier was married and the couple was expecting their first baby. He was also a highly-skilled swimmer and a certified lifeguard in his youth...

"The account given by the security manager at Ri Ra Irish Pub who told Nathan Bihlmaier to leave the bar shortly before he drowned in nearby Portland Harbor is not supported by videotape from the bar, police said Friday. After being ejected from the establishment, Bihlmaier got separated from his friends. He last spoke with them at 12:15 a.m. Sunday and then his cellphone went dead at 12:54 a.m. His body was found on Tuesday in deep water alongside Custom House Wharf. Police said the security video from the Ri Ra Pub shows the bouncer escorting Bihlmaier from the bar and returning 28 seconds later, which is inconsistent with 'walking a block and a half with Bihlmaier' and trying "to get him into a cab'. The video does not show the two outside the bar, and police still don't know where the vicitm was the prior 90 minutes before his phone went dead."