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Nick Wilcox's body was found in Milwaukee River (PHOTO: WISN.com)

The killer nobody wants to talk about

I've been warned in the past not to talk about a secret killer of white men in Wisconsin who prey on drunken, college-age males in order to find a way to drown them in the river.

I've been warned by police officials, editors and even some colleagues in town who admit although it's a well-known criminal theory that surfaces with each new mysterious drowning, discussing the matter in a public forum just doesn't do anyone much good.

After all, they tell me, there's no real proof and it just gets people stirred up over nothing. I disagree.

After the body of Nick Wilcox, a missing University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, was found in the Milwaukee River last week, his friends and family who conducted a high profile search for months could begin to find some closure over his death.

According to police, there was no sign of trauma on Wilcox's body and the death was ruled as an accident. Yes, that's pretty much the case every time a college age white male goes missing in Wisconsin and later is found drowned in the river.

The same explanation was attached to the case of Thomas Hecht last year in Milwaukee when the 28-year-old went missing after a pub crawl downtown and was separated from his friends. He was found in the river about two weeks later after what police said was a night of heavy drinking.

Wilcox was separated from friends after a night of drinking as well. His friends and family were on local TV frequently during their public campaign with pleas that likely caught the interest of anyone paying attention to the media during that time.

Still, months later, his body ends up in the river and it's the first time anybody's seen it after all this time.

If you look up the term "Smiley face killer" on the Internet, the various reports on drownings in the Midwest and elsewhere linked to a serial killer will likely strike you as either informative or sensational attempts to lend credibility a theory by former New York detectives and others.

The "Smiley face killer" monicker comes from the authors who have examined a pattern of mysterious deaths of college-age white males in various states including Wisconsin and concluded a serial killer or a group of serial killers have been preying with murderous intent for some time.

More than nine deaths due to drowning were reported in Wisconsin college towns over the past decade, many in or near LaCrosse. I've received messages from readers in that area who always insisted police in the area know it's the work of a killer but don't want to admit it or be accused of incompetence.

Every cop I've talked to with any knowledge about those drownings has always insisted there's no way that could ever be true.

With this latest death by drowning in downtown Milwaukee of all places, the people who want to sound an alarm about drunken white males who stumble into the river don't want to hear anything about a serial killer.

For them, the true villain has a name - and it's alcoholism.

More than a few people I've discussed this issue with insist the real problem is that drunken young whites males go out on a bender and get separated from friends who apparently aren't looking out for them.

Some were parents of college-age white males who insisted they knew what they were talking about so I had to take their word on that. But I'm still intrigued why black males who drink a lot don't end up in the river and why that particular racial angle seldom gets discussed.

Years ago, black and Hispanic men of a certain background started disappearing from the lives of their families and friends but nobody paid attention until it was too late.

That killer's name was Jeffrey Dahmer.

This time, whether it's alcoholism, public intoxication, lack of control or all of the above, I just want to know for sure what this new killer's name is and what we can do to stop it for good.

Talkbacks

ViciousVivian | May 5, 2015 at 11:32 p.m. (report)

Eugene, I disagree with you about just about everything else, but I agree with you about this. Keep asking questions - that's the mark of a great journalist. You mention that fewer Black and Hispanic men seem to have fallen into the river. Could it be that fewer hang out in riverfront bars, or in the riverfront area?

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shaiajean | May 5, 2015 at 9:27 p.m. (report)

This is such b.s. Yes, alcoholism is a true villain. But the hundreds of young men who have somehow mysteriously ended up in bodies of water far, far away from their homes, all the young men who look almost EXACTLY alike, in areas so close to one another in Wisconsin and Minnesota, this does not add up. I am telling you that I have been researching this for many years, have been in close contact with former detectives and reporters who have actually given up their careers to pursue these mysterious water deaths, and the circumstances are far beyond coincidence, and cannot be explained away by blaming it on alcohol. This is just another attempt to deny that this is the work of a cult.

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Sujudog | Feb. 1, 2015 at 2:20 p.m. (report)

I don't believe your "theory" for a minute! I lived in La Crosse, WI when MANY young men ended up in the river! Having to drive through the downtown area on the weekends to get to my job and home again, I saw MANY, MANY drunk out of the minds young men AND WOMEN!! Why has there never been a young woman found in the river? I REALLY DO BELIEVE someone is killing these young men but obviously colleges and towns don't want to have THAT be true...........I didn't believe that "theory" then and I sure don't believe it NOW!!! Someone is getting away with murder and has been for too many years! I continue to pray the killer WILL be found and SOON!

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renee.martel | Jan. 31, 2015 at 4:17 p.m. (report)

Alcohal doesn't draw smiley faces before it drowns someone.

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krstmarie | May 25, 2014 at 6:26 p.m. (report)

I don't want to debunk the serial killer theory, but in my experience going out downtown, there is something I ALWAYS see. Why do men always climb over safe barriers and stand at the edge of the river and pee in it? I have seen this too many times...and these men stand so close to the edge...especially over different bridges you have to cross for parking. I always thought this was so dangerous...and just a theory...because they are all men falling in. Please guys...be safe and do your business inside...not at the edge of the river where you can fall or or be easily pushed or even accidentally pushed by a passerby!

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