The unexplained disappearance and *drowning* this week of 26-year-old David Gerken, after he was mysteriously evicted from the Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park New York en route to the bathroom, is the classic 'Smiley Face Killer' motif.
Because there have now been hundreds of similarly suspicious deaths throughout the I-90 and I-94 corridor, beginning with young Patrick McNeill's in 1997, and since there doesn't seem to be any end in sight to the carnage, it's time for those who match the standard victim profile in these cases to learn how to avoid falling prey. Study the following fact sheet and tips carefully, and be safe.
SMILEY VICTIMOLOGY: Are you a popular, clean-cut, slim and athletic, college-age male, between 17 and 30, planning an evening out with your friends? Then pay close attention to the details of Gerken's disappearance and drowning, because your description--like his--is identical with approximately 95% of the Smiley Face victims:
David Gerken, 26, was just named 'Employee of the Month' at his workplace where he had risen to the rank of foreman. Responsible and well-liked, he was attending a Bills' game with his brother and a friend last Thursday. They report he drank only two beers while there, and hadn't been in any altercations with anyone, prior to being intercepted on his way to the men's room and ordered to leave the stadium.
Additionally, Gerken expected to go to work the very next day and under those circumstances he customarily wouldn't have engaged in heavy *drinking. This is important to note since, in nearly all of these cases, alcohol is ruled a major factor leading to "accidental drowning" whether or not any had been consumed. (*Toxicology tests will always show the presence of alcohol in dead bodies because it is a byproduct of decay, and is often accelerated in corpses that have been submersed for a period of time.)
Once Gerken had gone outdoors, he immediately called his brother to inform him he'd been forced to leave the premises and said he didn't know why. He then calmly arranged for the three to meet up again at the nearby Tailgaters bar after the game had ended.
That was the last anybody heard from him. The final GPS tracking signal on his cell phone was for a location two miles from the sports arena, and his body was ultimately discovered by family searchers floating face down in Smokes Creek--the opposite direction of Tailgaters and a destination that required scaling numerous obstacles to get at, as well as a tall fence. Police have tentatively ruled Gerken's death an accident.
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SMLEY'S MODUS OPERANDI: A young man is separated from his friends somehow--usually asked to leave an establishment by management personnel, although he is not outwardly intoxicated. Once he's gone outside, typically he will cell-phone one or more from his party to explain the odd incident to them and to arrange for a meeting place. He then goes missing instead and is found drowned in a nearby river, lake, pond or stream, some days, weeks or months later. On occasion, as with 18-year-old pre-med student Colin Gillis from Tupper Lake NY last March, he is never seen or heard from again.
Police almost always determine NSOFP (no signs of foul play), sometimes well in advance of finding a body. In a few extreme cases, say when a corpse was actually recovered weighted down with a chain and cinder block (e.g. Jonathan Dailey/October 2012), or showed other indications that the deceased didn't "fall" into the water naturally, then investigators will pursue a theory of suicide. It is also not uncommon for parents to be told by the authorities that their sons died as a result of auto-assassination (reckless behavior symptomatic of a death wish).
KILLING SEASON: Annually, from the months of September to April. Once in awhile it may extend without interruption into late spring.
KILL ZONE: Maine to the Dakotas and all parts in between; now also reaching across the border into Canada as well as a few more southerly districts of the United States. Some metropolitan hotspots in the US kill zone include but are not limited to Boston, New York, Lacrosse, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee, but essentially any town or city in a state traversed by the east/west interstate highways of 90 and 94 is in the high risk area.
RUIN SMILEY'S DAY: Follow these tips to minimize the danger of vanishing into thin air one night and ending up another unsolved "drowned" statistic:
1. Buddy up at all times. Safety in numbers is the name of the game, before, during and after a night out on the town.
2. Scrap the hoodie attire. Too many people think it makes young men look like...hoods...quite frankly. And, considering the percentage of Smiley Face victims who were wearing this particular piece of apparel when they went missing, a hooded sweatshirt should be regarded as a significant liability. (Ditto for flip-flops, and any other type of shoe not suitable for running in.)
3. Watch what you're drinking--never drink from someone else's bottle or glass, especially if you don't know them. This includes any liquid whatsoever (or substance) being offered by a female you might've just met.
4. If you are asked to leave an establishment verify first that the individual requesting this is authorized to do so and simultaneously notify a friend or friends that such an episode is occurring. Do this before going outside alone with, or without, the person/s evicting you.
5. Being booted from a public place because you did something "very wrong" is an extraordinary event. This means, when you know for a fact that you've offended no one, you may be in danger of a setup. So, whether you've had some drinks or not, be coolheaded and observant now--look around the room before reacting--who's watching, do you know them, have you ever seen them before?
6. In that same calm manner, grab your cell phone if you have it on you. This device is your only friend at the moment and has a lot of features that can preempt a deadly incident from occurring--turn on the record mechanism and loudly inform the "bouncer" that "No prob, but I am recording all this, okay?" Even if he, she, or they tell you it's not all right, do it anyway.
7. Once you've begun documenting the unfolding incident, don't argue and insist you're not going to leave. There is no point in staying once you've been targeted, and this can be used as an excuse and justification for...
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