Drowning in

 MidWest Missing Student Mystery 




Serial Accidents

April, 2005

From what I can gather, none of the dozens of drowned/missing student cases that could be called "mysterious" -- can be technically classified as homicides, or even, potential homicides, yet USA Today and Stuff Magazine have recently featured articles about the possibility of a serial killer.

Beyond lacking direct proof of a crime, is the problem of the profile.Drowning doesn't match the typical methods of such murderers.

Furthermore, serial killers are not shy. They get off on the display. None of the cases reveal evidence of sexual molestation or torture, there were NO SIGNS OF FOUL PLAY and certainly no fatal wounds to the bodies.

The odd things that tie the various strange deaths together, are the things that are missing -- the evidence investigators didn't find.

The only obvious circumstance is the extreme amount of drinking, and since the corpse is recovered in a local waterway, the cause and time of death is assumed to be a drowning -- on the night the victim went missing.

An accidental drowning. Case closed. No further investigation.

Significantly, in none of the cases is the death listed as a suicide. There's no proof of suicide.

But nor has there ever been any rational explanation for why these mostly top-notch students suddenly encounter four fatal coincidences:

1. Oddly drink large amounts of booze, very quickly;

2. Are in a crowd and then vanish into thin air in a matter of moments;

3. Somehow negotiate their way to a riverbank;

4. Happen to fall into the water -- "Help!" "Help!" "Help Meeeee!" -- unheard and unseen.

The drowning mistake comes after so many other mishaps, mis-steps and mysteries that one would expect the victims to have been bizarre, accident prone people. In fact, the young men were mostly quite stable, connected to friends and family, and in excellent physical condition.

And why is it their bodies aren't found immediately -- and found downstream of the "accident," instead of weeks or months later -- and in the very spot where they supposedly fell?

So while there's NO SIGNS OF FOUL PLAY, there are also NO SIGNS OF AN ACCIDENT.

Whatever happened to these students -- happened without leaving evidence, and therefore, may have been arranged in some purposeful way. The student seems to require a motivator through the scenario -- feeding him drinks or guiding him along, or hiding him, or placing him in the water when no one is looking.

If there is a serial killer, or copy cat killers, I'm certain of this: They're not focused so much on the drowning part, they're getting off on the missing student part.

What's being displayed -- is the mystery.

From the STUFF MAGAZINE article, Mystery River:

"They could have been murdered, but the person was just so good at doing it that they didn't leave any physical evidence. If a serial killer is involved, they're going to make sure that person is dead before they throw them in the river. They're not going to take any chances that they could be identified in court. I suppose (the killer) could sedate (the victim) and drown him in a tub or something like that and then throw him in the river."

-- John Kelly, psychotherapist and profiler

"The probability is virtually zero that five intoxicated students just happened to walk similar or even different routes (and) end up on the river bank . . . There is a high probability that there is, or was, a serial killer in La Crosse, involved in some, if not several of the deaths in the past seven years."

-- Dr. Maurice Godwin, criminal investigative psychologist


Spiritually Challenged

December 9, 2004

St. John's website officially advises that the character of the university is shaped by the Benedictine communities that founded the college: "By living according to Saint Benedict's Rule, members of the monastic communities cultivate love of God, neighbor and self through the art of listening, worship and balanced, humane living. They challenge students to embrace these values as well."

St. John's has also challenged the father of a student who, two years ago, mysteriously disappeared after attending a party on campus. The loving, balanced, humane folks at the university demanded Brian Guimond stay off their property or face arrest from Stearns County authorities.

Not that the Order of St. Benedict had anything to hide, mind you -- it's just that Mr. Guimond was upsetting all that listening, worshipping and embracing when he'd repeatedly visit the school looking for answers about his missing child, Josh.

Michael Hemmesch, a spokesperson for St. John's, insisted the flesh was willing. "We have continued to discuss, through Mr. Guimond's attorney, an out-of-court settlement," he said, "or a resolution to this matter out of court." Unfortunately, the spirit at SJU was weak and quickly worn-out by Brian Guimond's dogged determination. For a year, the school has held a restraining order against him.

Just as St. John's was about to have their loving values reviewed in a court of law, announcement came that a settlement had been reached.

Of course, the devil's in the details.

Josh Guimond's dad says the on-going dispute with the Order of St. Benedict about his visits to St. John's has ended. He says he now feels there is no legal order preventing him from going to the campus to continue the private investigation of his son's disappearance.

Stearns County Sheriff, John Sanner, feels differently. Sanner told reporters, as far as he's concerned, if Brian Guimond goes to the college campus without an escort to look for answers about his missing boy -- he will promptly be put in jail.

Having carefully cultivated the art of listening, I'm sure St. John's University can hear concerned parents in Stearns County, in the state of Minnesota, and all over the country saying, "IF THAT WERE MY CHILD -- NOTHING AND NOBODY COULD STOP ME FROM LOOKING FOR HIM."

"You don't just vanish into thin air," said Brian Guimond. "Somebody knows something."

Whether somebody on that campus is hiding information about the missing student has yet to be determined, but based on the treatment Mr. Guimond has endured -- God knows -- something is terribly wrong at St. John's University.

"The Rule of Benedict"
Chapter 53: On the Reception of Guests

"I came as a guest, and you received Me" (Matt. 25:35)

Something Must Have
Happened to
Adam Falcon

Adam Falcon

November 21, 2004

The last time anybody remembered seeing 20-year-old, St. Lawrence University soccer player, Adam Falcon, he was leaving the "Tick Tock Inn" very early on the morning of November 13. Teammates immediately knew something had gone terribly wrong when Adam failed to show up for a championship soccer game that Saturday afternoon. It just wasn't like him.

"Never once has this happened. I mean this is a total shock to all of us. I mean like I said, he's a great guy, and we knew he wouldn't miss this game for the world," said Adam's teammate Ryan O'Dowd. "So something must have happened."

The coach and players began looking for Adam right away, and soon, hundreds of people were involved in the search. But despite the best efforts of family, volunteers, police, divers and dogs, all that was found of Adam Falcon was his hat and his cell phone -- discovered on the steps of a rectory.

The search for Adam or clues to his whereabouts went on for five desperate days. Then on Thursday, November 18, the mystery of the missing music major came to a shocking end. Adam Falcon's body was found submerged in the Grasse River in St. Lawrence County -- about a quarter of a mile
upstream from the "Tick Tock Inn."

What could possibly have happened?

Autopsy reports indicate that Adam's death was an accident of some sort, and that he died from "asphyxiation due to drowning and hypothermia." St. Lawrence County DA Jerome Richards says, "There is no indication of foul play."

However, the exact cause and manner of death have not been determined and according to NEWS 10 NOW, investigators in Canton are "still trying to get information from people about the sequence of events" prior to the strange drowning in order to find out what it was that must have happened to Adam Falcon.


student, party, missing, river, dead

Missing Chris Olberding

"He lived a full life as far as his 18 years," said Mike Olberding about his son, Chris. "He was just starting UC. He had only been there two weeks."

Chris Olberding

Chris Olberding had been missing since Saturday, October 2, 2004. After he'd left a party in Green Township, the University of Cincinnati freshman was no where to be found. He was gone, and so was his car.

Olberding's parents immediately reported him missing. Family and friends said it was
out of character for Chris to go off alone.

Chris was mature, stable and reliable. He played soccer and wrestled in junior high and had worked at a Kroger store in Dent for four years before graduating from Oak Hills High School.

College had barely started and then -- Chris vanished.

On Wednesday, October 6, barge workers spotted a body in the Ohio river near Anderson Ferry. The Hamilton County Coroner's Office would later confirm it was Chris Olberding.

Police told reporters their investigation revealed
no signs of foul play.

Chris' father, Mike Olberding said,
"The official coroner's cause of death was drowning."

50-foot storage tanks in La Crosse

August 25, 2004
The Cost of Doing Nothing

In the first civil suit to be filed in any of the Midwest missing student drownings, La Crosse and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse have been accused of contributing to the drowning death of Jared Dion.

Authorities from the city and college immediately and repeatedly blamed Dion's strange disappearance and death on a dangerous combination of the open bank of the Mississippi River and student binge drinking.

So be it.

Seeking $250,000, parents, Bryan and Kim Dion, and brother, Adam, state in a notice of claim that the college encouraged binge drinking with repeated school newspaper ads for drink specials at downtown bars -- and that the city encouraged binge drinking by offering free rides to bars using what students call, "the drunk bus."

Echoing words spoken by Chief Kondracki during April's tumultuous town meeting, the suit will allege the city failed to adequately provide policing, fencing, surveillance cameras or other obvious safety measures near the river.

Considering the alarming numbers of young men from La Crosse who have turned up dead in the Mississippi -- city and University officials can't reasonably claim they weren't aware of the problem.

The notice states: "The university and city had notice of this dangerous combination of students’ binge drinking in taverns/bars near the Mississippi River from multiple other drowning deaths since 1997 involving similar circumstances to Jared Dion’s untimely death."

May 17, 2004
Moving On

The world just seems to keep moving on -- and yet for the missing student's family, loved ones, friends and the concerned community -- things have stopped in a dark place, clouded by confusion. Moving on seems impossible. There are so many questions just left hanging. For the parents of the victims, those questions must be so painful.

Steve Jenkins understands Kim Dion's need for answers about what happened to her son. Mr. Jenkins still has questions about his own child's death. Like Jared Dion, 21-year-old Chris Jenkins mysteriously went missing and was later found in the Mississippi River -- the unlikely victim of an -- apparently -- accidental drowning. It's an unsettling scenario that a growing list of Midwestern moms and dads have been confronted with.

"We know the anguish and the anxiety the parents are going through," Steve Jenkins said. "Any parent whose child goes missing at any age -- it is the most horrifying experience they will ever go through."

Mr. Jenkins told reporters he's concerned that a central law enforcement task force hasn't yet been created to investigate the cases, and said he believes foul play may be involved in the missing student drowning deaths. "Over eight weeks there were actually eight boys who disappeared along the Interstate-94 corridor," he said. "I believe that's way to coincidental."

Chris Jenkins, Jared Dion and the many other missing students may have accidentally drowned -- but they may not have. There are so many unanswered questions -- not just about the missing men, but questions about how the community can move on with hope in our hearts.

Without the luxury of saying, "It was an accident" -- one is forced to keep reaching for answers. Faced with confusion and doubts, it takes courage to resist the temptation to give up and give over to it. I refuse to resign myself to an accidental universe -- a coincidental miracle of mishaps and meaningless mystery.

It's no accident that Steve Jenkins has been able to reach out beyond his own heartache to offer hope to Kim Dion -- and to us all. He is a man of great integrity and strength. He has faced an unimaginably horrifying experience and is triumphing over it with a gracious and giving spirit.

That doesn't happen by chance.

Chris Jenkins' father is all the proof I need to know that there is such a thing as good and right in this world, and that things do make sense. He's found a way to keep moving on. Steve Jenkins is living proof that when we reach out -- real answers will really be found.

April 27

Look Who's Talking

Matt James is angry that folks are talking about a "serial killer." He doesn't want citizens to write letters to the newspapers or express their views on websites. He doesn't want neighbors speaking to each other and he certainly doesn't want town meetings where people express their concerns as an unwieldy group.

Matt James is tired of listening to people's opinions. He said so in his weekly editorial for the La Crosse Tribune.

Why have so many people reacted to the sudden death of Jared Dion with an agonizing grief and suspicion bordering on anger? Why are reporters demanding the community not communicate with each other?

I don't have the answers, but as a card carrying conspiracy theorist -- I'm delighted with all the commotion in La Crosse. It means that finally, somebody might actually DO SOMETHING.

It's no accident that authorities were openly heckled at the La Crosse town meeting when they tried to say they had all the answers. You can't have the answers if students are still drowning.

"Serial Killer" is a dramatic phrase. Idle speculation about an unseen boogieman is potentially dangerous and irresponsible rumor mongering. Of course, the same can be said for unfounded conjecture about a series of "accidental drownings."

Perhaps I've watched too much "C.S.I." on television, but I know when something makes me hinky. I see no signs that Jared Dion had an accident. I question the generalized charge that Dion was drunk as an explanation for why he vanished and later turned up dead in the river.

Simply because the authorities fail to find obvious signs of "foul play" during an investigation doesn't mean there wasn't any -- it means they didn't find it. Absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence. What's found depends on who's looking and what they expected to discover. The real question is:

What evidence was found that proves there was an accident?

Accidents aren't very dramatic or mysterious. When they happen we know the cause. Obviously, it's difficult to prove a negative -- that Jared Dion did NOT have an accident -- but if his death was an unintended mishap, there should be plenty of proof of that.

Long before "Forensics Files" aired, I knew criminals did things to mask their crimes. It's not a crazy conspiracy theory to suggest that a killer, possibly a Court TV fan himself, might try and disguise his evil to make it look like an accident.

The thing about accidents is -- they can only happen once.

He had casually gone to a downtown bar to have drinks with his friends. The student temporarily got separated and then vanished. No one knew if he was dead or alive until his body was found in the river -- not far from where he was last seen. Since there were no obvious wounds, police said the 21-year-old had apparently drowned.

The student's name was Chris Jenkins.

Many, many people remember what happened to Chris. Not because they're captivated by television shows and murder mysteries -- but because something just didn't add up about his death. Something was hinky.

For one thing -- there was very little water in Chris Jenkins' lungs. Did he really drown or did something else happen?

Questions were asked that were never quite answered and at some point people got sick of hearing talk about a "serial killer." They were tired of listening to it on the local nightly news and in town halls. They just wanted everybody to shut up and forget about it.

But we remember.

We may not remember his name as Chris. We might recall the boy was Matthew or Jeremy or Michael. We may not even have a name, but many of us remember the strange story of a missing student subsequently found in the river. And we remember that nothing was ever done about it.

Go ahead and shut down the newspapers and the websites if you want to. We're not going to stop talking.

We're not going to forget Jared Dion.

La Crosse town meeting
Kim Dion, receives a hug at the
emotional La Crosse town meeting

"I am Jared's mother. I have every right to believe any story that I hear and to pursue it."
-- Kim Dion

"If I had the town hall meeting to do again this close to an accident like that, I would have just had it been to listen, listen, listen."
-- La Crosse panel member, Dr. Christine Miller

"I thought there was too much talk and not enough listening."
-- La Crosse Mayor, John Medinger

"Don't say anything else about a serial killer. Not one word. Don't write letters to the editor. Don't try to convince your neighbor. Don't call the TV stations. If you have a Web site, take it down. And please don't write me."
-- columnist, Matt James

Speaking of critical thinking . . .

A postmortem urine test revealed that Jared Dion had a blood-alcohol content of 0.40.

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor Ron Cisler said a person lapses into unconsciousness with a blood-alcohol content of 0.35.

Michael Markham, a professor at Florida International University said a man of Dion's weight would have to consume more than 20 drinks over a four-hour span to reach a 0.40 blood-alcohol content.

"That is an astronomically high number. A lot of people are going to ask how he was able to get so drunk."
-- La Crosse Mayor John Medinger

Absence of Accident - 101

How did Dion's girlfriend, Courtney Sherer know something was wrong the morning he went missing? Why did she immediately understand that her boyfriend wasn't on an unannounced road trip or hanging out with his buds all night? Courtney was worried because it was completely out of character for Jared. He carried a cell phone. Is it possible he accidentally forget it was Easter weekend?

Jared's failure to remember friends or family is a sign of foul play.

Does a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.40 percent really happen by mistake? What exactly was Jared Dion drinking and how many glasses did he have? It may turn out that the "killer" is a bartender who sold the 21-year-old poisonous amounts of alcohol. If so, it wasn't an unforeseeable "accident."

No reports in the La Crosse Tribune quoted friends saying Jared Dion was determined to drink lethal quantities of booze that night, or that he was even capable of it. Unless he obtained more alcohol after leaving, getting to 0.40 in a few hours means Dion would likely have passed out right there at the bar.

The 0.40 blood-alcohol level is a sign of foul play.

An extremely drunk man weaving and falling through the streets is likely to attract attention. Unless Jared Dion was intentionally trying to make himself invisible -- someone in the area HAD to have seen him.

The fact that no friends or even bystanders can recall seeing what happened to Jared is a sign of foul play.

If Jared Dion was so intoxicated he'd forgotten all about his friends and his family, and in an alcoholic fog just collapsed into the river -- how was he sober enough to negotiate his way down to the river's edge?

No one has suggested Jared was trying to kill himself that night. No one has said he often visited the river or felt comfortable there. He was presumably lost and very drunk, but what about that would compel Jared to keep pushing on toward the water?

Also -- how is it that, over the course of nearly a week, Dion's body did not travel down river as one would have expected? Just an accidental fluke?

The recovery location of Jared Dion's body is a sign of foul play.

Apparently, there are people prepared to believe that Jared Dion accidentally drank lethal amounts of alcohol, accidentally got separated from his friends, accidentally went unobserved as he accidentally stumbled in the opposite direction from home, accidentally forced himself toward the river's edge and then accidentally fell in and drowned.

Maybe they're right -- but if so, then the same, identical accident has happened to the same, identical type of person over, and over, and over again.

The repeated, unlikely scenario of a missing student later "apparently" drowned is a sign of foul play.

Dear Students,

An open letter recently advised concerned adults at UW-L that "several websites now advance the theory that there is a serial killer loose in the upper Midwest praying [sic] on young college men." It pointed to this page as example.

For the record, I've had this site,
"Drowning in Coincidence" -- for two years. At no time have I ever advanced a "serial killer" theory.

I've tried to establish that, considering the shocking number of strangely similar missing student drownings, a reasonable person could conclude -- either a purposeful series of killings are happening, or the Midwest is experiencing a rare and tragic period of extremely bad luck.

True, there are plenty of young, White, healthy, male bar patrons in river towns, but the fact is -- they don't go missing. When they do, it's usually fairly obvious what happened.

Far from a "serial killer" site, this page was an attempt to record names, home towns, and other basic information about the many victims. They were somebody's sons, brothers, best friends -- and I cannot believe that they ALL just drank too much and accidentally disappeared into the river.

Dear students, I encourage you to start
critically feeling.

Start trusting your gut instinct. If something seems strange, or strikes you as odd -- follow your hunch. If you hear hooves behind you, don't stand around making assumptions -- get out of the way.


However, within hours of his disappearance, we started to hear theories about the "serial killer" who prays [sic] on young men in Midwestern college towns with rivers. In response to these theories, we must now be the professors that we are trained to be, as well as the members of the grieving community that we are.

highlights from

Scholars believe that individuals are prone to accept stories that do not directly contradict their personal experiences because they have an underlying need to increase their understanding of the world.

an open letter

Can many of you name times when you were "totally trashed" and nothing bad occurred? Of course. Nevertheless, that does not negate the fact that we know that alcohol slows the physical and mental responses and mitigates our ability to read and respond to cues.

to UW-L students

When medical personnel are trained in the diagnosis of problems, they are often told this story. "When you hear hooves behind you, when you turn around you should expect to see horses, not zebras."

" Betsy Morgan, Ph.D. is the Chair of Psychology and has an ongoing interest in cognitive biases."

If you were to find a squashed mouse in an elephant's cage, how often would you jump to the explanation that a serial killer was involved?

" Kim Vogt, Ph.D. is the Chair of Sociology and Archaeology whose research specialty is homicide."

Is it really so hard to imagine? He feels drunk. He thinks walking in the fresh air will "clear his head." He walks in the direction of the river. He feels nauseous and leans over the river to vomit, or he decides to splash his face with water. He slips.


According to a recent study, 9 out of 10 statistics are misleading.

Statistic Addiction

April 22, 2004

Jared Dion may have fallen into the Mississippi river. That's a very real possibility -- but attempting to use statistics to prove that that's what happened is absurd.

One doesn't need an advanced degree to know that when people drink too much, they tend to fall down. Accidents happen -- they happen all the time. Unfortunately, statistical analysis can't explain why Jared Dion went down to the river in the first place.

Numbers don't explain why Dion's body was not found during initial searches of the area where it was eventually recovered. Counting doesn't account for the lack of injuries and contusions one would expect to find after a fatal fall from a rocky river's edge.  No matter how many numbers you crunch, it just doesn't add up.

Numbers are drugs.

Like alcohol, statistics can comfort and sooth and relax us. However, when misused and abused, numbers simply make us numb. Drunk on statistics, it's easy to lose touch with reality -- to curl up inside a calculator and figure out ways to hide from the truth.

For those who are proudly addicted to digits, I offer you these sobering stats:

In none of the Midwest missing student cases are there reports suggesting the victim had an alcohol problem. In none of the incidents has anyone claimed the victim had a history of dangerous or reckless behavior.

In fact -- quite the contrary.

In each case -- the missing student was a dependable, well-adjusted and well-liked person with close ties to friends and family. Every one of the victims was a solid student with outstanding or at least notable achievements in his life.

Of course, for those who've been through Numbers Anonymous and realize the dangers of digesting excessive amounts of digits, it will suffice to say that Jared Dion is not a statistic. He is not just another rebellious kid who was sloppily stumbling down life's road and finally lost his way. Numbers may indicate that, but numbers lie.

Statistics aren't real and that's why they're great for academic debates but utterly useless at the funeral of a son, a brother -- a friend.

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

Perhaps Jared Dion DID simply drink too much, lose his way and end up weaving along the river's edge -- but since no one saw that happen, it cannot be stated as fact. There is no direct or indirect evidence of a suicidal fall. Anyone who's insisting on that must be drunk because not only is it illogical -- it's an insult to the memory of the victim.

"By all accounts, this isn't the way he usually acts," stated Cary Heyer, UW-L director of relations.

All the numbers in the world can't prove Jared Dion was acting differently the night he went missing than he had been acting for 20 years.

Arrowhead High School wrestling coach, John Mesenbrink said, "He was just an outstanding young man, one of the finest young men I ever had the privilege of working with, from the standpoint of a teacher-student-coach relationship . . . He was really organized and reliable, a really consistent person."

Coach Mesenbrink added an important fact that outweighs all the false figures: "His family had gone up that weekend -- Easter weekend. They were going to meet him. He was going to be with them up in La Crosse."

"Jared is the most organized,
responsible kid for his age,
and he always has been.
He's not one to go off alone."

-- Jared's mother, Kim Dion

What is a hero?

April 20, 2004

No matter what, he's smiling. Encountering the day-to-day problems that make most of us shout, scream, complain and cry -- he faces each situation with a quiet assurance. The amazing thing is the consistent simplicity. Win or lose, you can count on him to maintain that quiet humility -- and that smile.

In my book, that's the definition of a hero.

Confused, suspicious, frightened and angry, La Crosse turned to Police Chief Edward Kondracki with desperate and dark questions. His answers were nothing short of heroic.

Chief Kondracki reacted to a bad situation with the kind of level-headed, normal, everyday responses that -- in their very plainness -- are inspired.

If boys are falling into the river, Kondracki suggested -- put up a fence.

What is a hero? Is it SUPERMAN who comes flying in during a crisis? Or is it someone who has, all along, been doing little things that have quietly helped PREVENT problems?

Other simply heroic measures mentioned by Edward Kondracki:

Chief Kondracki wants to take the heroic step of openly discussing the situation. He realizes we must pay some attention to the string of mysterious deaths, or at least -- to the death of Jared Dion -- because according to people who knew him, Jared Dion was someone quite special.

"Jared was kind of the laid back, but have a good time guy. He always smiles. I've never seen Jared frown. Not even if he lost a wrestling meet or something, he'd always have a smile on his face," friend Jenny Christofferson told WISN News reporters.

Hartland Arrowhead High School's Geoff Steinbach recalled:
"He was an outstanding student, tremendous wrestler for us. He was one of the best in the state in his weight class, and one of the most important things was, he was always an outstanding role model."

Friend Sara Dieringer offered, "He was such a nice guy. He was competitive. I remember that. I remember him as always real happy. He always had a smile on his face. I never saw him in a bad mood."

In other words, Jared Dion did not fall. He rose to every occasion. He triumphed over confusion and fear and lived his life with honor and dignity, and a smile.

Jared Dion is a hero.

Jared Dion

"The investigation is not over; it continues well beyond that. That is simply an initial finding based on the obvious evidence. In no way does that mean the investigation is over."
-- Chief Kondracki

"I'm not talking about putting a fence up from Minneapolis to New Orleans. I'm just talking about a fence along Riverside Park. That doesn't seem like anything that would be too costly."
-- Chief Kondracki

"I'm 99 percent sure the police department is correct, which is a pretty high percentage. But, since no one was there when (Dion) went into the river, there is no way to know for sure."
-- La Crosse Mayor, John Medinger

"Most people here do believe that there is something going on . . . My wife thinks it's a serial killer. She's totally convinced."
-- Mayor Medinger

"I am absolutely convinced that no crimes have been committed and that these cases are extremely unfortunate mishaps."

-- Edward Kondracki, La Crosse Police Chief

uncommon denominator

April 18

If the La Crosse police department is getting mail like I am, they are surely aware that the sudden disappearance and mysterious death of wrestler Jared Dion is not going to simply be filed away and dismissed as another weird accident.

People are frightened in La Crosse. Of course that's the case every time one of these students goes missing and ends up in the river. Students and parents get upset. Campus-wide security emails are sent. But eventually the awful incident is brushed aside and forgotten -- until it happens again.

Something's different this time. I can feel it. People aren't just sad and worried about Jared Dion's death -- this time, they're angry.

"The common denominators in these past cases are excessive intoxication coupled with individuals venturing out onto or falling into the Mississippi where the water is extremely deep and the current very fast. "

-- Edward Kondracki

One phrase I keep hearing from concerned people in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and many other places is, "grown men don't just fall into the river."

There seems to be a steadfast refusal to accept what law enforcement is saying about Jared Dion's death -- that he got drunk, lost his way, and then quietly fell into the river where he stayed hidden for a nearly a week.

No. That's just not likely.

The very uncommon denominator in these cases is that no one ever actually SEES these students fall into the water. The men just vanish without a trace.

No one knows what happened to Jared Dion but an awful lot of people want to find out. Just saying he was drunk isn't good enough.

Actually, pointing out that his blood alcohol level was extremely high prompts more questions than answers. If Dion was THAT stoned drunk, he would likely not go walking along the river by himself. How was he able to consume so much liquor and keep walking? Who sold that much booze to him anyway?

The community's anger is notable, mostly because the La Crosse police are saying the same thing now that police have said in every one of these apparent drownings: no signs of foul play.
NSOFP. It's a code that means the death is not classified as a homicide and all investigations into the matter have come to an end.

I hear folks saying that's not gonna work this time.

"There is something going on here . . . There's a lot of death going on, and there doesn't seem to be a more global attack to solving them."
-- Barry Blatz, brother of Charles Blatz

The other phrase that keeps coming up is
TASK FORCE. Although the FBI and others have been involved in some of the Midwest missing student cases, to my knowledge -- no task force exists. A few years ago there was talk of a multi-agency meeting but not much was ever said about it. Various parents have private investigations.

As one emailer reminded me -- I'm not a policeman, I'm a nosy poet -- however, a central task force to sift through information specific to these incidents is an obvious place to start. Even if all the cases are, in fact, determined to have been drowning accidents and suicides -- that is itself worthy of an investigation which may lead to some measure of prevention.

"His death was consistent with cold water drowning. There were no signs of trauma or other injuries on his body. It was a classic textbook drowning."

-- John Steers, La Crosse County Medical Examiner

For the record -- I have never stated that Jared Dion was "like all the rest."

What I have said -- and still stand by -- is that Jared Dion is one, unique, individual person who went strangely missing and was later recovered dead in a river with no obvious mechanism or manner of death being found. His mysterious demise echoes a scenario that has been seen so often and for so long, it now warrants it's own classical, textbook category: intoxicated missing male student, apparent drowning.

It may well be a horrible coincidence. I don't know how Jared Dion or any of the other students died.

I DO know -- grown men don't just fall into the river.

Jared Dion

"Missing Student Found in River"

Thursday, April 15, 2004

The headline was as heartbreaking a thing as anyone could imagine. Friends and family are devastated, classmates and parents are shocked, and concerned people all over the Midwest are sad and angry.

Nobody knows how he got there, but Jared Dion's body was found in the Mississippi river. He had gone missing just before Easter. After five days of searching he was located not far from where he was last seen, at a point in the river near downtown La Crosse.

Police refused to discuss the condition of Dion's body.

Jared Dion was a member of the UW-L wrestling team and was the 2000 state runner-up in his weight class at Arrowhead High School.

Amid speculation and rumor about what could possibly have happened to Jared Dion, the recovery of his remains is conclusive proof of
what did NOT happen:

La Crosse police (608) 785-5962

Where is wrestler, Jared Dion?

Monday, April 12, 2004

The University of Wisconsin - La Crosse junior could be anywhere -- but right now, at the Easter holidays, he's not where he should be.

He's vanished.

Jared Dion, a 21-year-old UW-L wrestler, casually parted ways with friends on April 10 at 2:30 in the morning -- near the 100 block of Third Street North in downtown La Crosse. The students had been at a bar. When they boarded a bus to return to campus, Jared was gone.

No one has seen him since.

Capt. Doug Groth of the La Crosse Police Department says the family reported him missing Saturday night and that it's unlike Jared to lose contact.

Jared P. Dion, who's hometown is Pewaukee, WI., is a white male with brown hair and hazel eyes. He was wearing blue jeans and a long sleeve brown top.

Jared is a talented, five foot nine -- 165 pound athlete, more than capable of handling himself in downtown La Crosse.

He's vanished into thin air.

WXOW - TV in La Crosse

La Crosse Tribune


Compassion has gone
Missing in Collegeville

"All I want is answers."

April, 2004

Until the court hearing scheduled for May 14, St. John's restraining order will remain in effect against Brian Guimond. Mr. Guimond is the father of missing St. John's University student Josh Guimond and the "Order of St. Benedict, on behalf of the St. John's community" has successfully blocked him from making unsupervised visits to campus for years.

Guimond, who has openly accused St. John's staff and the Stearns County sheriff's office of not doing enough, has been forced to conduct his own investigation since his boy disappeared in November 2002.

"I'm just trying get to the bottom of my son's disappearance," Guimond was quoted as saying. "Some people don't like me asking questions."

Law enforcement officials have concluded all searches and say they believe Josh Guimond most likely "fell" into one of the bodies of water near St. John's after leaving a late-night party.

If the sheriff's office is correct -- then it's not surprising that Brian Guimond wants to continue his search on the Collegeville campus.

The order's complaint alleged harassing and intimidating behavior, threats and abusive language from Brian Guimond. Jason Laker, dean of campus life, claimed the determined dad was "scaring the students."

"Of course I get upset," Brian Guimond told reporters. "Until your only child is missing, shut up."

Well, there you go. Unless you're going to talk about ways to find out what happened to Josh Guimond that night at school -- shut up.

No one could know the pain Mr. Guimond and his family is experiencing, but surely the "Order of St. Benedict" and the "St. John's community" would be expected to have some measure of insight. Instead of threatening law suits and legal actions -- they should be moving heaven and earth to find the young man.

Shame on St. John's University.

Brian Guimond's ranting and raving on campus may well be the one thing that prevents some other bright, normal, healthy student from "falling" into a body of water on his way home.

Committed to wait and hope
(and little else).

From St. John's website:

"Saint John’s is committed to continue its support, prayers and concern for the Guimond family and friends as they wait and hope."


Matthew Schiess

Matthew Schiess

November 13, 2003

The body of Matthew Schiess of Lena IL, was found at about noon in the Pecatonica River, about one-quarter mile north of the site of a party where he was last seen Halloween night.

"We were getting ready to leave and the cops showed up. Matt and Nate got out of the car and went running, and that was the last we saw of him."
-- Ashley Ceruti, friend of Matthew and the family

Matthew Schiess was 5 feet 11 inches tall, 140 pounds, with short brown hair and hazel-colored eyes. He was a sophomore at Lena-Winslow High School. Matthew was born Sept. 13, 1986, in Freeport, the son of Alan Michael and Doreen Kay (Blunt) Schiess.

"Other kids at the party told me that they went running into the trees and brush and Matthew went in a little further than the rest of them. The kids came out after the deputies left and they didn't see Matthew come out. Some of them said they looked for him but couldn't find him."
-- Doreen Schiess

Lake Michigan Mystery


Stephenson County Coroner Tom Leamon said the results of the autopsy indicated
no signs of foul play and that the probable cause of death was drowning.

"We are fairly certain it was a drowning. There were no signs of head trauma or anything else to indicate there were other injuries."
-- Tom Leamon

Jeremy Houk

Jeremy Houk

"I want to find this child. He's my one and only and he's a great kid."
-- Gina Marie Lindsey

Tulane University freshman Jeremy Houk went to a Mardi Gras party one Friday and never returned to his dorm room. He disappeared sometime after midnight, very early on March 1, 2003 -- just a few weeks before his 19th birthday.

Houk, whose hometown is Seattle, WA, was last spotted leaving a fraternity party on Zimple Street near the Uptown section of New Orleans.

No one knew anything. No one saw anything.

Tall, handsome and smart, Jeremy Houk was a high school debate champion with everything to live for. Jeremy's mother, Gina Marie Lindsey, hired private investigators and got the FBI involved.

"I don't want to overreact, but for heaven's sake, it's 12 days later and there's no sign of this kid," Lindsey said. "Mardi Gras is over, spring break is over and classes started yesterday. I'm very, very worried."

In April, a woman claimed to have seen Jeremy on a streetcar the morning after his disappearance. "He was dazed, looked confused, possibly drunk, but did not really know where he was and he was lying down on the seat of a streetcar," she told police.

But nothing came of that report or any other tips.

Then on May 14, New Orleans police announced that the student's body had washed up on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Where are you?

Where were you?

What happened?

Who did this?

Charges of being a conspiracy theorist don't bother me a bit. I know what I know -- and I know grown men don't simply fall into rivers and die.

Certainly, any number of spooky coincidences can be cobbled together in a situation that would circumstantially point to foul play. Depending on the parameters one sets concerning an investigation of the midwest missing student mystery, the evidence of similarities changes.

Still, there is a basic pattern here that warrants official investigation.

What follows is a list of general characteristics that tie the cases together.

Tragic Coincidence?


It's true that bad things happen to people all the time. Accidents occur. But when the same bad thing keeps happening to the same type of people in the same way, it's no longer an accident. It is predictable and therefore -- preventable.

National Center for
Missing & Exploited Children

Drowning in Coincidence

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