Young man's death getting closer look

May 8, 2008 3:39:42 PM PDT
Some intriguing new developments since Action News broke the story last week. The medical examiner may be taking a second look, and local police will be comparing notes with the detectives who've been following this thread for 10 years.

Twenty-four-year-old Tommy Booth was last seen on video surveillance last January as he and friends arrived at Bootleggers bar in Ridley Township.

Two weeks later, after the ice melted, his body was found in Ridley Creek behind the bar.

Police had been puzzled by what appeared to be an unlikely drowning.

"No signs of any trauma to his body," said Ridley Township Det. Scott Willoughby.

Now detectives are investigating the possibility that Tommy's drowning may be connected to the so-called Smiley Face killings. The deaths involve 40 young men, who apparently drowned in 11 states.

In each case, a familiar calling card is found -- a smiley face painted where the victim disappeared.

Ridley Township police found one last week on the wall under the party deck behind Bootleggers.

Two retired New York police detectives have tracked the cases for ten years. One of them, Kevin Gannon, will be coming to Ridley Township to check out the scene of Tommy's drowning.

Gannon and Anthony Duarte have been tracking the suspicious drowning deaths of young men across the country ever since they investigated the death of college student Patrick McNeill, who drowned in New York City in 1997. Gannon made a promise to McNeill's parents that he would never give up on his case.

When the detectives took a look at Jenkins' death, they discovered that the position of his body and other physical evidence proved that the college student didn't drown accidentally. The cause of death on Jenkins' death certificate was changed to "homicide."

Depending on what Gannon and local police learn, the Delaware County Medical Examiner is prepared to reopen his autopsy findings and do further testing.

Dr. Frederick Hellman said he has not made a final ruling on the cause of death.

Local detectives are also intrigued by another open case in Vermont involving the disappearance of college student Nicholas Garza.

A smiley face was found near a riverbank where he may have disappeared. It is strikingly similar to the one found in Ridley Township, with slashes for eyes and a three pointed crown on its head.

Paul McCabe of the FBI office in Minneapolis said the bureau investigated some of the deaths late last year and concluded that they were accidental drownings. He told ABC News that an FBI behavioral analysis, requested by a Wisconsin police chief, concluded that there was probably not a serial killer at work.

McCabe said his office is not actively investigating any of the deaths but would be interested in seeing any new information that Gannon and Duarte had discovered.

(Some information from ABC News)