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River Drowning- “Serial Killer or Urban Legend”. This presentation will present all the facts and similarities in the 7 cases of College age males who have drowned in the La Crosse Area between 1997-2004. General Statistic for Drowning. Males account for 92% of drowning victims ages 15-19.

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River Drowning- “Serial Killer or Urban Legend”

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This presentation will present all the facts and similarities in the 7 cases of College age males who have drowned in the La Crosse Area between 1997-2004

general statistic for drowning

General Statistic for Drowning

Males account for 92% of drowning victims ages 15-19.

Alcohol use is a major factor in adult and adolescent drowning.

Incidents of drowning occur 3 times greater in rural areas.

In water temperature below 42 degrees life expectancy is less than 5 minutes

la crosse cases

La Crosse Cases

  • Charles Blatz – Age 28, Missing 09/27/1997,
  • Recovered – 10/03/1997
  • Anthony Skifton- Age 19, Missing 10/05/1997
  • Recovered –10/10/1997
  • Nathan Kapfer – Age 20, Missing 02/22/1998
  • Recovered 04/04/1998
  • Jeffrey Geesey-Age 20, Missing 04/10/1999
  • Recovered May 24, 1999
  • Jarod Dion –Age 21, Missing 04/10/2004
  • Recovered April, 15, 2004
  • Two other cases Richard Hlavaty (July 1997), and Patrick Runigen (March 2001).
hlavaty runingen


Richard Hlavaty- Reported missing following a witnessed altercation downtown, was chased into the river by a group of people along with his brother. Brother made it, Richard drowned. Autopsy was done cause of death drowning/ Manner accident. BAC .27

Patrick Runingen- Reported missing after being seen at the Nut Bush bar, was found in the river by the French Island beach, physical evidence indicated that subject had fallen through the ice. Autopsy was done

Cause of death drowning/ no signs of altercation or trauma, Manner of death accident-Bac .240

charles blatz

Charles Blatz

Missing 09/27/1997- Water Temp 66 degrees

Recovered 10/03/1997 (7th St Boat Landing)

Autopsy done Milwaukee County ME

Findings: Consistent with drowning

No evidence of antemortem trauma

Postmortem Injuries

Toxicology- Alcohol .31

Cause of Death: Drowning

Manner: Accident

anthony skifton

Anthony Skifton

Missing-10/05/1997, Leaving a Party/Case of beer. Water Temp 65 degrees

Recovered: Swift Creek, near Hood St bridge

Autopsy done MRCO- Dr Lindsey Thomas

Findings: Apparent Drowning

No injuries or other causes of death

Toxicology: Alcohol .23

Cause of Death: Drowning

Manner: Accident

nathan kapfer

Nathan Kapfer

Reported Missing- 02/22/1998, Water Temp 37 degrees

Recovered- Mississippi River, 4/4/1998

Autopsy Done-MRCO-Dr. Lindsey Thomas

Findings: Pulmonary Congestion

Watery gastric contents

Mastoid petrous ridge hemorrhage

No injuries of Trauma noted

Toxicology: Alcohol .22

Cause of death: Drowning

Manner: Undetermined

jeffrey geesey

Jeffrey Geesey

Reported Missing- 4/10/1999, Water Temp 49 Degrees

Recovered- Running Slough –5/24/1999

Autopsy done-MRCO Hastings, Lindsey Thomas

Findings: Probable drowning

History of previous suicide attempts

scars of left arm from previous attempt

Toxicology- Alcohol .42

jared dion

Jared Dion

Missing 4/10/2004, Water Temp 47 degrees

Recovered 4/15/2004, off riverside park

Autopsy done MRCO Lindsey Thomas

Findings: Cold water drowning

No injuries or trauma

4) Toxicology – Alcohol .27

Cause of death: Drowning

Manner: Pending



Into the Darkness Website

All Caucasian males between the ages of 18-27.

As stated in a previous slide males account for 92% of all drowning, in the demographic area listed the largest population are Caucasian.

2) Lived in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana or Chicago (the extended area surrounding Lake Michigan from Minneapolis to Lansing Michigan)

These areas are all the areas with high population of colleges students, near large bodies of water.

commonalities continued

Commonalities Continued

3) All but one were students or had recently graduated.

Age group of 18-27, statistically the chances of someone being a student or recent graduate would be high.

4) Most were high achieving

What is “high achieving”, what are the standards, and how would a “serial killer” know this?

5) Most were in good physical condition or were athletes.

Chances are most of us were in “good physical condition” when we were 18-27.

commonalities continued13

Commonalities Continued

6) Last seen out drinking with friends or at a party.

This one I will agree with, all the reports I have read states subject was drinking.

7) Were under the influence of Alcohol.

Wouldn’t this one be explained by number 6

8) Became separated from friends they started the evening with.

This too would be obvious, if they were with their friends they would not have “disappeared”

commonalities continued14

Commonalities Continued

9) All disappeared between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 4 a.m.

Wouldn’t these hours correspond with bar times.

10) Were reported missing by friends or family

Who else would report you missing

11) The closed cases were all determined to be accidental drowning, or suicide.

Not correct out of the 5 in La Crosse, 2 were undetermined and 3 were accident. If there are no signs of any foul play, these cases are not going to be ruled a Homicide, which leaves only accident, suicide or undetermined as manner of death.

commonalities continued15

Commonalities Continued

12) All but two of those found drowned were found in Mississippi river, Red Cedar River, or Lake Michigan.

These would be the largest bodies of water

located near college communities.

13) All disappeared between the months of September and April.

Would this not correlate with when school is in session.

serial killer

Serial Killer

There are no physical injuries or trauma to the bodies, cause of death is drowning, autopsy shows that they were alive prior to entering the water.

There is no evidence of robbery, sexual assault, no motive.

Homicide by drowning is rare (less then 5%)

No reported attempts from “victims’ who have escaped even the most prolific serial killer does not have a 100% success rate.



After completion and review of all these tragic cases it is the opinion of the La Crosse County Medical Examiner, that these deaths are due to several factors, with those being the following:

Alcohol use by all the victims, out of these 5 victims, only 2 were of legal drinking age. They all had at least 2 times the legal limit, with one being 4 times the limit.

Depression in at least 2 cases

Poor or unsafe design of the levy, allowing unsafe access to the river.

Lack of enforcement of existing ordinances

personal solutions

Personal Solutions

Personal Responsibility

Avoid excessive alcohol consumption

Stay with your friends

Be familiar with your surroundings

other solutions

Other Solutions

Fence along Levy to prevent someone from falling in.

Cameras in the park for monitoring activity

Enforcement of park hours (closed from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.)

Enforcement of all liquor laws

is there a serial killer

Is There a “Serial Killer”

Yes I believe all the evidence suggests that there is a KILLER amongst us.. And these men are dying at the Killer hands along with Thousands of other victims every year, and that Killer has a Name, his name is Al Cohol.

Thank you for your time and consideration.