Our bodies stack up in Texas metropolis amid fears of serial killer, rumors of ‘roofie’ assaults

There’s something within the water.

Repeatedly, males have turned up lifeless in Austin, Texas’, Woman Hen Lake, a stretch of the Colorado River working via the guts of town, close to a well-liked strip of bars and meals vans on Rainey Road.

4 this 12 months, and in accordance with native studies, as many as eight up to now 10 months.

Nevertheless, whereas police say they’ve discovered no indicators of trauma on the victims or proof of foul play, specialists on the skin say so many drownings in a single place could be a hanging coincidence.


A drone shot of hike and bike trail along Lady Bird Lake

A hike and bike path alongside Woman Hen Lake is toes from the top of Rainey Road on Sunday, April 2, 2023 in downtown Austin, Texas. 4 our bodies have been recovered alongside the shore close to Rainey Road and East Avenue in 2023. (Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman/USA TODAY NETWORK)

“That lake and these bars have been there for years,” Kevin Gannon, a former NYPD detective sergeant, advised Alokito Mymensingh 24 Digital. “All the sudden [these deaths] occur on the identical time? It isn’t according to regular unintended drownings.”

“Simply from the sheer quantity and the truth that there’s so many in a brief time frame, I do not consider that it is unintended.”

— Kevin Gannon, retired NYPD detective who investigated ‘Smiley Face killers’ concept as a non-public eye

Particularly when it takes effort to get right down to the waterfront from the favored night time spot, which is a few blocks away.

The solutions to different lingering questions are possible identified to investigators however to not the general public, mentioned John Kelly, a prison profiler who has interviewed quite a few serial killers.

A sign warns of poor lighting conditions at night on a hike and bike trail along Lady Bird Lake

An indication warns of poor lighting circumstances at night time on a hike and bike path alongside Woman Hen Lake that passes the top of Rainey Road on Sunday, April 2, 2023 in downtown Austin, Texas. (Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman/USA TODAY NETWORK)

“I might be serious about realizing what these guys had in frequent in addition to Rainey Road,” he advised Alokito Mymensingh 24 Digital. “Did they go to the identical bar?…One thing else that bothers me is that they appear to not be with buddies. They’re on their lonesome.”


Austin police recognized the latest sufferer Monday afternoon as John Christopher Hays-Clark, 30. He was pronounced lifeless on the scene close to a dam about two miles down river from the place the others have been discovered, nearer to Rainey Road.

“Whereas the investigation remains to be within the early phases, we don’t suspect foul play was concerned primarily based on the data we’ve right now,” police mentioned. “The investigation stays ongoing, and we’ve no additional info to supply.”

Austin map marked for locations

The approximate places of the 4 latest our bodies present in Austin, Texas’, Woman Hen Lake, primarily based on estimations from native studies and Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Providers. (Google Maps)


“Though these circumstances are nonetheless beneath investigation and proof is being analyzed, right now, there isn’t a proof in any of those circumstances to assist allegations of foul play,” Austin police mentioned in a press release. “Whereas every incident has occurred on the lake, the circumstances, actual places, and demographics surrounding these circumstances fluctuate.”

Christopher Pugh speaks to Austin City Council

Christopher Pugh’s 21-year-old son, Christian, mysteriously went lacking in November 2019 after an evening out on Rainey Road in downtown Austin, Texas, and was discovered days later with “critical” accidents by the lake. (April 13 Austin Metropolis Council Assembly)

Police discovered Jason John, 30, lifeless in Woman Hen Lake in February, every week after he was final been seen on Rainey Road, which has a well-liked row of bars close to the water. Clifton Axtell, 40, was recognized as the person discovered lifeless on March 5. Jonathan Honey, 33, was discovered on April 1, a day after he was final seen at a meals truck on Rainey Road.

Jamie Hammonds, of DashATX, has additionally raised doubts concerning the deaths being a collection of unintended drownings – and he advised Alokito Mymensingh 24 Digital Wednesday that he has heard repeatedly from locals nightmare tales of getting slipped medication on Rainey Road.

“I’ve been digging into this now for the final couple of weeks just about each day, and the percentages of this occurring this many deaths in that one spot, all males across the identical age, the percentages are fairly astronomical if that is only a coincidence,” he mentioned.

The shore of Lady Bird Lake is less than one hundred feet from the end of Rainey Street

The shore of Woman Hen Lake is lower than 100 toes from the top of Rainey Road on Sunday, April 2, 2023 in downtown Austin, Texas. (Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman/USA TODAY NETWORK)

Post-mortem studies weren’t but accessible, however police mentioned the victims confirmed no indicators of trauma, and so they had not seen proof of foul play. Nevertheless, medication like GHB, generally often called “roofies,” are rapidly metabolized and could be out of a sufferer’s system by the point they attain a forensic pathologist, Hammonds famous. That’s if the health worker even checks for them.

Involved residents have voiced their fears at public hearings on social media, the place a Fb group devoted to the subject has attracted 70,000 members up to now few weeks.

“There are too many individuals which have gone lacking,” Austin resident Christopher Pugh advised the Austin Metropolis Council earlier this month. “There are too many individuals which have been injured. There are too many individuals that may stroll off, and we nonetheless have completely no solutions as to what has occurred to any of these of us.”

Pugh’s 21-year-old son, Christian, went lacking for a number of days in 2019 after partying on Rainey Road. Search groups discovered him alive however in “very tough situation” and disoriented within the brush of a climbing path on the opposite facet of the lake, FOX 7 Austin reported on the time.

“One frequent theme of the drownings in Austin this 12 months is the mix of alcohol and easy accessibility to Woman Hen Lake, which has quite a few entry factors,” police mentioned. “Most of the entry factors could be difficult to see at night time.”


They famous that these areas shut at 10 p.m. and urged folks to not enter them at night time.

Nevertheless, investigations into every of the deaths remained energetic this week.

Regardless of the dearth of proof of foul play, hypothesis a couple of potential serial killer has swirled.

Missing person flyer Texas lake

Lacking particular person flyer for Jonathan Honey, whose physique was discovered by Austin, Texas, police in Woman Hen Lake. (Offered to FOX 7 Austin)

Austin has had one different serial killer up to now, across the time of Jack the Ripper. The “Servant Lady Annihilator” is believed to have killed eight ladies between December 1884 and December 1885. Nobody was ever caught.

Nevertheless, the lake circumstances seem to have extra in frequent with more moderen crimes.

Starting within the mid Nineties, a gang of “Smiley Face Killers” has been proposed because the supply of quite a few deaths of younger males discovered within the Midwest. In these circumstances, younger, match males have been discovered lifeless in our bodies of water after that they had final been seen out consuming.

Mitchell Gutierrez

Mitchell Gutierrez, whose brother died of “an unintended drowning” after going lacking from Rainey Road in downtown Austin, Texas, in 2018, speaks at an April 13 metropolis council assembly. (April 13 Austin Metropolis Council Assembly)


Simply final month, New York Metropolis police introduced investigations into two separate gangs suspected of drugging folks in Manhattan bars to be able to use the victims’ unconscious faces to unlock their telephones with facial recognition know-how. The thieves drained their cellular banking accounts and apps like Venmo and Money App. These rings are nonetheless beneath investigation, though prosecutors have introduced arrests and indictments.

“Simply from the sheer quantity and the truth that there’s so many in a brief time frame, I do not consider that it is unintended,” mentioned Gannon, who with the NYPD was credited with greater than 1,000 felony arrests and, on the time of his retirement, probably the most embellished officer within the division’s historical past.


Cyclists cross beneath the downtown skyline on the hike and bike path on Woman Hen Lake in Austin, Texas. (Reuters/Julia Robinson)

Gannon was later a part of a non-public investigation into the “Smiley Face” serial killer concept chronicled within the Oxygen docuseries, “Smiley Face Killers: The Hunt for Justice.”

Whereas Austin police examine the deaths, metropolis officers have additionally addressed security issues concerning the waterfront, putting in new fencing and weighing proposals starting from including lights or rising police patrols.

“From the skin in, not having been there, it seems to have been focused, simply due to what the numbers say and the situation, all in Woman Hen Lake,” Gannon mentioned.


Austin police officer

A member of the Austin Police Division stands watch through the Gold Cup semifinal match between america and Qatar on July 29, 2021 at Q2 stadium in Austin, Texas. (Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire through Getty Pictures)

The Austin Metropolis Council mentioned potential upgrades at and close to the Rainey Road Trailhead, between the nightlife district and the river financial institution, together with including park ranger patrols and stationing emergency responders within the space, FOX 7 Austin reported earlier this month.

Pugh, the person whose son was discovered within the brush after vanishing in 2019, known as for cameras to be put in within the space.

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Mitchell Gutierrez, whose brother drowned after going lacking from Rainey Road in 2018, mentioned on the assembly he believes 12 folks have died in related style “by his rely” since his brother’s demise. 

His brother, Martin Gutierrez, was an skilled swimmer, in accordance with Hammonds.

“He had swam competitively in highschool,” he mentioned. “I am unable to perceive how anyone like that may simply fall within the water and drown.”

Alokito Mymensingh 24′ Chris Eberhart and Haley Chi-Sing contributed to this report.

Peter Johnson