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Crime News Smiley Face Killers: The Hunt For Justice

Underwater Forensic Expert Believes Alleged ‘Smiley Face’ Victim’s Body Might Have Been Dumped In River

There was "zero decomposition" in parts of Luke Homan's remains.

By Aly Vander Hayden

Lucas "Luke" Homan was a 21-year-old college student and basketball star when he disappeared from an Oktoberfest celebration in La Crosse, Wisconsin. On October 2, 2006, three days after he went missing, Luke's body was found not far from the shore of the Mississippi River. His death was ultimately ruled an accidental drowning, and the autopsy report noted "acute alcohol intoxication was a major contributing factor." Police reported Luke had various wounds on his head, arms and hands, which they concluded were travel abrasions that his body had sustained while moving through the water.

Investigators would later note that Luke was one of more than 20 young men who had mysteriously drowned in the Mississippi River.

Though local law enforcement officially closed the case back in 2006, a group of investigators is currently working to have Luke's death reclassified as a homicide. Former New York Police Department detectives Kevin Gannon, Michael Donovan, Anthony Duarte and professor of criminal justice Dr. Lee Gilbertson believe Luke could be a potential victim of the Smiley Face Killers, an alleged unknown gang of serial killers that murders college-aged men, dumps their bodies in nearby waterways and paints smiley face symbols near the death sites.

In "Smiley Face Killers: The Hunt for Justice," which airs Saturdays at 7/6c on Oxygen, Gannon and Dr. Gilbertson met with former FBI dive team leader and underwater forensic expert Bobby Chacon to reexamine Luke's autopsy report and photographs. By looking at the injuries on Luke's upper body, Chacon theorized that they had been inflicted before his remains entered the water.

"He's got injuries to the outer side of both hands ... and to the head. It looks like he's been in a fight. That's what it looks like to me," said Chacon. 

Chacon noted certain travel abrasions could cause similar injury patterns to the skin, but the wounds would not be as red as Luke's markings.

"I've seen bodies that have been beat up [post-mortem]," explained Chacon. "It's usually white, or it's no color at all, because there's no blood, the body doesn't send any blood there post-mortem."

Chacon told Gannon and Dr. Gilbertson that he saw "zero decomposition" in parts of Luke's remains.

"If you're going on the assumption, as the medical examiner apparently did, that the body was in the water 50 plus hours, the traditional things that I used to see on bodies that were in the water that long, I don't see it on this body," said Chacon.

Chacon said if Luke had been in the Mississippi River for more than two days like police theorized, his body would have been "much more covered in debris, dirt and mud." Based on the autopsy photographs, Chacon estimated Luke was only in the water for three to 12 hours.

Gannon believes Chacon's analysis lines up with his theory about the overall Smiley Face Killers' pattern: "They abduct individuals, hold them for periods of time and then place them into the water."

In order to push local law enforcement to reopen the case, Gannon and Luke's mother, Patti Homan, visited the La Crosse Police Department to present their evidence. 

The Homan family is currently awaiting a response from the La Crosse Police Department.

To learn more about Luke Homan's case, watch "Smiley Face Killers: The Hunt for Justice," airing Saturdays at 7/6c on Oxygen. 

[Photo: Courtesy of Patricia Homan]