Jenkins family holds NYC press conference

Frustrated by the progress of local authorities, private investigators and the family held the conference yesterday.

Jon Collins

The case of a University student murdered in 2002 is garnering national attention, as private investigators linking it to 39 other disappearances around the country appeared on Good Morning America and other national news outlets Monday.

The private investigators allege that the 40 drownings, including the case of former Carlson School of Management student Chris Jenkins, are the work of a network of nationwide gangs targeting college-age men. The drownings occurred in 11 states.

Accusing local authorities of inaction, investigators and victims’ families held a press conference in New York City yesterday, at which they disclosed previously unreleased evidence.

Jenkins’ family was present, as were representatives of five other men who disappeared, Chris Jenkins’ father, Steve Jenkins, said.

The investigators said the gangs leave specific graffiti at the sites of their killings, including a smiley face at the site of Chris Jenkins’ murder, as well as 12 other symbols repeated throughout the 40 cases, Steve Jenkins said.

St. Cloud State University associate professor Lee Gilbertson, a member of the investigative team, said the private investigators had the benefit of seeing larger patterns in the evidence of the 40 disappearances, whereas local authorities looked at only the isolated cases.

“In every case, the physical evidence led in one direction and the body was found in another,” Gilbertson said.

Chris Jenkins’ disappearance in November 2002 was originally thought to be a suicide or accidental drowning, but was reclassified as murder in November 2006 after Chris Jenkins’ parents appealed to Minneapolis police with new evidence. The causes of death for the other 39 cases are still classified as unknown.

The investigators, who have been working unpaid on the cases for two years, met four weeks ago with Minneapolis police to present their evidence, but approached the national media after local authorities didn’t act, Steve Jenkins said.

Minneapolis police spokesman Jesse Garcia said the case is currently active, and police are open to new hard evidence.

“They didn’t come up with any new evidence that wasn’t already there,” Garcia said. “They basically came up with a new theory. We can’t go forward with theories as evidence.”

Steve Jenkins said the graffiti represents concrete physical evidence and that the investigators also corroborated the accounts of alleged witnesses from other disappearances. Additionally, Jenkins said the investigators have identified suspects, although they’ve declined to release names.

“There’s a lot more evidence that they did not share (with police),” Steve Jenkins said. “They showed just enough to get the (authorities’) interest in collaboration.”

The investigators and families are hoping media attention will lead to FBI and other federal authority involvement; if that fails they’ll pressure the U.S. Senate to convene a grand jury, Steve Jenkins said.

But the attention has also brought back memories of how the case began for Chris Jenkins’ friends and family, friend Luke Fisher said.

“Digging through dumpsters and climbing the banks of the river and just doing the most unimaginable stuff looking for your friend – it reopens wounds,” he said.

Fisher said the new evidence, which was broken in a Thursday story by Twin Cities broadcast news outlet KSTP, could pressure authorities to pursue evidence more aggressively.

“It’s pretty frustrating being so close to Chris and watching his parents suffer through so much and not getting the basic attention that they need,” Fisher said. “To convince the authorities to follow up on their end of the responsibilities, it’s going to take a public voice.”