One of the more controversial death investigations from recent years is the 2009 death of Dan Zamlen in Saint Paul, MN. Dan had been drinking and was on his way home, apparently upset about something and speaking to a friend, Anna Chappuis, on the phone. Dan was only a few blocks from the Mississippi River and Anna was driving her car to reach him. She told him to look for her headlights.
Suddenly he said to Anna, “Oh my gosh, Anna, where are you? Help!”
Anna reported that as Dan said these words, his voice grew distant as though he were being pulled away from the phone. He didn’t answer subsequent calls and later that day, Dan was reported missing.
The Saint Paul community mobilized to search for Dan and the police dispatched teams of searchers with bloodhounds. After only four days, the search was called off. Then on, May 1st, an employee of the Ford Motor plant found Dan’s body floating in a water intake port on the Mississippi River. Coroners determined that the cause of death was an accidental fresh water drowning likely resulting from Dan falling into the river.
However, Dan’s family was suspicious and ordered a second autopsy. The new medical examiner found the presence of GHB in Dan’s liver and said there were no injuries consistent with a fall. Furthermore, as David Paulides points out in his book Missing 411: A Sobering Coincidence, Dan’s final words are not the kinds of complete sentences one would say while falling. Paulides points to other cases with cryptic final words, including Brandon Swanson, who was on the phone with his parents after his car broke down when he suddenly said, “Oh shit.”
Paulides’ account does not report additional information about Dan’s mother, who continued to investigate her son’s death with the belief that he had been killed. Dan’s mother, Sally Zamlen, wrote: “FACT: The night before Dan went missing, he was with his “friends” at the 1st Ave Nite Club in Minneapolis. Dan was thrown out of the bar for wearing an incorrect wristband. He was separated from his friends & stated to his friends that he was approached by 5 men outside the club & asked for his wallet. Dan further stated to friends that he “ran” from these people. Sound familiar? Perhaps Dan was supposed to have his “tragic accident” on Friday night, but even though “extremely intoxicated” he was able to out run these people.”
The Zamlen case has also been studied by rogue investigators, retired NYPD Detective Kevin Gannon and D. Lee ‘Doc’ Gilbertson, who have spent 12 years analyzing mysterious drowning cases. In their book Case Studies in Drowning Forensics, the duo argues that drowning deaths such as Zamlen’s may be part of a complex cult of sadistic serial killers known as the Smiley Faced Killers. They believe up to 70 other mysterious ‘drownings’ may be connected.
The FBI and local law enforcement agencies strongly dispute this conclusion but have been unable to answer for anomalies in the case and refuse to assist Gannon and Gilbertson.
For more info on the Smiley Face Killers, check out the videos by John Lordan of “BrainScratch”:
feature pic – Smiley Face graffiti near Ohio River (Shutterstock/ gabriel12)