The remains of 10 men and six women have been pulled from the Chicago River and Lake Michigan since the beginning of last year, prompting fears of a serial killer terrorizing the community.
Patterns have been noticed as the bodies have piled up, with five men’s bodies recovered in the last six months.
“There’s too many coincidences,” Tracy Walder, former CIA and FBI federal agent told The Post by phone.
Walder thinks a serial killer could be at work, pointing out the cases of “accidental” drownings, bodies being recovered far from where the victims were reported missing, and short periods during which multiple victims have been found.
“In a case like this, there are so many similar patterns right across the board [so] it’s not just a coincidence anymore,” Walder said.
The latest to be pulled from the water was 26-year-old Noah Enos, who was recovered June 17, five days after he vanished following a rock concert at a local music hall, the Salt Shed, roughly a block from where he was found.
Officials have yet to release the cause and manner of his death, and his family is working with private investigators “to find justice for Noah,” his father, Steven Michael Enos, wrote on a GoFundMe page.
Enos’ girlfriend, Nicole Wijs, fought back tears during a vigil Friday as she said: “I know Noah wasn’t the first one to go missing and be found in the river, and I sure as s—t hope that he’s the last.”
Names of those recovered from Chicago-area waters:
- Noah Enos, found in June 2023. Cause/manner: pending
- Unidentified woman, found May 2023. Cause/manner: unavailable
- Richard Garcia, found April 2023. Cause/manner: pending
- Seamus Gray, found April 2023. Cause/manner: drowning, manner: undetermined
- Joel Orduno, found March 2023. Cause: drowning, manner: undetermined
- Anthony Rucker, found Feb. 2023. Cause: drowning, manner: suicide
- Krzysztof Szubert, found Dec. 2022. Cause: drowning, manner: accident
- Peter Salvino, found Dec. 2022. Cause: drowning, manner: accident
- Hayward Brown, June 2022. Cause: drowning, manner: accident
- Daniel Sotelo, found May 2022. Cause: drowning, manner: undetermined
- Natally Brookson, found May 2022. Cause/manner: undetermined
- Karina Pena Alanis, found April 2022. Cause: drowning, manner: suicide
- Yuet Tsang, found April 2022: Cause: drowning, manner: undetermined
- Unidentified woman, found April 2022. Cause/manner: unavailable
- Unidentified man, found April 2022. Cause/manner: unavailable
- Kathleen Martin, found March 2022. Cause: drowning, manner: undetermined
The Chicago Police Department did not respond to multiple requests for comment regarding the spate of deaths.
The Post has counted 16 bodies pulled out of the water in 2022 and 2023 so far, although not all of them were suspicious.
Walder points to how serial killers tend to follow a pattern and how immersing a body into water would mean “forensic evidence is gonna be, for the most part non-existent,” making it an ideal crime.
At the end of December 2022, local media reported the FBI were working with the Chicago Police Department on solving the spate of drowning deaths.
Among the most suspicious cases is that of Richard Garcia, 46, who was recovered April 13 from the Chicago River near the Columbus Drive Bridge. His loved ones said he was still wearing his FedEx uniform when his remains were located.
Garcia had been reported missing from his South Side home in March. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office told The Post his cause and manner of death remain pending.
Navy sailor Seamus Gray’s remains were discovered six days later in Lake Michigan in the Chicago suburb of Waukegan.
The 21-year-old was last seen leaving the local Ibiza Bar weeks earlier. He drowned, and showed no obvious signs of injuries, but his manner of death was “undetermined,” FOX 32 reported.
Joel Orduno’s body was pulled from the Chicago River March 16, after the 24-year-old disappeared in February, when he was last seen at his home. He, too, died from drowning, and the manner was “undetermined,” a spokesperson for the medical examiner’s office said.
And Anthony Rucker’s body was found on Feb. 16, also in the Chicago River, after the 23-year-old had been reported missing three days earlier. The ME’s office ruled his death a suicide by drowning. Additional details were not immediately available.
Walder noted the added difficulty of investigating water deaths, when she said forensic evidence is often “non-existent.”
She also pointed to what she called “clusters” of deaths — multiple instances being reported in one time frame.
Clusters, she said, are often indicative of “something more going on.”
In Chicago alone, two bodies were pulled from local waters in April 2023, two were recovered from waterways last December, and four bodies were found — at times just days apart — in April 2022, records show.
The December cases involved Krzysztof Szubert, 21, and 25-year-old Peter Salvino, whose bodies were found days apart. Both men’s causes of death were found to have been “drowning with ethanol intoxication as a contributing factor,” and their manners of death were ruled “accidental.”
Both men were seen of surveillance footage entering Lake Michigan alone, NBC Chicago reported.
Elsewhere in the country, five bodies have been recovered from Austin’s Lady Bird Lake so far this year, KXAN reported Tuesday — hours after the fourth was reported.
“Unfortunately, people do … go to bars and make bad choices. And unfortunately it has happened where people accidentally fell, fell into water,” Walder went on. “But you don’t see it on this scale.”