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What's going on in La Crosse, Wisconsin?
October 2, 2006 11:27 PM   Subscribe

... the eighth young man since 1997 was found dead in the Mississippi River in the La Crosse [Wisconsin] area on Monday.
posted by anjamu (37 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
CourtTV's Crime Library asks if there is a "homicidal maniac at work" in the area. Some have compiled even more elaborate theories than that. Others suggest that it's the result of a pervasive drinking culture.

Previously
on MeFi.
posted by anjamu at 11:28 PM on October 2, 2006




That Stuff magazine article reprinted at CrimeLibrary is pretty fair, I think. Amazing that the cops still haven't interviewed the guy who gets his kicks at a drowning fetish site (see page 8). Even if he was in jail at the time of one of the murders, there's still plenty of reason for the cops to at least talk to him.

Thanks for the thoughtful news post, anjamu. Good links. This is one helluva creepy, open-ended story.
posted by mediareport at 12:21 AM on October 3, 2006


(er, "one of the deaths" - guess you can tell which way my brain is leaning)
posted by mediareport at 12:22 AM on October 3, 2006


8/9 ~= 0.889 drownings/year.

If these are the only drownings in La Crosse, it's below what you could reasonably expect.

Factor in the size of La Crosse (nearly 100.000 inhabitants in the metropolitan area) and the fact that drowning victims often are inebriated men trying to take a piss.

While this is tragic, I don't think murder is the most likely explanation.
posted by spazzm at 2:20 AM on October 3, 2006


Others suggest that it's the result of a pervasive drinking culture.

Yep. That's what it looks like.
Mayor Mark Johnsrud said the death was another reminder that the city and campus had not yet come to grips with dangerous drinking that appears to be at the heart of each of the deaths and the problem of bar patrons wandering off alone.

Homan's blood-alcohol content has not been released, but authorities said he was seen at several bars Friday night.
They drink way too much, wander away, and fall (or jump) into the nearby river. The only thing that's going to save them is a railing down at the riverbank, if there's a place that is dangerous. That, and maybe a fast food joint. If student drinking is a real problem there, have local bars raise their drink prices but give out one token per drink valid that night only for food at neighboring late-night diners (or in the bar if they serve food), so kids get into the habit of eating after they drink, and maybe even leaving the bar a little earlier to eat instead of having the last drink or two.
posted by pracowity at 2:48 AM on October 3, 2006


i always just pissed my pants if i was that drunk.
posted by quonsar at 4:28 AM on October 3, 2006


If it's about the drinking, why aren't guys turning up drowned in rivers on every campus in America? Surely La Crosse isn't the only campus full of drunk male students that has a river. As a teen, I started drinking at lake-side parties in the summer. No one turned up drowned.
posted by Goofyy at 5:05 AM on October 3, 2006


As a teen, I started drinking at lake-side parties in the summer. No one turned up drowned.

Well, that proves it.
posted by spazzm at 5:12 AM on October 3, 2006


I think we have to look at the Satanic Ritual Abuse angle.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:21 AM on October 3, 2006


anjamu:
More on the drinking culture in the state of Wisconsin and in La Crosse.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
posted by xthlc at 5:24 AM on October 3, 2006


College like to drink excessively? Stop the presses!

and the article xthlc links describes 'binge drinking,' as 'five or more drinks in one sitting,' which seems like a really low number to me.
posted by jonmc at 6:12 AM on October 3, 2006


i always just pissed my pants if i was that drunk.

I think seeding the internet with stories of your drunken excess in some sort of crazy bid for the presidency is just misguided.
posted by craniac at 6:16 AM on October 3, 2006


For those of you who have never been to LaCrosse, there's a bar on every corner and 2 in between. It's a beautiful, walkable city where $20 will get you drunker than a baptist preacher at a homecoming dance. And that's if you tip well.
I think the only solution is to issue everyone inflateable drinking vests equipped with an EPIRB, water-activated light and a pint of brandy to sip on until the rescue crew arrives.
Because they sure as hell aren't going to stop drinking.
posted by Floydd at 6:22 AM on October 3, 2006


There was a similar disappearance and drowning at Michigan State University back in 1998. Ryan Getz. He disappeared on Dec 31, 1997 and they found his body in the Cedar River in April, right behind my then-boyfriend's apartment building. I had stood on the banks of the river not a week before they found him and remarked on the smell of decay, figuring it to be a dead possum or something. Someone noticed his shirt billowing up in the water, days later.

Coincidence?

posted by apis mellifera at 7:18 AM on October 3, 2006


College like to drink excessively?

Do not anthropomorphize colleges. They hate it when you do that.
posted by spock at 7:19 AM on October 3, 2006


Sorry, with the possible exception of BYU and Bob Jones, I never heard of a campus w/o heavy drinking. With many of those, a river runs through it. Yet, we don't get the dead guys.

spazzm: I don't offer anecdotes as proof. However, you must understand, these parties were not typically attended by college age people, but by high school (or younger) teens. Mostly arriving by boat, and returning drunk, without incident. Myself, I walked. I was too young to take the boat.

I'm from Michigan, originally. If there ever was a place for drowned drunks to turn up, Michigan is it. Water is everywhere, and everyone parties by it. Yet there is no problem.
posted by Goofyy at 7:54 AM on October 3, 2006


It's also possible it just wasn't being hyped in Michigan. Alcohol use has a very high correlation with drowning. This study from Louisiana shows that of 94 victims 13 years of age and older "43 (60%) had evidence for the presence of alcohol and/or illicit drugs. Thirteen (30%) decedents were positive for alcohol and illicit drugs, 28 (67%) were positive for alcohol, and one (2%) was positive for illicit drugs."

From the CDC:
  • In 2003, males accounted for 80% of fatal drownings in the United States
  • Alcohol use is involved in about 25% to 50% of adolescent and adult deaths associated with water recreation
  • In 2003, there were 3,306 unintentional fatal drownings in the United States, averaging nine people per day. This figure does not include drownings in boating-related incidents.
quonsar writes "i always just pissed my pants if i was that drunk"

That must be awfully hard on the fish.
posted by Mitheral at 8:10 AM on October 3, 2006


Heh.
Mitheral said "hard on."
posted by Floydd at 8:28 AM on October 3, 2006


76 people died of "accidental drowning & submersion" in Michigan in 2004. That's more than 6 every month.
posted by Floydd at 8:31 AM on October 3, 2006


Same thing happens at the U of Wisconsin Eau Claire. Tavern row is seperated from student housing by a fast flowing river. Once in a while some drunk 21 year old figures he'll just swim across rather than take the bridge. Sometimes they don't make it.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 8:53 AM on October 3, 2006


...often are inebriated men trying to take a piss.

For whatever reason, when I posted this, I was blanking why any given drunken young male would go down to the river late at night. Thanks.

Also, jonmc, I know five drinks sounds kind of low (four for women), but that's the "scientific" definition of binge drinking that I've been hearing for years now, and that is used in social science literature (according to Wikipedia).
posted by anjamu at 8:53 AM on October 3, 2006


"the fact that drowning victims often are inebriated men trying to take a piss."

What, they don't have trees in La Crosse?

Somebody should create some "Don't piss in the river" public service announcements for the area, instead of making up serial killer fantasies.
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 9:12 AM on October 3, 2006


DieHipsterDie (The Hipster, The?) beat me to it. It seemed to almost be an annual UWEC event, the search for the missing freshman who was last seen boasting that he could swim the river.

But at UW LaX, it seems they vanish mysteriously. There's no "see you guys, I'm gonna swim home!" I think that's why people feel there could be something shady happening.
posted by Tubes at 9:42 AM on October 3, 2006


I think if you spend enough time drinking like a fish you might naturally think you've acquired some of their other fishy attributes, too.
posted by Floydd at 9:50 AM on October 3, 2006


I'm from Michigan, originally. If there ever was a place for drowned drunks to turn up, Michigan is it. Water is everywhere, and everyone parties by it. Yet there is no problem.

In Michigan, the prefered way to die while in a drunken haze in on a snowmobile.
posted by NoMich at 10:33 AM on October 3, 2006



Went down to the river
Thought I might jump in
My mother, wife and daughter shout
"We will tell you when!"

posted by jfuller at 11:10 AM on October 3, 2006


I would think that pathology would answer these questions pretty completely. Were there any signs of struggle on the body? Bruising or defensive wounds on the arms? The article mentions that the kid was an athlete, if someone were trying to hurt him, I would expect that he would have struggled and in doing so, left evidence that he was assaulted.

What about the earlier bodies was there any evidence of attack with any of those? If there was none, and alcohol was present in the other 7 dead, it would seem that the answer is self evident.
posted by quin at 11:58 AM on October 3, 2006


This is a problem of epidemic proportions in Moscow. Here's a news item from 2002 mentioning 266 alcohol-related drowning deaths between June and August.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:08 PM on October 3, 2006


Die Hipster...an old girlfriend of mine went to school there, when they had a public safety campaign called "Don't Dip the Chip."
posted by schmedeman at 1:19 PM on October 3, 2006


Water is everywhere, and everyone parties by it. Yet there is no problem.

If it's not hyped by the media, there is no problem?
When stuff like this surfaces, we should be asking ourselves who is trying to draw our attention away from what, and why?
posted by spazzm at 2:36 PM on October 3, 2006


Mitheral, thanks for posting that.
Given the CDC stats and the size of La Crosse, we would expect on average 1.095 drownings per year*, so maybe we should be wondering why La Crosse has so few drownings.

* Keep in mind that this is a nationwide average, not the average for hard-drinking college campuses by rivers.
posted by spazzm at 2:42 PM on October 3, 2006


The local university (UCSB) and student ghetto are on a cliff by the ocean and a lot of kids take that drop. People put up fences and they just climb over. Young + drunk = invincible. It's sad, sad, sad.
posted by Iron Rat at 4:01 PM on October 3, 2006


Oswego, NY, home of Oswego State, a fine SUNY affiliated school, is right on the Oswego. Not as big of a city as LaCrosse, but with bars right near the river. When there was a brew pub on the upper bridge (Buckhout Brewery, late and lamented) anecdotally it seemed like there was one a week in the drink. Surprise, surprise! Alcohol the depressant and central nervous system depressant made ordinary drunks into Aquaman.

I'm not from there, didn't go to school thhere, just spent an inordinant time there for two years and much preferred Green's Pub to the Buckhout, but Buckhout's proximity to the bridge/river was scenic. Too much for some people.
posted by beelzbubba at 4:36 PM on October 3, 2006


Well, just to counter the annecdotes of people not drowning while drunk, two people in my family have died that way. Also, I live in a college town with some peripheral lakes and quarries where bodies with high BAC occaisionally surface.

Also, if I recall correctly, the area of La Crosse with all the bars is very close to the river. Which happens to be the Mississippi, and can be pretty fast-moving and formidible at times. I remember accidentally canoeing on to the main channel of the Mississippi near there, and being swept along much more swiftly and roughly than I would have liked.
posted by bookish at 6:35 PM on October 3, 2006


spazzm writes "size of La Crosse, we would expect on average 1.095 drownings per year*, so maybe we should be wondering why La Crosse has so few drownings."

Is La Crosse one of those college towns where the population quintiples during the school season? Average population in that case could be lower.
posted by Mitheral at 10:17 AM on October 4, 2006


Mitheral,
From the WikiPedia article:
As of the censusĀ² of 2000, there were 107,120 people, 41,599 households, and 25,583 families residing in the county.

Also:
Together with surrounding communities, the La Crosse metropolitan area was, according to the 2000 census, home to 96,592 people.

I don't know where got the impression that La Crosse is only home to 20,000 people, but it appears to be wrong.
posted by spazzm at 1:13 PM on October 10, 2006


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