September 4, 2007 in Nation/World

Drinking, not demon, responsible for deaths

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review

LA CROSSE, Wis. – There is no serial killer, investigators insist, no boogeyman lurking in college-area bars, waiting to drown young men.

Since 1997, eight college-aged men have drunk heavily at local taverns, then turned up dead in one of the area’s rivers.

Each death rekindled the killer talk, but in a recent report, FBI profilers offer this conclusion: The deaths were accidents.

With no murderous stalker to blame, people will have to take responsibility for what happens when they get drunk, said Paula Knutson, dean of students at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

“The report will help students,” she said. “There was doubt in their mind, which removed a sense of accountability. … This helps say ‘OK, we’ve got a problem here when it comes to excessive drinking.”’

The city of 50,000 lies on the Mississippi River about two hours southeast of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn. About 15,000 students attend its three colleges – UW-La Crosse, Western Technical College and Viterbo University.

Tired of the rumors, La Crosse police asked the FBI to review their investigations, and on Aug. 21, Police Chief Ed Kondracki announced that the FBI had found no evidence to support the serial killer theory.

The chief said the report noted that eight other people who survived falls into water in the area reported no contact with anyone else.

The FBI also reported that student volunteers who began patrolling the park after one of the deaths found about 40 drunken people along the water, Kondracki said.

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