Oxygen Media will be adding yet another true crime series to its programming in 2019. The network is set to release Smiley Face Killers: The Hunt for Justice, which will follow the ongoing investigation of a series of mysterious drownings dating back to the ’90s, on January 19, E! News reported.
The series focuses on retired NYPD Detective Kevin Gannon as he looks into the country’s most notorious string of accidental drownings. Gannon believes these drownings were not accidents at all, but homicides that were likely connected. With the help of investigators Anthony Duarte, Mike “Mikey” Donovan, and D. Lee “Doc” Gilbertson, Gannon has spent the last 12 years pursuing the drownings.
Beginning in 1997, hundreds of college-aged men drowned after going out to party. Their bodies were found in clusters all over the country and the victims had similarities, most of them being academically and athletically inclined. Near the bodies, a smiley face was always drawn in graffiti.
Despite this, the incidents were all classified as individual accidents and not connected crimes because the acts did not fit any profiles of serial killer behavior. Many police departments across the country disputed Gannon’s theory and closed the cases as accidents.
Gannon and his team believe to this day that the victims were drugged, murdered, and dumped in water to get rid of evidence by not just one, but a group of serial killers, according to Oxygen. Durante theorized that the killer painted smiley faces near the victims to “taunt” local law enforcement as if the smiley faces were laughing at them.
Gannon’s goal is to gather enough evidence for local police departments to reopen and reclassify the deaths as homicides. When the cases are open again, his team will draw connections between the victims and their theory behind the group known as the Smiley Face Killers.
A sneak preview of the true crime series shows the loved ones of the victims discussing their losses as well as Gannon collaborating with his team to discover the truth.
Oxygen rebranded as a true crime channel in 2017 following the success of their popular series Cold Justice, The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway, Dahmer on Dahmer: A Serial Killer Speaks, and Aaron Hernandez Uncovered.
In April, the network announced 10 more new original series for their true crime programming.
“The response from the true crime community has been overwhelming,” said Rod Aissa, Executive Vice President of Original Programming and Development at Oxygen Media, in a press release at the time. “This new slate adds to our mission of providing best in class investigative docuseries from the top producers and talent in the genre, while continuing to offer exclusive access and compelling storytelling that have become paramount to our viewers.”