(CINCINNATI) - The accidental drowning deaths of more than 40 college-aged men around the country are leading some to believe there's a group of serial killers on the loose.
Two retired New York City police detectives say they've connected the deaths of the men through grafiti near the victims bodies, and they say two of those cases are in southern Ohio.
Detectives say those two cases that fit the bill each include a college aged, athletic, intelligent well-liked student who goes missing and ends up dead in a river.
A cryptic smiley face is the tie that binds some 40 murders across the Great Lakes Region.
That's according to two retired New York City detectives, Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte.
According to the detectives, the color of the paint used and the size of the face varies, but they say it is a sick signature claiming responsibily for the murders.
They found the smiley faces near the drowning victims in the Columbus and Athens areas, also Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa.
All of the victims were male, and 93 percent of them were white.
"Most of our victims have a high G.P.A. and all are athletically inclined. It's disporportionate to the number of kids to attend college. This is too specific," say detectives.
According to the Hamilton County Coroner's Office, there are a handful of drowning victims who fit the description of a college aged white male in the last 11 years, but the coroner's office does not believe there is any connection to the so-called smiley face gang murders.
Detectives in New York are calling on the government to get involved, because they believe a group of serial killers is too much for local police to handle.
"You need the weight of the federal government to come in and add resources to this investigation and do the right thing and that's the FBI."
"The information is out, and it needs to go right now, if it doesn't go now, it's never gonna go."
The FBI issued a statement late Tuesday saying they have looked at the information provided by the detectives and have not found any evidence to support links between the tragic deaths and the work of a serial killer or killers. They believe the vast majority are alcohol related drownings.