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Evans refutes serial killer theory for bodies found in waterways

Boston Police Department Commisioner William B. Evans. Barry Chin/Globe Staff/file 2016

Boston police Commissioner William B. Evans said Tuesday that alcohol is often the main factor when bodies of young men turn up in city waterways -- not a serial killer.

“There’s no sinister plot out there,” Evans said during his monthly appearance on “Boston Public Radio” on WGBH. “There’s no one out there killing these kids.”

Evans said in many cases, police watch video surveillance that tracks young men from the time they leave a bar or club to the moment they enter the Charles River, or another body of water.

“Sometimes, I think the kids are drinking too much, and we have to do a better job of watching their safety when they leave these establishments,” Evans said. “ ... We’re trying to work with the clubs to make sure they’re not over-serving.”


Evans said his “heart goes out” to families who have lost loved ones in this manner and stressed that friends must watch each other when they go out.

“Friends gotta be good friends and not let their friends wander when they’re in that type of shape,” Evans said.

He spoke to WGBH days after the body of Michael Doherty, 20, was found in woods in Franklin near Interstate 495, bringing a tragic end to a nearly weeklong search for the Duke University student after he left a party in that town around 1:30 a.m. on May 14 and never returned home. Foul play is not suspected in his death.

In Boston in April, police pulled the body of 23-year-old Michael Kelleher out of the Charles, more than two weeks after he disappeared when he left a Celtics game at TD Garden.

In February 2016, 22-year-old Zachary Marr went missing while celebrating his birthday at a Boston bar. Authorities said they found surveillance footage that appeared to show him entering the Charles nearby. More than four weeks after his disappearance, police pulled his body from the water there.


Between 2009 and March 2016, authorities searching Boston area waterways recovered the bodies of at least 11 people, mostly young men, who had previously been reported missing, in many cases for days.

Other US cities have had similar incidents, and authorities have said the vast majority of the deaths were accidents or suicides. Often, drugs or alcohol were involved. In some instances, weather conditions were bad.

The seemingly high number of cases, coupled with their apparent similarities, has prompted curiosity over the years, and even speculation that the deaths may somehow be connected and the work of a serial killer or killers.

But law enforcement officials working the cases have found no connection between them and have noted that the number of people rescued after falling or jumping into waterways was significantly higher than the number of such cases that resulted in death.

Matt Rocheleau of the Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent Jeremy C. Fox contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.