Police found the man dead, naked and strung up by the ankles. His testicles had been cut off and cooked.
Michigan – Months before the slaying, police say, the man’s Grindr dates had fled his basement bondage sessions in partially clothed terror.
One hopped a fence in the middle of an October night to call 911, telling officers of leather ankle straps and a chain used to restrain him. In November, a man ran from Mark Latunski’s house wearing only a leather kilt – chased by Latunski, who told authorities that he just wanted his $300 piece of clothing back.
Both men declined to press charges against Latunski, police said. They said that their sexual activities with him were consensual and that they’d simply gotten spooked at the home in a small Michigan township.
Then, late last month, police say they descended into 50-year-old Latunski’s basement about 30 miles northeast of Lansing to discover another match from the same dating app – dead, naked and strung up by the ankles in a hidden room.
The crimes to which Latunski confessed on the spot were gruesome, police say. The defendant explained how he’d stabbed 25-year-old Kevin Bacon in the back, suspended him from the ceiling rafters with rope and then slit his throat. In a final act of gore, police say, Latunski cut off Bacon’s testicles and cooked them for consumption.
Latunski has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and disinterment and mutilation of a body. His attorney did not respond to inquiries Tuesday.
Authorities are combing through the defendant’s history on Grindr and urging people to use caution with dating apps known for linking strangers in casual hookups. But David Kaiser, a first lieutenant with the Michigan State Police, says there is little they could have done to apprehend Latunski after his other hookups’ frightened exits. Police are worried that others involved in bondage activities at the house may be reluctant to come forward.
“If those are consensual and we don’t have a victim, then you don’t have a crime,” Kaiser said. “A lot of times what we’re learning is people within [the bondage] culture are very private and don’t want to share a lot of information.”
A dozen detectives and a criminal analyst are on the case, said Kaiser, trying to figure out how many people Latunski met on Grindr. So far, Kaiser said Tuesday, the only known victim is Bacon.
“He obviously got into something he wasn’t prepared for,” Karl Bacon told a local news station about his son after court documents revealed the grisly particulars of his son’s death. “We all make mistakes. It’s gut-wrenching to hear the details, and we’re just beside ourselves.”
The revelations showed a “dark side” that Kevin Bacon’s loved ones did not know, his father told KILX.
The search for Kevin Bacon began late last month when he didn’t show up for breakfast with family on Christmas, police say. Authorities eventually found Bacon’s car in a public parking lot and recovered his cellphone.
Police say Bacon’s conversations on Grindr, which caters to the LGBTQ community, led police to Latunski’s house. Early on Dec. 28, Latunski let troopers into the home and confessed after they found the secret room in the basement.
With the autopsy pending, authorities still aren’t sure when Bacon died, Kaiser said. But they know from Bacon’s roommate that he left his home in Swartz Creek, Michigan, on Dec. 24.
Latunski was arraigned Dec. 30 and has court date scheduled for Wednesday.
His neighbors in the village of Morrice – where the 2010 Census recorded a population of less than 1,000 – told WILX that the allegations against Latunski have unsettled their quiet community, made up mostly of farmers and hunters.
“That’s nasty,” one resident said of the reported cannibalism. “I can’t even imagine anybody doing something like that,” another remarked.
“I guess you never know who your neighbors are,” said one man who told WILX that he witnessed Latunski chase the man in the leather kilt.
Investigators have circled back to the two Grindr dates who were interviewed this fall after they fled Latunski’s house, according to state police. One is a 29-year-old from Lansing, the other a middle-aged man from New York.
Both men have not said anything that would give rise to more charges, according to Kaiser, and police learned that one even went back to Latunski’s house to spend several more days in the defendant’s company.
Latunski faced kidnapping charges in 2013, after allegedly not returning his children to his ex-wife at the agreed-upon time, Kaiser said. But hearings found him “incompetent to stand trial” and the charges were dismissed, court records show.
Divorce, custody and criminal records point to past concerns about Latunski’s mental health, the Associated Press reported, saying the defendant had a history of failing to take his prescribed medication.
Bacon’s death is not the first to stoke safety concerns about popular apps that connect strangers.
In one widely covered case from 2016, a man in London used dating apps geared toward young gay men, including Grindr, to find victims – drawing them to his flat to drug them and rape them after they had fallen unconscious, a jury found. The psychoactive drug was intentionally administered in fatal doses, the BBC reported, leading to the deaths of four men.
Bacon’s family has shared frustration with the app that allegedly led their son to his killer.
“They didn’t give us any info during the initial investigation,” Karl Bacon said, according to mlive.com. “There’s no regulation of law on how they operate and how accountable they are to people’s activities on their apps.”
Grindr said in a statement that it is “heartbroken and horrified” by what happened to Kevin Bacon and are “fully committed to working with law enforcement” but declined to comment on individual users, citing privacy reasons.
Grindr tells users to contact police if “things go wrong.”
“Give them all the facts,” the company says. “If you do not report this person, he in all likelihood will do it again to someone else.”
The Washington Post