Both men declined to press charges against Latunski, police said. They said that their sexual activities with him were consensual and that they had 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 from 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 had 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, who has not responded to inquiries from The Washington Post, is seeking an insanity defense and has described a litany of past mental health issues, according to court records.
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,” his father, Karl Bacon, told a local news station 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.”
He told WILX that the revelations showed a “dark side” that Kevin Bacon’s loved ones did not know. Family members have described a top student and a talented hairstylist with a hummingbird tattoo in honor of his grandmother.
“He loved and cherished everyone he touched,” Karl Bacon added.
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.
Bacon’s conversations on Grindr, which caters to the LGBTQ community, led them to Latunski’s house, police say. 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 exactly when Bacon died, Kaiser said. But they know from Bacon’s roommate that he left his home in Swartz Creek, Mich., on Christmas Eve.
Latunski was arraigned Dec. 30 and had his second court appearance by video Wednesday morning as a judge approved his public defender’s motions for forensic and criminal responsibility evaluations, according to mlive.com. Attorney Douglas E. Corwin Jr. also submitted his insanity defense, the news organization reported.
Corwin pointed in a court filing to past concerns about the defendant’s state of mind. Latunski has at least four mental health commitments on record, and his husband left him “fearing for his life” as his mental issues worsened, Corwin said.
Latunski is “fixated on a conspiracy theory involving multiple nations/countries and … multiple trust accounts,” the lawyer said. Corwin states the defendant also believes that he is a “noble person from the Thomas Clan of Wales” and that Mark Latunski is a cover for his true identity, Edgar Thomas Hill.
Latunski faced kidnapping charges in 2013, after allegedly failing to return his children to his ex-wife at the agreed-upon time, according to police. But hearings found him “incompetent to stand trial,” and the charges were dismissed, court records show.
In April of 2014, though, Latunski was found competent, Corwin noted.
Latunski’s neighbors in the village of Morrice — where the 2010 Census recorded a population of fewer than 1,000 — told WILX that the allegations in Bacon’s death 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.
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 is “fully committed to working with law enforcement,” but it declined to comment on individual users, citing privacy reasons.
The company offers safety tips for its clientele, echoing some of the advice that authorities are giving in the wake of Kevin Bacon’s death. Suggestions from Michigan State Police include meeting dates in public places and telling friends and family where you’re going and when you’ll be home.
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.”