Episode 30 | Kevin Bacon and the Deadly Grindr Date
This is a terrifying case that should have only existed in the pages of a horror book.
Months before the killing, two of Mark Latunski's Grindr dates had fled his basement bondage sessions in half-naked 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. Then in November, another date bolted from Latunski’s house wearing nothing but a leather kilt, telling authorities Latunski persuaded him to wear it for their kinky games— officers arrived as Latunski was chasing the terrified man down the street. He told authorities that he just wanted his pricey $300 piece of clothing back.
Sadly both men declined to press charges against Latunski, stating that their sexual activities with him were consensual and that they had simply gotten creeped out by him and his twisted play. It would be Latunski’s third and final act one month later in December that would not only bring an end to his morbid psychopathic obsessions, but also the end of another dates life and the beginning of a very very twisted story.
It was supposed to be a quick hookup. Meet the guy, have sex, return home. That was what Kevin Bacon told his roommate and best friend Michelle Myers.
At around 5 p.m. on December 24th, 2019, in Swartz Creek, Michigan — a suburb about 20 minutes southwest of Flint — Bacon, a 25-year-old hairdresser, headed out to meet a guy he met on Grindr, the dating and hookup app created predominantly for gay, bisexual, and transgender men. The plan was to meet at a Dollar store near Bacon’s home and then take the guy’s car back to his place. When Bacon pulled into the parking lot, Mark Latunski was casually leaning against his car texting on his phone. They exchanged pleasantries and started their date for the evening. Latunski had Bacon leave his phone and clothes behind in his car. He wouldn’t need them for what they had planned.
Latunski had prepared a selection of outfits for Bacon to wear in the car for the 30min drive to his Bennington Township home. Bacon picked out an outfit, stripped naked and climbed into the back of Latunski’s van. Then Latunski blindfolded him, put earmuffs and restraints on him and covered him with a blanket. Roleplaying and props were part of the hookup fantasy the two had agreed upon. And Latunski promised him it was safe- a promise he wouldn’t keep.
Bacon was upset. He was having family problems. After finishing work that afternoon at the salon across from his home, he met up with his sister and mother to do their hair. They mentioned that someone he wasn't crazy about seeing was coming for dinner, so he decided not to stick around, went home and looked for a distraction. He went on Grindr.
Myers and other of Bacon’s friends say this wasn’t abnormal behavior for Kevin. Like many young men, he often bragged to his friends about his casual relationships. But he also used sex to escape his problems. Among those problems, he hated being in the sleepy suburban town of Swartz Creek.
Standing over six feet tall with a husky build, Bacon’s flamboyant style stood out among the droves of suburbanites — he sometimes carried a purse, and he had an eye for designer clothes. Despite only being in his mid-20s, he was already sporting a receding hairline, and would often dye it bright and flamboyant colors. For Bacon 2019 had been a torturous year, but had started to turn it around. He was planning a move to Chicago to be closer to friends, and part of a more diverse gay community. But staying on a structured spending plan was not easy for Bacon, as he constantly struggled with money. So he was stuck in Swartz Creek, at least for now.
When he got back to the apartment he shared with Myers that Christmas Eve, he decided to look for a date. During his time scrolling on his phone, he and his roommate discussed her plans for the evening — a game night and some drinks at a friend’s place. It wasn’t long before Bacon found a hook-up with a guy who lived nearby. He got ready and left in his car shortly after 5 p.m. A Nest doorbell camera captured him walking out the door. He never came home.
The next day, after he missed Christmas breakfast with his family, his father called the police. For three days, friends, family, and authorities looked desperately for Bacon. The local news stations tagged along with the search. Friends came in from Flint and other nearby towns to scout railroads, brushes, and farmland. They thought if he were dead, he would be at least in a field somewhere or out in the open.
But while people searched open fields, Kevin Bacon was in the basement of a stone cottagein a rural area about 20 miles outside of town, hanging naked by his ankles from the rafters. His throat slit. The alleged assailant was his date, Mark Latunski, who would quickly confess to the crime. But the horrific details of his murder were much more chilling than his worried loved ones could ever have imagined.
Long before being arrested for a most heinous crime, Mark Latunski, a father of four, appeared to live a normal and productive life. After graduating from college in 1991, he interned for Dow Chemical, and four years later earned a master’s degree in chemistry from Iowa State. He worked as a formulary chemist developing environmentally-friendly inks and coatings and holds multiple patents for lithographic inks. His marriage began to unravel and he and his wife split in 2013. The ex-wife, told a divorce-court judge he had earned a good living — over $100,000 a year for a time, but his mental health began to slip. He received diagnoses on two occasions, in 2010 and 2012, and was determined to have a shopping list of issues including “severe, recurrent, and chronic major depression with psychotic features, adjustment disorder with depression and anxiety with paranoid schizophrenia, and borderline personality traits. According to reports of his divorce, his ex-wife claimed that he refused to take his medication, and when he was off it, he would act erratic — watching torture films, and at times threatening to kill his children’s pets.
After splitting from his wife Latunski began to frequent the dating app Grindr where he sought and ultimately forged a gay relationship. His profile photos on the dating app and other social media showed him posing in a leather kilt. One post saying “If I told you that I have underwear on with leather, would anyone believe me at this point? Never let your guard down lest you be fooled by a costume – perform a kilt-check and there is always a winner!!!! ?
He met Jamie Arnold on Grindr and the two fell in love and married in 2016. Before long however the marriage was on the rocks. According to Arnold, at times he would go home to find someone there having sex with Latunski… Latunski tried to get him to join but he refused. He finally had enough and had to get out- unable to take that lifestyle anymore.
Like many suburban towns on the outskirts of tertiary cities, Swartz Creek is notable for its simplicity. People who live there often mention its small-town living with proximity to a bigger city, Flint MI, which is a short drive away.
Driving in, you pass through acres and acres of farmland. The city brims over with strip malls and country-styled restaurants. A dilapidated water tower along Miller Road, the city’s main drag, bears the city’s name and is worn from the decades of rain and snow. The Swartz creek waterway edges along the city, landscaping the backyards of ranch homes set against long gravel driveways. Small duplexes with tiny, manicured lawns become more prominent as it gets closer to the city’s main center.
A couple miles more, passing the dollar stores, dive bars, and strip malls, and you come to a large mall, The Genesee Commons, which housed the JC Penney where Kevin Bacon had started as a receptionist, working his way up to hair stylist.
The job was a calling to him. In high school, he tested out new hairdos on his girlfriends. And though he gave a valiant effort, they sometimes felt trepidation when Bacon got experimental. Still, he became experienced enough where he sometimes did a friend’s son’s hair, and eventually his roommate. It wasn’t what his father, Karl, a packaging engineer, wanted him to pursue, according to Kevin’s friends. Kevin told them Karl expected him to go into a technical trade, and forego the pie-in-the-sky sentimentalities of being a famous hairdresser.
So, Bacon started out by going to local Baker College — he had gotten into his dream school, Eastern Michigan University, but he couldn’t afford the $200 housing deposit, his friends say. But even during college, his roommate recalls, Bacon was always fond of doing hair. So, he dropped out and got his cosmetology license.
Eventually, Bacon went back to school, this time at the University of Michigan-Flint, working hair gigs on the side, and even holding down a brief stint at the college’s Center for Gender and Sexuality in 2019. He seemed to be working toward a future he could be proud of.
But he had a troubled side, too. According to his friends, Bacon had a history of depression and body-image issues, sometimes spiraling to the point of causing self-harm. He would eat his emotions, alternating between starving himself and binging, or cut himself on his legs and arms. And he was triggered into dangerous situations. Myers, his roommate, remembers going to see A Star Is Born in October 2018. She says he was “out of it” after watching the hanging scene. The next day, he overdosed on pills and had to get his stomach pumped. A month later, his mother took him back to the hospital after he said he didn’t feel safe.
In November 2019, Bacon cut himself so many times that “you couldn’t see his skin,” Myers recalls. Two weeks later, he again checked himself into a psychiatric treatment center.
Part of the way he dealt with his depression was by finding new partners online. But Bacon’s emotional life was complicated even more by his relationships. His friends say the men he dated often psychologically abused him. One man aggressively accused Bacon of cheating and another seemed to just be using him for rides. The two men were examples of “projects, that Bacon often attracted, broken men that he hoped to fix.
However these failed relationships pushed him deeper into depression according to friends in Chicago. When Bacon visited, they partied in the city’s gay district, Boys Town, and Bacon vowed to move to the city. But after returning back to Swartz Creek, he again struggled to manage his finances, slipped into a state of depression, and went searching online for another person he could love and fix.
Maybe it was the gory detailsof the case that drew media attention, or his famous name that made it such a compelling story. The murder drew international headlines — and it didn’t take long for local outlets to find out that there might have been signs this was coming. Bacon was the third man, it turned out, who’d allegedly been attacked by Mark Latunksi.
On October 10th, 2019, James Carlsen, called 911, claiming that he’d been kidnapped and awoken in the basement. “I met this guy,” Carlsen said on the phone, exasperated. “I’m bi. He’s cute. He hit on me. I don’t know, we went out to the car and talked. We went to the store, had a soda. I woke up in the basement.”
Carlsen told the operator he’d been chained up, and freed himself using a butcher knife to cut off the leather strap that bound his wrists. He escaped the house — butcher knife in hand — and stole his captor’s car keys before running down Tyrell Road, a three-mile stretch that runs parallel to Interstate 69.
“I’ve never ever had anything like this happen,” he told the operator after he ran. “I don’t know if he drugged me. All is know is, I ended up locked up in the fucking basement, OK? Chained in the basement.” Within 10 minutes, troopers arrived to find Carlsen on the side of the road. Carlsen told officers the man was a stranger. Oddly, perhaps out of shame, he declined to press charges.
Soon a fuller version of his story came to light when, in June 2020, Carlsen filed a federal lawsuit against Latunski: in it, Carlsen claimed that he had taken a bus from New York to Michigan explicitly to have sex with Latunski. But when he got there, “Latunski chained him up in his basement and held him captive,” the court complaint read.
Six weeks after Carlsen’s run-in with Latunski, on the afternoon of November 25th, a 29-year-old man ran out of the same home and called 9-1-1. He escaped wearing nothing but a leather kilt that belonged to Latunski, Latunski chasing after him. “I’m trying to get away from some creepy guy; he had me tied up in his basement,” the man told the operator, according to an audio recording released by the county.“He’s after me.” Soon after, he ran to a neighbor’s home, pleading with them to give him an address he could give to the police.
A state trooper showed up at the neighbor’s house, but oddly once again no charges were filed. (The state police spokesperson later told the local papers that Latunski was only chasing the man because the leather kilt was expensive.) Again, despite the frantic calls of 2 men complaining of being chained and held captive, police played down the seriousness, and said that nobody wanted officers involved.
State police officials say there was nothing they could do at the time of either incident, because the two men chose not to press charges. They believe that’s because the victims wanted to keep the events of those nights secret. Nobody wanted to file charges “A lot of times people have a professional life and personal life. They don’t want to intertwine the two. Their personal life is very secret, very protected. according to a police source involved with the case.
It appears officers dropped Carlsen off at a gas station with no money or way to get back home, and didn’t inquire any further into what happened. It’s been suggested that had Carlsen not been a gay man, the situation would have been treated differently.
“There should have been further investigation, more follow up. Just some basic police work, could have changed this whole situation. And Kevin Bacon might still be alive. It seems the Gay Card may have played a very unfortunate role in the outcome. Why wasn’t [Latunski] questioned further? Is it because it’s just gay guys doing kinki stuff in a basement? What would have happened if a girl was chained in the basement and ran out of there? Even if she said don’t worry about it, most likely the police would have investigated it further.
In some cases, where people live together or are in an intimate relationship, the state can file charges on their own. But that wouldn’t necessarily happen with people who just met on a casual hookup, according to one county prosecutor. a hookup or casual meeting from an app, wouldn’t have triggered the police to force an investigation or arrest.
In cases of stranger assault such as this, police do have the ability to persuade victims to press charges however there is a limit to how much the police can do without a complaining or cooperating witness.
But even if police had launched an investigation, there are those who say that it may not have made a difference, because assault cases — especially those with reluctant witnesses — are difficult to prosecute, and often result in little jail time. Michigan assault convictions can carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison but without a witnesses complaint, convictions become much less likely.
There will always be the argument that if police had investigated the first 2 cases more thoroughly, then Kevin Bacon wouldn’t be dead, which in itself makes a lot of problematic assumptions. If there had been an arrest, there would have been a prosecution. And if there had been a prosecution, there would have been a conviction. And if there had been a conviction, there would have been incarceration, and there would have been incarceration for enough time that he would not have interacted with the other men that he interacted with.” But it’s impossible to know what would have happened if Latunski been arrested sooner.
It was Christmas Eve., and when Latunski and Bacon arrived at Latunski’s home, the roleplaying continued as did the sexual intimacy. It ended in Latunski’s basement.
According to Latunski, Kevin Bacon had explained to him that he had been suicidal in the past and the discussion began about how Latunski could help end Bacon’s suffering and make his body disappear.
After the two had sex in the basement, Latunski stabbed Kevin Bacon in the back of the neck at the hairline. To ensure he didn’t feel any more pain, Latunski, using a mechanical device attached to the rafters in his basement, hoisted Bacon up by his ankles and slit his throat to drain the blood from his body. Latunski later stated that Bacon asked him to use a sword to kill him, but Latunski told investigators that he used a knife instead because the believed it would make Bacon’s death painless.
Strung up in Latunski’s kill room, Bacon’s blood drained onto the dirt under an open trap door, set up so the body fluids could fertilize the plants outside the house according to investigators. Latunski then cooked and ate a part of Bacon’s body (which I can’t bear to repeat) apparently because he believed it was appropriate due to it being a new moon. Then, he carried out the rest of what Latunski claims was their agreement. As a result of ending his life that he was going to utilize Kevin Bacon’s body for different things. It seems Latunski had detailed plans on how to fully utilize Bacon’s body. He was to use bone meal to plant tulips, his intestines to grow chestnuts or peach pits and he would use his muscles to make jerky, according to court filings. In a chilling addition to the already gruesome tale, just days after the arrest, the U.S. Postal Service intercepted a package bound for Latunski’s address. Upon opening it they discovered a food dehydrator- perfect for making jerky.
As the search continued for Kevin his car was finally discovered where he’d left it in the parking lot 3 days before. In it his cell phone and clothes in a shopping bag. It didn’t take long for authorities to work out who Kevin Bacon was with on Christmas Eve., and where he most likely was.
When Michigan State Police Det. Robert Viviano along with 4 other officers arrived at Latunski’s home late at night on December 27th, Latunski answered the door in a leather kilt, He didn’t appear nervous and allowed authorities to search the house and property.
Detective Viviano made his way downstairs into the basement and with his body bumped open a door to a hidden room. When he peeked around the corner he saw the stuff of nightmares. Like something out of the most bone-chilling horror movie, Bacon’s lifeless body was strung up like meat in a slaughterhouse. Viviano screamed, 'Oh my God! Oh my God!” and staggered away from the horror show. He yelled out to another officer to arrest Latunski. Resigned to his fate, he was immediately handcuffed with no resistance and made no hesitation to begin confessing to the crime and all the gory details.
After being read his rights, Latunski told them everything. Including his detailed and gruesome plans for Bacon’s corpse.
He was charged with two felonies: homicide and mutilation of a dead body. Initially, he used aliases, including Wilk Olykos Vilkas a vanity name he used on a site called Rent Men. He later claimed he was really Edgar Thomas Hill from the Thomas Clan of Wales, but he’d changed his name to Mark Latunski for his own protection. Suffice to say he’s a full-blown nutter.
In a request for mental evaluation, his attorney cited a slip from reality. Just a slip!? “The Defendant is so overwhelmingly fixated on a conspiracy theory involving multiple nations and involved in multiple trust accounts,” he wrote in the request for a forensic evaluation.
Initially, despite Latunski claiming that Bacon had asked him to end his life, and that he’d slit his throat as part of that agreement, the evidence showed that Bacon had taken precautions to protect himself: police recovered messages from Bacon’s phone asking his date to confirm to him that he would be safe. Latunski’s lawyer, Douglas Corwin, later tried to add a charge of assisted suicide, to assert this claim; but the judge denied his request.
In January 2020, Corwin entered an insanity plea for Latunski; that February, a judge ruled he was incapable of standing trial. But that October, the court reversed the decision, saying he was able to start trial proceedings. His trial is set to begin in July 2021; he is facing life in prison.
Since Bacon disappeared, there have been at least two other known cases where men died after meeting other men on hookup apps, including one in Berlin, where a teacher allegedly cannibalized his date after meeting him on Grindr.
In December, family and friends of Bacon’s went to Flint Rock to paint a mural in his honor.