Despite claims to the contrary, Kansas City Chiefs fan Jordan Willis was not nicknamed “the chemist” for manufacturing drugs in high school, a source close to him told Fox News Digital, shooting back at theories implicating the career scientist in his three friends’ deaths.
Clayton McGeeney, 36, Ricky Johnson, 38, and David Harrington, 37, were discovered frozen and dead in his Kansas City backyard on Jan. 9, two days after they were all last seen alive inside Willis’ house for an NFL watch party.
The men’s loved ones have come forward with theories that Willis played an active role in their demise, with McGeeney’s cousin Caleb McGeeney telling NewsNation that “all [Willis’] friends knew him” as “the chemist.”
“Jordan’s ‘the chemist,’ bro. Jordan’s ‘the chemist,'” Caleb McGeeney said. “It was easy for them to go have fun, but he f—ed up, he made a mistake.”
But the source close to Willis insisted that he had never been referred to by that name, and that the career scientist is “not a chemist by trade.”
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“He’s a computational data scientist for HIV vaccine research. His work is solely on computers and he works from home,” the source told Fox News Digital on Monday.
“It is incredibly disappointing that his job is being used against him to further the real-life Walter White-type narrative that people are trying to create,” the source said, referring to Bryan Cranston’s TV character in AMC drama Breaking Bad, a dispirited high school science teacher who uses his chemistry knowledge to become a drug lord after a stage-three cancer diagnosis.
The source also remarked that Willis came from a military family with loving parents who “most definitely” would have noticed and intervened if he was “making drugs in the house in high school.”
“Ruining Jordan’s reputation and his life in a smear campaign as some sort of revenge will not bring these families peace, especially without any evidence from the police department to support what they are saying,” the source said.
Moreover, the source accused the family members of shifting their story, remarking that “grief is not an open-ended excuse to say whatever you want in a public forum without consequences.”
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“At first they said they don’t know Jordan, that the men didn’t do drugs, so they must have been murdered, or poisoned or dragged out of the house, or they must have seen something they shouldn’t have seen,” the source close to Willis said Monday. “Then when initial toxicology came out, it was that they would have been peer pressured.”
“Now, out of nowhere, the story is that the men have known him since high school as ‘the chemist’ and Jordan has supplied or made drugs for them since then. Which is it? It’s completely absurd,” they continued.
The Kansas City Police Department has asserted that there is no foul play suspected in their deaths, telling Fox News Digital that they are “100 percent not being investigated as homicide[s].”
But family members of the three deceased men have questioned how Willis managed not to notice the men’s three bodies feet from his back porch – Willis’ attorney has claimed that his client was sleeping for much of the period between when he allegedly saw the three men out his front door and when McGeeney’s fiancée found one of the men’s bodies outside and alerted police.
Ricky Johnson’s brother Jonathan Price questioned how a man who is “responsible enough to gain a Ph.D.” in “what seems like a very complicated science” could “sleep all day on a Monday” in an interview with Fox & Friends last month.
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Willis graduated with a Ph.D. in chemical and physical biology from Vanderbilt University in 2014, his attorney John Picerno has confirmed to Fox News Digital. He previously studied chemistry and molecular biology at Northwest Missouri State University.
According to an interview that Willis gave to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative’s website in 2022, he is the senior principal scientist at the IAVI Neutralizing Antibody Center in Kansas City.
But on Monday, the source close to Willis told Fox News Digital that “anyone who can’t imagine how he could have been totally out of it and sleeping and not aware of his surroundings for two days is, fortunately, not familiar with what a drug and alcohol bender looks like.”
“He’s lucky to be alive,” the source said of Willis.
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While many Chiefs fans spent Sunday evening celebrating their team’s Super Bowl win with a beer in hand, Willis was at an inpatient rehab facility, a source close to his family previously told Fox News Digital. He allegedly checked into the program soon after his friends’ deaths, but continues to cooperate with police, the source said.
“Jordan went to rehab because he wanted to save his own life. This was not a legal strategy – it was a wake-up call,” the source said on Monday. “Having three close friends pass away outside his house without his knowledge was a true rock-bottom moment and something he’ll be working through for the rest of his life.”
The source said Willis has struggled with alcoholism and depression throughout his adult life. His bad habits lessened when he lived around “like-minded scientists” in San Diego while completing his post-doctorate, the source said. But the 38-year-old allegedly backslid when he moved back to Kansas City to care for his father, who has a mid-stage Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
“Moving back to Kansas City hasn’t been good for his mental and physical health, and he’d slipped back into old habits after feeling more isolated working from home,” the source said. “He started spending more time with his high school friends when he moved back, after being gone for over 10 years.”
“Grief is not an open-ended excuse to say whatever you want in a public forum without consequences.”
Findings of a preliminary toxicology report shared with the men’s family members indicate that THC, cocaine and lethal levels of fentanyl were found in their systems. But Harrington’s stepmother told NewsNation that these findings didn’t bring their family closure:
“What matters is that he didn’t take that to die,” his stepmother Theresa Harrington told NewsNation. “He didn’t take that to die – if he took the drugs on his own, he took them to get high.”
But on Monday, the source close to Willis insisted that “these men all made poor decisions that evening.”
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“I’m angry that this happened and I’m really sorry that these men lost their lives,” the source said. “But as a friend wanting to protect him and help him back to the right path, no one deserves this kind of viciousness in a case that is still under investigation for all the world to see.”
“There’s a plausible, extremely likely explanation for why he never knew they were out there that people don’t seem to get,” the source continued.
When full autopsy and toxicology reports are available and police complete their forensic investigation of electronic devices — at least two of the men’s families have been asked for their son’s phone passwords — the Platte County Prosecutor’s Office will decide whether criminal charges should be filed against Willis or Alex Weamer-Lee, a fifth party guest who left Willis’ house alive on the night of Jan. 7.