Updated: Aug 20, 2022
Dakota James was a grad student at Duquesne University in 2017. He had a bright future ahead of him and it seemed like everything in his life was going well. No one could ever have guessed that the evening of January 25 would be the last time anyone would see Dakota alive. His body was discovered in the Ohio River six weeks after he was reported missing. Was this some terrible accident? A suicide? A hate crime? Or maybe even tied to similar cases in the area, hinting at a possible serial killer at large? Whatever happened, his family has yet to get all of their questions answered.
*Please see corrections and additions from this episode below the description section.
Birth: 6/21/1993 - Death: (Officially listed as) 3/6/2017
Ethnicity: Caucasian - Sex: Male
Hometown: Frederick/Jefferson, MD / Was residing in Pittsburgh, PA - Allegheny County
Crime Scene: Primary scene unknown, body found in Ohio River in suburb of Pittsburgh
Last Known Location Alive: Katz Plaza in the Cultural District, Pittsburgh
Injury Description: Possible signs of ligature strangulation, drowning
Suspect Description: Unknown
Additional Information: It has been theorized that Dakota's death is part of the Smiley Face murders, but police do not agree that foul play with involved
Corrections and additions: After speaking with a source close to the case, we'd like to add a few important things. Dakota was not thrown out of both bars and his gait in the surveillance footage was apparently not consistent with being drunk. This source is also adamant that Dakota would not have peed in public, so that theory seems absurd. The Bring Our Missing Home organization aided in the family's many searches. Detective Gannon and Dr. Wecht were contacted early on by the family and samples were advised to be taken from Dakota's body by Dr. Wecht before cremation. The source also points to Mike Fuoco's podcast for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as being the most factual account, as he worked closely with Dakota's parents (you can listen to it here).
The Smiley Face Killers: Dakota James Press Conference Dec 13th, 2018 Podcast format (May 23, 2022)
Smiley Face Killers: The Hunt for Justice s1e1 Dakota James Jan 2019
Three Rivers. Two Mysteries Podcast by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Oct 2017 (Mike Fuoco, Writer/Host Ashley Murray, Producer)