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Dakota James: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Dakota James
Dakota James

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Dakota James

Dakota James was a 23-year-old Pennsylvania school scholar and aspiring lawyer whose physique was discovered within the Ohio River after he disappeared whereas strolling residence to his condo following an evening out with associates.

His case is one in every of a string of drownings of younger males all through the USA that a group of former cops and a professor allege is a part of a “smiley face” serial killer gang. The Oxygen channel is operating a collection concerning the principle referred to as Smiley Face Killers: The Hunt For Justice. The dying of Dakota James is one among six instances which might be highlighted in this system.

To make certain, the smiley face serial killer principle is unproven, and regulation enforcement businesses in numerous jurisdictions have repudiated the declare that the drowning deaths are related (or that no less than a few of them may be), assessing numerous deaths across the nation as accidents and sometimes sustaining that alcohol – nights of heavy consuming – are the trigger. Nevertheless, since 1997, because the deaths accrued across the nation – from New York to Wisconsin – retired New York Police Detective Kevin Gannon has spearheaded an investigation furthering the idea that a gang is killing younger, athletic, academically gifted males, drowning them in rivers, after which leaving scrawled smiley faces at a few of the scenes.

The present will premiere on January 19, 2019 at 7 pm. ET/PT. The opposite instances featured on the Oxygen channel present are the deaths of Tommy Sales space, additionally in Pennsylvania; Lucas Homan in Wisconsin; Todd Geib in Michigan; William Hurley in Massachusetts; and Brian Welzien in Illinois.

Right here’s what you want to know concerning the dying of Dakota James:


1. Dakota James Was Final Seen Getting into a Darkish Alley

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Dakota James

The dying of Dakota James follows the sample of many of those deaths. Age 23, he disappeared round 11:30 p.m. on January 25, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

“James was walking back to his apartment after a night out drinking with friends and co-workers. He never made it home. The last known sighting of the Duquesne University graduate student was caught on a surveillance camera in the downtown area,” studies Oxygen. “The footage captured James entering a dark alley, and that was the last time he was seen alive.”

The next morning, his household filed a lacking individual’s report when he didn’t present up for work. “James’ parents later hired a private investigator who organized a massive citywide search, which led to the discovery of James’ body in the Ohio River on March 6, 2017, 40 days after he had disappeared,” the channel reviews. “The Pittsburgh police theorized James fell into the river while crossing a bridge near the city center and drowned. They believed his body traveled for almost 10 miles and even went through a dam before its discovery.”

Nevertheless, claims Oxygen: “James’ body, however, had almost no visible damage, which was highly suspicious because it had traveled through heavily trafficked river. A smiley face was found spray painted on an underpass near where James’ body was discovered.”


2. The Drowning Deaths Occurred in ‘Clusters’ Across the Nation

In a information launch and e mail, the Oxygen Channel laid out the core of the smiley face serial killer concept.

“Since 1997, hundreds of college-aged men have mysteriously drowned, and their bodies have been found in clusters around the country, and the victims are eerily similar – they’re all athletic, academic achievers,” in accordance to Oxygen.

“In addition, near where many of the bodies are recovered is one distinct mark: graffiti of a smiley face.T he series follows an active private investigation spearheaded by retired NYPD Detective Kevin Gannon and his veteran team of investigators as they work with victims’ families and top forensic experts to further investigate.”

Oxygen calls the drowning deaths the “country’s most notorious string of mysterious, accidental drownings” and alleges that they is probably not accidents, “but homicides; and they could all be connected to a larger theory of The Smiley Face Killers.”

The lads vanished after “a night out drinking with friends,” stories Oxygen. Together with Gannon, the investigators embrace Anthony Duarte, Mike ‘Mikey’ Donovan and D. Lee ‘Doc’ Gilbertson, “who have dedicated the past 12 years of their retirement to finding justice for these cases.”

Oxygen acknowledges that “all of the drownings have been individually classified as accidental or undetermined and have not been investigated as possibly related crimes. There are grieving families of these young men who are convinced that there is something more sinister at play, and desperately search for answers with Gannon and the team. Their goal is to gather enough evidence to convince local authorities to reclassify and investigate these deaths as homicides. Only then can the team attempt to establish a possible connection between these deaths to further their theory that the young men are victims of a calculated group known as The Smiley Face Killers.”

A 2008 article in Milwaukee Journal dug deeper into the idea. At the moment, Gannon and his workforce had launched a media blitz to achieve foreign money for the idea after deaths occurred in Wisconsin and Minnesota, gathering heavy information protection in these states.

Reported Milwaukee Journal: “After three months of research into the case, Milwaukee Magazine has learned a gang called the ‘Dealers of Death’ claims involvement in the deaths of some of these men. Convicted murderer Jeramy Alford, who is also a suspect in a river death that police now believe is a homicide, told the FBI last year that the gang had murdered 40 of the men. One admitted gang member: a man nicknamed ‘Zmiley.’” Though native cops stated they’d run throughout the Sellers of Demise earlier than, nevertheless, no fees have ever been introduced towards Alford or members of that group in affiliation with any of the river deaths. (Alford has been in jail since 2006 and, thus, couldn’t have dedicated numerous alleged smiley face murders, together with that of James.)

“In a letter obtained by Milwaukee Magazine, the FBI said there’s no evidence the gang exists, but admits Alford discussed the gang,” the article reported. In accordance to The New York Publish, Gannon first turned suspicious after the demise of a younger man in 1997. Patrick McNeill left a New York Metropolis bar and his physique was discovered floating by a Brooklyn pier.

Gilbertson, who’s an professional in spatial evaluation, discovered patterns in river deaths all through the nation, together with the truth that, at the moment, “94 percent of the deaths occurred within 100 miles of Interstate 94. The men are generally fit, good-looking, Caucasian, in their 20s, and separated from friends after nights in bars or parties. A few vanished after leaving dorms. Most are drunk. Most turn up dead in rivers or lakes, and with no obvious trauma.” The staff advised the information media again then that that they had discovered 22 smiley faces.

“The smiley faces are rudimentary, mostly drawn in white paint. Some have three-pointed crowns. Nine have horns. A red smiley face was reportedly found in a drainage ditch in the March 2007 death of Abel Bolanos, 19, a college student found in an Iowa lake. It reads: ‘Evil Happy Smiley Face Man.’ The detectives claim they have 12 pieces of matching evidence, including nicknames left at scenes,” the journal reported.

One case that stands out however isn’t featured on the Oxygen collection is that of Chris Jenkins, a Burlington, Wisconsin man who was discovered within the Mississippi River after an evening out consuming in Minneapolis.

Way back to 2002, The New York Occasions was reporting: “Young People Are Missing; Authorities Are Baffled.” That article reported that Jenkins was one among 4 younger males who drowned in rivers in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The article described Jenkins as “a senior and co-captain and goalie of the lacrosse team at the University of Minnesota. Dressed as an American Indian, he had gone to a Halloween party at the Lone Tree Bar and Grill.” For years, police within the Jenkins’ case wouldn’t say that Jenkins died from foul play. Nevertheless, in 2006, they did a surprising about-face.

In 2006, The Related Press reported that police introduced Jenkins “was thrown off a bridge in downtown Minneapolis …they apologized for first suspecting his death was a suicide or accident.” The reason for dying had initially been listed as undetermined. Nevertheless, though that they had a suspect in thoughts on the time, nobody was ever charged. “Chris’ death at this time is not linked to any of these other deaths, especially there’s quite a few involving college students,” Sgt. Pete Jackson advised the AP at the moment. “I have been contacted today quite a bit by other agencies from around the Midwest. We’ve had several deaths involving college students. But there’s nothing at this time to connect Chris’ death between the others.”

Nevertheless, authorities’ reclassification of the Jenkins’ dying as a murder has helped gasoline the serial killer concept.


three. An Unbiased Examination of the Dakota James’ Post-mortem Photographs Has Challenged Authorities’ Findings

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Dakota James

The household of Dakota James can also be not shopping for the official line that their son died by chance.

In accordance to the Pittsburgh Publish-Gazette, the unbiased post-mortem within the Dakota James’ case discovered that James “may have been strangled and did not die accidentally as law enforcement contends.” The brand new declare was revealed in mid December 2018 at a information convention. Authorities had dominated his demise an accident.

“Today we are here to say that our son, Dakota, did not get drunk, cross four lanes of a highway, a cement barrier, walk down approximately 30 steps to urinate, to then accidentally fall in the river,” James’ mom, Pam James, stated on the information convention, the newspaper reported. “To us this is a homicide, and we will continue to look for the answers on why and by whom.”

At their aspect on the information convention: Gannon and the outstanding forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht, who stated on the press convention that he observed ligature marks within the post-mortem photographs. “There is no question about there being markings,” Dr. Wecht stated, in accordance to The Submit-Gazette. “We would describe these as furrows that would be consistent with some kind of a ligature – we cannot tell you exactly what – but the markings are there, they are clearly discernible…”


four. Dakota James Was a School Scholar & Authorities Have Contested the New Findings

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Dakota James

On the time of his demise, James was a university scholar at Duquesne College.

Amie Downs, communication official, responded on behalf of the medical expert’s workplace and informed TribLive of the post-mortem claims that no new proof had been provided to the workplace “including any physical evidence that the James’ family has indicated they have.”

A spokesperson for the Allegheny County District Lawyer Stephen A. Zappala advised TribLive: “It has become clear to us that based on the evidence in the original file and the conversations with Pam (James’ mother), there is nothing more that our office can do at this point to assist her, and that has been communicated to her.”

There’s a Fb web page devoted to Dakota James’ reminiscence. It hasn’t been up to date since 2017, although, when his physique was discovered, and it was initially created when he was nonetheless lacking. Earlier than he was discovered, the web page stated, “Circumstances: Dakota went missing after happy hour drinks with co workers. He’s not had any cell phone activity and hasn’t shown up to work. His family is extremely worried and ask if you have any info, or see him.”


5. James’ Household Has Began a Basis in His Reminiscence

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Dakota James

James’ mother and father have began a basis in his reminiscence referred to as The Dakota James Basis. The web site says:

Our son, Dakota James, 23 went lacking in Pittsburgh, PA on Wednesday, January 25, 2017 and his physique was discovered within the Ohio River on Monday, March 6, 2017. He labored full-time, lived on his personal, and was attending school full-time to earn his grasp’s diploma in a metropolis he liked. He was very lively in swimming, operating, biking, and beloved music and dancing. He loved life to the fullest and trusted everybody. His future plans included attending regulation faculty, touring, getting married, and beginning a household.

By no means in our wildest goals did we ever assume we might get the decision to say your son is lacking. We struggled each day making an attempt to discover answers-running into purple tape and contradicting insurance policies of native businesses and unresponsive authority figures. We didn’t know the place to flip for assist.

We would like to make modifications in order that this doesn’t occur to the subsequent household of a lacking individual.

The inspiration says its mission is to encourage “collaboration to ensure public safety through improved surveillance, police procedures and cooperation, raising awareness and supporting families of a missing person.”