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Body of missing fashion designer, Pine-Richland grad found

Jay Ott, a high-profile New York fashion designer who graduated from Pine-Richland High School.

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Friday, May 9, 2014, 7:30 p.m.

The search for a Pine-Richland High School graduate who became a high-profile fashion designer came to an end in New York City.

The body of James Ott, 31, known as “Jay,” was found floating on Thursday in New York Bay near 58th Street in Bay Ridge, New York police Lt. Paul Ng said.

The lieutenant said Friday the New York City Medical Examiner's Office will have to determine how Ott died. A spokeswoman for the medical examiner did not return calls.

Ng said there was no immediate indication of foul play.

“There's nothing pointing in that direction right now, but the investigation is still continuing,” he said.

Ott was reported missing on March 24 when he did not show up for work. Police at the time said he was last seen during the early morning hours of March 23 when he left his apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Scores of friends such as actresses Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and retired Pine-Richland High School English teacher Lisa Erb began sending messages about Ott's disappearance on social media sites in hopes that someone would recognize him and call police.

Ott's family, who could not be reached, went to New York to help coordinate a civilian search effort that had friends and co-workers putting posters of him at subway stations throughout the city.

Erb was deeply saddened when she learned through social media that Ott's body had been found.

“It's just unbelievable. My heart breaks for his family,” Erb said. “I can't believe he's not around to make the world as beautiful as he did.”

Ott, a 2001 graduate of Pine-Richland, attended classes at the University of Cincinnati.

According to the New York Times, Ott worked for a year behind the scenes on established brands such as the Row, the luxury label by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and J. Mendel. He served as a design director, according to the Times, at the Dock Group for two of the lines under its umbrella, Crippen and Rosetta Getty.

Erb said she talked to Ott several times a year and spoke to him about three weeks before he disappeared.

“He just got back from (a fashion show in) Paris and was very happy, very upbeat,” Erb said.

She said she was aware of various published reports in New York that Ott suffered from anxiety but said she never saw any signs of it.

“That was not like him at all, not even close,” Erb said.

Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7820 or



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