ShareThis Page
TV documentary series featuring Dakota James case premieres Saturday |

TV documentary series featuring Dakota James case premieres Saturday

Megan Guza
| Thursday, January 17, 2019 5:30 a.m
Dakota James

The television documentary series purporting Duquesne University student Dakota James was the victim of something more than an accidental drowning premieres 7 p.m. Saturday on the Oxygen Network.

The series, called “Smiley Face Killers: The Hunt for Justice,” chronicles retired New York City detective Kevin Gannon and colleagues as they work to link the deaths of “hundreds of college-aged men (who) have mysteriously drowned after a night out drinking with friends,” according to the series description.

The name comes from smiley face graffiti found near some of the bodies.

Dakota James, 23, disappeared from Downtown Pittsburgh on Jan. 25, 2017, after a night out with coworkers. Security cameras picked up some of his movements after he parted ways with friends, showing him walking through Katz Plaza in the Cultural District onto Scott Place. He was heading toward Fort Duquesne Boulevard, and no cameras showed him after that.

Investigators have theorized he was heading toward his home on the North Side.

His body was found March 6 in the Ohio River near Neville Island. The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that Dakota James drowned in what they determined to be an accident.

The James family – along with Gannon, his team, and forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht – announced last month that they believe the documentary’s investigation has turned up new evidence of foul play, including an alleged ligature mark on Dakota James’ neck.

“The police never led us to believe that foul play took place at all,” Pamela James says in the trailer. “Once Dakota was found, we spoke with the detectives that day, we did a (press) conference the next day … but after that, we’ve never heard from the detectives again.”

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, or via Twitter .

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.