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Parents of Dakota James announce new investigation into son's death

PITTSBURGH — The parents of Dakota James, a Duquesne University student whose body was found in the Ohio River in 2017, announced Thursday a new investigation into their son’s death.

James’ parents announced that a team of retired New York City Police Department detectives and independent experts from Pittsburgh will investigate the 23-year-old’s death.

James went missing from downtown Pittsburgh in January 2017. His body was found in the river in Robinson Township in March 2017.

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The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled James’ death an accidental drowning, a finding his family disputes. They believe James’ death was homicide.

A detective said Thursday that there was a ligature mark on James’ neck that is not consistent with an accidental drowning. He believes James was strangled.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht, who was hired by the James family after the death was ruled an accidental drowning, spoke during the announcement. He said he has viewed photos of the mark.

James’ parents said the medical examiner should have made the cause of death “undetermined” instead of accidental.

James, who was originally from Maryland, had lived in Pittsburgh since August 2015, when he moved to the area to earn his Master of Business Administration degree at Duquesne University.