• Family of Dakota James believe he was strangled before death

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    PITTSBURGH - The family of a Pittsburgh man whose body was recovered from the Ohio River after he was reported missing for several days believe there is more to the case.

    Dakota James was a student at Duquesne University when he was reported missing in January of 2017. His body was discovered in March of that year and his death ruled an accidental drowning.

    Channel 11 will continue to follow the investigation into Dakota James' death. Download the WPXI News App for the latest updates.

    But his parents said they believe something more nefarious is at play.

    Dakota's parents hired their own investigative team to look into his death and their work was filmed for a show called 'The Smiley Face Killers' that's creating a lot of buzz.

    The show follows a team of retired detectives who are investigating the deaths of young men found drowned in similar patterns across the country. 

    They believe these deaths, including Dakota's, could be the work of a group of serial killers who always leave a smiley face near the bodies.


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    Channel 11 talked with Dakota's parents while they were filming the show, when they hired Dr. Cyril Wecht to do his own autopsy.  

    Wecht said there were ligature marks on Dakota's neck and he believes Dakota was strangled.

    After the show aired, Allegheny County Medical Examiner Dr. Karl Williams released a statement saying that the cause and manner of death for Dakota James was made based on the evidence and information available to his office at the time of the autopsy and that no other evidence or information has been shared with his office. 


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