PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The body of a missing Duquesne University graduate student has been found.
According to officials, Dakota James’ body was spotted in the Ohio River, near Neville Island around 9 a.m. Monday, ending a desperate six-week search for the young man.
Debbie Dohmlo was walking her dog near the back channel of the Ohio River in Robinson Township when she saw a body in the river.
“I saw something in the river, I wasn’t sure what it was,” she told KDKA. “I ran down to the river, that’s when I noticed the body. I saw an ear and the charcoal gray jacket.”
She could not believe what she was seeing as she waited for police to arrive.
“I followed him down, he got caught on a buoy for a while. I was hoping they would get there, then he got loose again. I followed him down more, that’s when police came,” Dohmlo said. “Horrible. I feel so bad for the family.”
Police and firefighters responded to the scene and quickly found the body.
“We came to this location by the Groveton Boat Club and did observe the body about 30 feet out. My officers were able to corral it at the next dock down,” Robinson Township Police Chief Dale Vietmeier said. “The medical examiner has just made positive identification. It is the body of Dakota James.”
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto issued the following statement to extend his condolences to James’ family:
“My heart goes out to the family of Mr. James and the entire Duquesne University community. I cannot begin to imagine what it is like to lose a young loved one like Dakota. While this is not the outcome we had hoped for, I want to thank the tireless work of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, and other law enforcement agencies, to follow every lead and every piece of evidence in their attempts to find him.”
Duquesne University President Ken Gormley also extended condolences to the family:
“Dakota and his family have been in our prayers throughout this difficult ordeal. I am deeply saddened to learn of the tragic outcome, and I extend my deepest sympathy to Dakota’s family and friends on behalf of the entire Duquesne University community.”
An autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death.
Over the weekend, dozens of volunteers, many of them certified swift water rescue workers, used boats and drones to search 27 miles of the Ohio River.
High-tech equipment was utilized, including sonar and drones, to examine rough terrain along the shoreline.
The 23-year-old North Side resident hadn’t been seen in weeks. He was last spotted in Downtown Pittsburgh on the night of Jan. 25.
Previously, cadaver dogs searching the shoreline on the North Shore picked up a scent near the Roberto Clemente Bridge. However, searches turned up no results.
In February, Pittsburgh Police released a new surveillance image of James, which showed him walking through Katz Plaza in the Cultural District at 11:46 p.m. on the night he disappeared. Prior to that, the last known sighting was reportedly at the Wood Street T Station.
James was found wearing the same clothing in that surveillance photo.
Police say they will have no further comment on the case until the results of the autopsy are in.