Dozens of college-age men dead from ‘accidental’ drownings—but a team of retired detectives say the boys were drugged and killed by a shadowy gang with a sinister symbol.
On the evening of Dec. 15, 2016, Dakota James called his friend Shelley in a panic.
He was cold, disoriented, and scared out of his mind, wandering the streets of downtown Pittsburgh, trying to find someone—anyone—who would help him.
“I don’t know where I am,” he told her, sobbing. “I’m so cold. Please help me. I’m lost.”
Shelley didn’t hesitate.
“I’m thinking, ‘Did he get mugged? Did he get beat up? Was he in a car accident?’” she told The Daily Beast this week. “I was so scared. I said, ‘Where are you?’ I’m coming.’”
“Pittsburgh’s North Side,” he told her.
She quickly hopped into her car to go get him, then remembered she could use her cellphone to figure out where he was because he’d enabled location services with her when she gave him a ride to the airport months ago.
That program was telling her he was on Pittsburgh’s South Side. But Dakota was texting her as she drove, trying to guide her. “I’m here,” he texted, sending a picture of a jean-covered leg. “Please help me. I’m so cold. The cops won’t help me.’”
Her phone’s location services told her he was at a Springhill Suites on Water Street in Pittsburgh’s South Side, not North. She texted him that with a question mark.
“I’m here^^^^,” he texted back. “I honestly don’t know.”
She got there in less than 10 minutes, arriving around 11:30 p.m. As she pulled up to the hotel, she saw a dark SUV in the wrong lane, facing the wrong direction. And Dakota was walking out of the hotel and straight toward the SUV.
“I pulled up not even 10 feet away from the SUV,” she said. “I said, ‘Dakota!’ He turns, looks back then comes over to me, got in my car, and we left.”
He wasn’t slurring his words. He was walking a straight line, not staggering at all. His clothes weren’t disheveled or wet or dirty. He was emotional, still crying, and he was scared but he did not appear to be drunk.
“What happened?” she asked him. “Are you OK?”
He didn’t want to talk about it, he said.
“He said he just became aware that he was walking on the street and he had no idea where he was or how he got there,” said Shelley, 35, who asked that her last name be used to protect her privacy. “He said he went up to a police officer and they didn’t help him. So, then he called me.”
The last thing he remembered, he told her, was leaving his work Christmas party then heading to some bars with his coworkers from J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc., where he was a carrier sales coordinator. That was around 7:15 p.m. Everything since then was a blank.
“I said, ‘Do you want to go to the hospital?’ Because I’m thinking, ‘Was he raped? Was he drugged? Because he seemed drugged, because he’d lost four hours,” she said. And he said, ‘No. I just want to go home.” So, I just took him home. He was crying so much.”
The next day, he thanked her for picking him up, but brushed the whole thing off, saying he had a bad hangover. And she might have, too, if he hadn’t vanished five weeks later, after a similar night out with some of the same co-workers.
Was it just an odd coincidence? Or was James being stalked in the weeks before he died? If she hadn’t shown up at the hotel, would he have vanished that December night, instead?
“I didn’t think about any of this until after he went missing,” she said. “What happened that night?”
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SOURCE: Nicole Weisensee Egan
The Daily Beast