Cause of death change on autopsy report

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Dr.  Karl E. Williams, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Examiner

Office of the Medical Examiner 
1520 Penn Avenue 
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

We the undersigned are petitioning the Office of the Medical Examiner to change the cause of death for Dakota James from accidental to homicide in view of recent information publicly revealed. We feel there is sufficient information to allow DA Zappala to move forward with an investigation. 

Mr. Dakota James, 23, disappeared from the Cultural District, Downtown, late on the night of Jan. 25, 2017. His body was recovered nearly six weeks later in the Ohio River in Robinson. He had drowned and his death was ruled an accident by the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office, a determination strongly disputed by his parents, Pam and Jeff James of Frederick, Md., as well as Mr. Gannon and his team. Although Dakota was found six weeks after his disappearance in the river there was no obvious injury, discoloration, bloating, or decay to the body. Where was Dakota James held all that time, and why was his body so pristine when found? He was pulled out wearing the same clothing revealed by security video. The private investigators hired by the family discovered action on his debit card two days after his disappearance. Who used this card? In fact, Mr. James’ parents, Mr. Gannon and forensic pathologist Cyril H. Wecht held at a press conference Downtown last month to report that an independent examination of Mr. James’ autopsy photos indicates he may have been strangled. Dr. Wecht and Mr. Gannon said their review of autopsy photos discovered the appearance of ligature marks that were inconsistent with a drowning death and are not postmortem injuries. “There is no question about there being markings,” Dr. Wecht said at the news conference. “We believe Dakota’s death to be a homicide and that he died by the actions of others,” Mr. Gannon added. 

As neighbors and interested citizens of Pittsburgh, and environs we can no longer allow Dakota Jame's death to go unanswered, justice must be served, certainly more so if this was a hate crime. 

Respectfully Yours,


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