Larry Forletta’s investigative work on one of Pittsburgh’s most haunting unsolved murder mysteries takes the spotlight in Oxygen Channel’s newest crime show Smiley Face Killers: The Hunt For Justice. The docuseries aired on January 19th and featured the case of Duquesne University student Dakota James.
James was last seen in Downtown Pittsburgh after partying with friends on the night of January 25, 2017. Security footage showed him walking through Katz Plaza and Scott Place before heading toward Fort Duquesne Boulevard and disappearing without a trace. On March 6, his lifeless body was found in the Ohio River.
Medical examiners ruled James may have accidentally drowned, and local authorities believed he may have been drunk and killed himself, perhaps accidentally, by jumping off the bridge. After investigation however, an overwhelming amount of evidence indicated otherwise.
Retired NYPD Detective Kevin Gannon has theorized that the 23-year-old graduate student’s death fits the pattern of a Smiley Face Killer victim: a college-age, academic or athletic white male from the Midwest who goes missing and is later found drowned in an area where a signature smiley face emblem is painted in graffiti nearby. The killings were believed to have started in 2008, with the potential victim count reaching over one hundred so far.
Private investigator Larry Forletta coordinated the missing persons search for James. Founder of Forletta Investigative Security Consultant in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, Larry Forletta has access to extensive resources that allow him to develop, assemble, and implement search and investigation processes for missing persons in coordination with law enforcement and other agencies. Forletta worked alongside Detective Gannon in tracing James’ footsteps and became convinced that there was more to the case than just an accidental drowning.
In the episode Forletta reveals the mysteries surrounding Dakota James’ death and the curiously similar circumstances it shares with other potential victims of the Smiley Face Killers.
“The Dakota James case is by far one of my most difficult and challenging investigations since I retired from law enforcement,” Forletta said, “It is the unknown and suspicious death of Dakota James which makes it most unsettling for the grieving James family.”
The case is still under active investigation.
For Forletta—a highly decorated former agent and investigator whose work with the DEA and the Maryland State Police span three decades—finding missing persons and uncovering criminal evidence is well known territory. His private investigation agency is composed of seasoned and accomplished experts with 100 years of combined experience in investigation and law enforcement.
Visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8BWb2Hx0AQ to see the documentary.