Human remains found in the Costa Rican jungle are believed to belong to missing adventurer Cody Roman Dial, who disappeared more than two years ago.
The 27-year-old Alaskan had embarked on an odyssey through Central America in early 2014, climbing the region’s highest peak in Guatemala, surfing in Nicaragua, and finally hacking his way through the notorious rain forest of Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica.
Cody’s father Roman Dial, a biologist, famed outdoorsman, and National Geographic Explorer, last heard from him in July 2014, when he emailed from an Internet café in the small town of Puerto Jiménez, Costa Rica. A few days later, following a plan to go off the main trails without the legally required guide, Cody entered the rain forest with only his backpack and a map printed off the Internet.
Then he disappeared.
Now, after searching for two years, Roman and his wife Peggy finally have some closure.
“It is with profound sadness and incredibly mixed emotions that I can say my son’s remains have likely been found,” Roman said in a statement. The pair are on their way to Costa Rica to identify the body.
A local man found the remains and equipment under a tree in the Corcovado jungle. The site is about a three- to five-hour trek from the town of Dos Brazos, where Cody was last seen, says Aengus James, director and executive producer of six-part true-crime series Missing Dial, premiering on the National Geographic Channel on Sunday, May 22.
The FBI briefed Roman and Peggy on Thursday morning and, from pictures, the pair were able to identify the shoes found near the remains as likely belonging to Cody.
That area of the jungle has been searched before, so it’s unclear whether the remains have been there the whole time or were moved recently. A team of Costa Rican law enforcement officials and experts are en route to the scene.
Following the Trail
When Dial first went missing, Costa Rican search-and-rescue teams scoured the jungle for 12 days. Roman flew down to assist and even snuck into the jungle to conduct his own off-the-books search.
Once Costa Rican authorities suspended their operations, Roman continued on his own. He called in a team from an Anchorage wilderness survival school, but they found no trace of his missing son.
Roman has returned to Costa Rica many times to continue his search, which was documented in Missing Dial.
Reporter Damon Tabor spoke to Roman for National Geographic earlier this month about his search.
“I came to the conclusion that Cody wasn’t lost in the jungle,” Roman told Tabor. He called in a former DEA agent and a retired Air Force pararescue jumper to aid his investigations. “I needed someone who could go around and ask questions and know what kind of questions to ask.”
It turns out that Cody hadn’t been swallowed by the jungle—at least not at first. Apparently the U.S. embassy had been holding on to Cody’s backpack, which had been at a hostel in Puerto Jiménez. That proved the missing adventurer had come back out of the wilderness.
The investigation is now centered around a trip Cody apparently took after he left the jungle. He traveled with a man named Pata de Loro (“Parrot’s Foot”) to Dos Brazos, a gold mining town at the edge of Corcovado. The area is notorious for drawing outlaw gold miners, cocaine traffickers, and other criminals. In January, Roman found Cody’s foam sleeping mat in a miner’s tent. That was one of the only pieces of physical evidence—until now.
“We know that Cody was murdered, and we know that there is a suspect,” Roman told National Geographic. When asked how he knows, he said he’d prefer not to answer until the show airs or an arrest is made.
For now, the FBI and the Oganismo de Investigación Judicial, Costa Rica’s federal investigation agency, are continuing their investigations, and no arrests have been made.
This story was updated at 3:29 p.m. on May 21, 2015.
Damon Tabor contributed to this story.
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