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Three Rivers, Two Mysteries

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Bonus Chapter 8 (Live Event): The Families

Ellen and Jack Kochu, the parents of Paul Kochu and Jess Kochu, his sister, discuss Paul’s life, the painful mystery of his disappearance, and their contentions about how he died. Pam and Jeff James, parents of Dakota James, also share their sorrow, the legacy they want for their son, and their doubts about the investigation of his disappearance. The families’ comments about the cases, the podcast and their grief were recorded during a live public event on Dec. 7, 2017, at the George...


Bonus Chapter 7 (Live Event): The Experts

Forensic pathologist Cyril H. Wecht, psychologist Paul Friday and attorney, college professor and former FBI supervisory special agent Lawrence Likar talk about their involvement in the Post-Gazette podcast and offer opinions about the cases of Paul Kochu and Dakota James. Their discussion was recorded during a live public event on Dec. 7, 2017, at the George Roland White Theater at Point Park University in Downtown Pittsburgh. The moderator is Andrew Conte, director of Point Park’s Center...


Bonus Chapter 6 (Live Event): The Journalists

“Three Rivers, Two Mysteries” host Michael A. Fuoco, producer Ashley Murray and editor Virginia Linn detail how the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette came to produce its first serialized podcast. During a live event on Dec. 7, 2017, they discuss their interviews with families, experts, and detectives concerning the baffling disappearances and deaths of Paul Kochu and Dakota James. Additionally, they explain their audio production process, bumps in the road and other behind-the-scenes details. The...


Chapter 5: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Grief, frustration and even anger remain as the third anniversary of Paul Kochu’s disappearance and the one-year mark for Dakota James approach. Both families have hired private consultants to help them with their goal of determining what happened to their sons. Additionally, the Kochu family has set up a scholarship and the James family has established a foundation to keep the memory of Paul and Dakota alive--even as questions about their deaths still loom large.


Chapter 4: The Investigations and the Smiley Face Killer

The Kochu and James families felt detectives did not prioritize their cases and treated them with insensitivity. Police deny the claims but say they understand why the families might feel that way. Because of all of that, the district attorney has started a new program to assist families of missing people. Meanwhile, whether Paul and Dakota’s cases can possibly be linked to the theory of the Smiley Face Killer serial killer is a matter of conjecture, much of it on the Internet.


Chapter 3: An Old Soul

Dakota James had a focused mind, a sharp wit and a soft spot for older generations. A graduate student at the same Pittsburgh university that Paul Kochu had attended, he had plans to go to law school. Dakota was gay and because of that, his parents worried for his safety. After a night of barhopping with a co-worker in January 2017, he disappeared as he appeared to be walking to a bridge on his way home. In March 2017, his body was found in the Ohio River not far from Pittsburgh. Was this...


Chapter 2: The best laugh

Paul Kochu, a native of eastern Pennsylvania, was a compassionate, caring and pleasant ICU nurse in a Pittsburgh hospital. But in December 2014, after being injured in an altercation with a roommate, he disappeared into the night. The following March, his body was found floating in the Ohio River, 85 miles downriver from Pittsburgh. Was this a murder, an accident or a suicide?


Chapter 1: Gone Missing

The unexpected death of any young person is a tragedy. But when the circumstances of a young person’s unexplained disappearance and subsequent death are unsolved mysteries, grief grows exponentially. That is the experience of the families of Paul Kochu and Dakota James, two promising young men who mysteriously disappeared from Pittsburgh on winter nights separated by 25 months. The vexing questions of their cases continue to bedevil those who loved them and even strangers moved by the...


Preview: Three Rivers, Two Mysteries

In this upcoming serial podcast from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, we'll look at the eerily similar and mysterious deaths of Paul Kochu and Dakota James. How and why did they go missing? What might have happened to them? How did Pittsburgh police approach these cases? And how have their families and friends coped with their mysterious deaths?


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