The Disappearance of Dail Dinwiddie

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EARLY LIFE:

Dail Dinwiddie was born on April 12, 1969 to parents Jean and Dan Dinwiddie. The family, which also includes her brother Drew, resided in Columbia, South Carolina.

Dail was described as a bright and fun woman whose smile could light up a room. Incredibly smart, she had an infectious laugh and many friends. However, while outgoing, she was also incredibly cautious and pragmatic, and didn’t like being out on her own.

A graduate of Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Dail attended Randolph-Macon Women’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia, where she earned an art history degree in 1991. Afterward, she returned home to Columbia and worked as a nanny. Before her disappearance, she had plans to enrol in graduate school at the University of South Carolina.

LEAD UP TO DISAPPEARANCE:

On the night of September 23, 1992, Dail and about a dozen friends attended a U2 concert at Williams-Brice Stadium. At around 11:15pm, the concert ended and the group went to Jungle Jim’s, a nightclub located in the Five Points area of Columbia, which is a bar and restaurant intersection popular amongst college students.

At 1:00am on September 24, Dail’s friends left the club. They and Dail had gotten separated at some point during the night and the group believed she had gotten a ride home from someone in her family.

According to a bouncer who was standing near the front door, Dail was looking for her friends around 1:15am. When the bouncer hadn’t seen them, she left the bar, but returned a few minutes later. At around 1:30am, she left for good and was last seen walking north on Harden Street, toward Greene Street.

DISAPPEARANCE:

At 6:15am, Dail’s father awoke and noticed that the lights and radio in his daughter’s room were on, but that her bed hadn’t been slept in. Worried, he called her friends, but no one knew where she was.

At around 8:30am, Dail’s father contacted the Columbia Police Department to report her as missing.

SEARCH:

From the get-go, Columbia Police treated Dail’s disappearance as a kidnapping, as it was uncharacteristic of her to leave without warning, especially considering how cautious she was. Early into the case, a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the persons responsible was issued.

An intense search of the local area ensued, including a look through Jungle Jim’s, where it was found Dail had left her purse. High school and college students who knew Dail converged on the University of South Carolina to help prepare and tack up missing person posters all over town, and by the end of the week a local law firm donated a building to use as a command centre.

Throughout their search, investigators consulted with numerous psychics, which resulted in them pulling a car out of a pond in Lower Richland. They also checked local properties with the use of ground-penetrating radar and dug up bones, which turned out to be from a deer. They tore up a floor in a Five Points home in order to find the source of a suspected foul odour, and searched drainage pipes and a well in the area.

To help spread the word of Dail’s disappearance nationwide, her parents appeared on Good Morning America. Billboards featuring her image and a plea for information were erected, and U2 displayed her face on a video screen at their concert two weeks after she went missing, while family friends handed out flyers at a tour stop.

DNA from hair strands found on her hairbrush was uploaded to a database and has been compared to unidentified bodies found in the area.

During the investigation, police looked into the possibility that Puerto Rico native Reinaldo Javier “Jay” Rivera was involved in Dail’s disappearance. He was a former navy pilot with an exemplary record who had worked for the US Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington. In 1992, he was a student at the University of South Carolina.

Rivera has admitted to murdering four women in Georgia and is a suspect in many more. He’s known to have raped his victims before killing them. In 2000, he was charged with the murder of a police officer and in 2004 was convicted and sentenced to death, plus seven life terms for related offences.

Investigators have looked into the possibility of him being involved in Dail’s disappearance, but interviews with him have not produced anything substantial. As such, no charges have been filed. As well, police are currently looking into whether Rivera was involved in the 1999 disappearance of Paula Merchant in South Carolina.

Throughout the search, numerous criminals have claimed to know something about the case, leading authorities to travel to the likes of Las Vegas and Minnesota. However, their stories have been easily debunked.

Currently, there is a $20,000 reward for information leading to the closing of the case. Dail’s DNA and dentals are on file and available for comparison.

According to investigators, the case remains open and unsolved, due to the lack of evidence and eyewitnesses. Over 1,000 tips have been checked, with the FBI, state and local authorities looking into new suggestions on a monthly basis. Any captured serial killers and kidnappers with ties to Columbia are still being interviewed. In recent years, posters featuring a photo of her as a young adult and an age-progression image of how she may look today have been circulated.

THEORIES:

1) The dominant theory in the case is that Dail was kidnapped and possibly murdered. Given how cautious she was and the lack of clues in the case, it appears to investigators that the abduction may have been carefully planned. As such, it’s believed she may have been taken by someone she knew, possibly an acquaintance, as she wouldn’t have entered an unknown vehicle or gone with someone she didn’t know.

2) Another theory believed by some online is that Dail may have run away to start a new life. However, this isn’t held by police or the missing woman’s family, as there is nothing in her background to indicate she would have left without informing anyone.

AFTERMATH:

In 1993, the community of Columbia gifted Dail a Christmas tree, located outside the Ladder 9 fire department. Christmas was her favourite time of year, as she liked getting together with friends and family. It was decorated in her honour, with lights donated by the Devine Street Merchant’s Association. In 2010, the children of Epworth Children’s Home decorated it with more than 100 ceramic ornaments.

Dail’s case has been featured on numerous television shows, websites and in several publications.

Dail’s parents still hold out hope that someone will come forward with information about their daughter’s disappearance. While they no longer offer interviews in order to keep the focus on Dail, they continue to release statements to the public.

The Dail Dinwiddie Safe Streets Foundation was created by friends, with the aim of helping to find missing adults. It also works to educate young people about personal safety.

Those who grew up with her say Dail’s disappearance has had a lasting impact on them. As such, they keep a constant and close eye on their children.

In 2016, Dail’s classmates from Randolph-Macon Women’s College dedicated a plaque to her at their 25th class reunion.

CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:

Dail Dinwiddie went missing from the Five Points area of Columbia, South Carolina on September 24, 1992. She was 23 years old and was last seen wearing a long-sleeve olive green pullover sweater, faded blue jeans and a bright blue nylon L.L. Bean jacket tied around her waist. While the shoes she was wearing are unknown, they’re believed to have either been brown boots or white Nike sneakers with a blue stripe. At the time of her disappearance, she was 5’0″ and 96 pounds. She has light brown hair with blonde highlights and brown eyes, with dimples on her face. Her ears are pierced, and one finger on each of her hands has a slight curve to them. She also has severe asthma and requires twice-weekly injections and the use of an inhaler to manage her symptoms. It’s believed she didn’t have her medication on her person at the time of her disappearance.

Currently, her case is classified as endangered missing. If alive, she would be 49 years old.

If you have any information regarding the case, you can contact the Columbia Police Department at either 803-233-8474 or 803-315-3750. Tips can be phoned in anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-888-274-6372.

Image Credit: The State

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