New Post-Gazette podcast investigates DU student deaths

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Police
Dakota James is one of two Duquesne students who are the focus of the mystery podcast.
Courtesy of Pittsburgh Police
Dakota James is one of two Duquesne students who are the focus of the mystery podcast.

Gabriella DiPietro | Staff Writer 


Correction 11/02/17: The web address for the podcast was incorrect. It has been fixed. 

To this day, the deaths of Duquesne students Paul Kochu and Dakota James leave unanswered questions. This is the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s topic for their first ever serialized podcast called Three Rivers, Two Mysteries.

The podcast, hosted by enterprise reporter Michael A. Fuoco, contains five installments, which can be found on iTunes, GooglePlay and other platforms. The first chapter debuted on Oct. 24, and the second was released Oct. 31, with the remaining chapters to be released weekly through Nov. 21.

Kochu, a 22-year-old Duquesne graduate from Bucktown, Pennsylvania, disappeared from the South Side on Dec. 16, 2014, and was later found dead in the Ohio River in March 2015. James, 23-year-old Duquesne graduate student from Frederick, Maryland, similarly disappeared from Downtown Pittsburgh on Jan. 25, 2017. His body was later found in the Ohio River in March.

Fuoco investigated both cases for eight months and originally began to write a print story, but after listening to an unrelated podcast, decided that a podcast would do the story more justice.

“I had all the makings of what I thought a podcast would be,” Fuoco said. “In a podcast, you actually hear the people involved, and having interviewed the families, their grief, their pain, their loss was represented in their voices so much that I knew that would be a very powerful element for people to hear.”

Being that Fuoco was unfamiliar with the production of podcasts, Ashley Murray, a graduate student at Point Park University who interned at the Post-Gazette last summer, took on the role of producing the project. They teamed up with Point Park’s Center for Media Innovation, which had the equipment needed to record and edit a professional podcast.

The piece shines a light on these eerily similar cases, looking at the details of Kochu’s and James’ deaths, the traumas suffered by their families, the police investigations and all of the unknowns surrounding their disappearances and deaths.

“I went into it thinking that these cases were mysterious, and I came out of it thinking that it was more mysterious than I thought,” Fuoco said. “The Kochu and James families are suffering the loss of their child, and they don’t know what happened to them or how they came to die.”

Were their deaths suicides? Were they murdered? Are their similar deaths linked to a serial killer? Were they simply accidents? These are all questions asked by others and are discussed in “Three Rivers, Two Mysteries.”

“This may be our first serialized podcast, but Michael and Ashley’s remarkable piece of work makes it inevitable that it will not be our last,” said Post-Gazette Executive Editor David Shribman. “[The Post-Gazette] began more than two centuries ago as a print product, but in the last decade we have committed ourselves to telling compelling stories like this one on different platforms – print, of course, but also on the Web and now on NewsSlide and in podcasts.”

The podcast can be found at or downloaded on iTunes, GooglePlay and more. The interactive website will include photos, videos and other content dedicated to the podcast.