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The Disappearance of Dail Dinwiddie

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Case File Overview

On September 23rd, 1992 Dail Dinwiddie went to a U2 concert at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina with a group of friends.

After the concert ended at around 11:15PM, Dail and her friends headed to the Five Points’ area of Columbia and went to Jungle Jim’s, a popular nightclub at the time.

After being separated from Dail, her friends left at approximately 1:00AM on September 24th. They told authorities they thought Dail had found another ride home or called her parents to pick her up.

This, however, was not the case; Dail was still in the nightclub. Around 15 minutes after her friends had left, Dail asked the bouncer at Jungle Jim’s if he had seen them. At approximately 1:30AM after chatting with the bouncer for a while, Dail walked north on Harden Street.

Dail has never been seen or heard from again.

Dail is a white female with brown hair and brown eyes. One finger on each of her hands is noticeably curved. At the time of her disappearance, Dail was 23 years old, 5 feet tall (152 centimetres), and weighed 96 pounds (44 kilograms). She was last seen wearing a forest green pullover shirt, a blue nylon L.L. Bean jacket tied around her waist, faded blue jeans, and tennis shoes.

Case File Theories

Photo of missing person Dail Dinwiddie

Ran off to start a new life

In most missing person cases, you run across the suggestion that the person ran off to start a new life. This is usually never the case, and it is even more unlikely in Dail’s case.

From the beginning, the Columbia police have treated Dail’s disappearance as a kidnapping. The authorities told the media, “There was nothing in her background (to indicate) that she would deliberately go away.” Those close to Dail described her as “a cautious person who did not like to be out alone.”

According to J. T. Ellison, a college friend of Dail, “She wasn’t the type of girl to just run off. She lived at home [and] was taking art classes with an eye on graduate school […] Her parents and close friends immediately knew something was dreadfully wrong; she just wouldn’t have not come home, not called, if she could.”

Additionally, Dail suffered from severe asthma and allergies that required twice-weekly injections and an inhaler to keep under control. Dail appears not to have taken any medication with her on her outing, suggesting she planned on returning home before long.

Taking all of this into consideration, along with how difficult it would be to remain off the radar for years, I am convinced Dail did not willingly up and leave.

Abduction and murder

The primary and most probable theory is that Dail was abducted and murdered. However, what is not clear is if Dail was taken by someone she knew or a stranger.

Some people close to the investigation insist Dail was taken by someone she knew, or at the very least someone who had been stalking Dail for a long period of time.

The Five Points area was extremely busy at the time of Dail’s abduction; it was a popular party area for university students and at around 1:30AM lots of the students would have been mingling on the sidewalks, barhopping, or heading home. Could someone really have been abducted from this busy area without anyone noticing?

Many people believe cautious Dail would not have willingly got into a stranger’s vehicle. This suggests to some the person who abducted Dail was familiar to her in some way, perhaps an acquaintance. If that was the case, she could have accepted a ride and it would be unsurprising no one saw or heard anything.

It has also been suggested the lack of clues in the case indicates Dail’s disappearance was the result of “a carefully planned abduction […] Anyone who kidnapped her on impulse would most likely have been sloppy, leaving behind clues.” In my opinion, however, this argument does not hold up well to close scrutiny. There is no known crime scene, so of course there were no clues.

Although I lean more towards a stranger abduction in Dail’s case, regardless of how rare they are, I am left wondering how the perpetrator got her out of the busy area without being seen.

Over the years, there have been some suspects in Dail’s disappearance.

The authorities investigated if Reinaldo Javier “Ray” Rivera could have been involved in Dail’s abduction. He confessed to murdering four Georgia woman and is suspected in numerous other killings. What makes Rivera a good suspect? He is a violent killer and lived in Columbia at the time of Dail’s disappearance. He even attended the University of South Carolina in 1992. This university is close to the Five Points area, Dail’s last known location.

Other than Rivera being in the area, though, no concrete evidence has ever linked him to Dail’s abduction. He was sentenced to death for the 2004 murder of a police officer, as well as seven life sentences for related crimes. Authorities have visited Rivera in prison and questioned him about Dail’s disappearance, but nothing useful has come from the meetings.

I am not sure if Rivera is merely a convenient suspect or Dail’s killer. Either way, Dail’s loved ones deserve answers and someone needs to be held accountable for Dail’s disappearance.

What do you think happened to Dail?

The authorities have not given up on finding Dail. South Carolina Law Enforcement Division forensic artist Debbie Goff created an age-progressed photo of Dail, drawing on family photos of her brother and parents that were taken through the years.

Dail Dinwiddie – Age-Progressed Photo to 43 Years

Age progression photo of missing person Dail Dinwiddie
Source: SCNOW Morning News

Over the years, the authorities have followed up on over 1000 tips. The tips have ranged from the useful to the ridiculous. Tips have led investigators to dig up deer bones, inspect various properties with ground-penetrating radar, tear up a floor at a Five Points home after reports of a foul odour, and pull a car from a pond at the suggestion of clairvoyants.

Some good news is that Dail’s dental records and DNA are on file. If her remains are ever found, odds are they will be identified and the police will have some kind of crime scene to investigate. Considering the advances in crime-solving technologies, if the police can get their hands on any physical evidence there might finally be some progress in the case.

Although the odds are slim given how many years have passed since Dail’s disappearance, her family still hopes the public can help. Jean Dinwiddie, Dail’s mom, offered the following appeal: “Rethink. Anything you saw that didn’t seem unusual at that time but may now, looking back on it, be a little unusual. Would you please talk to your friends and friends of friends who were there on that night? Maybe someone will remember something that could help us find Dail.”

There is a $20,000 reward for anyone with information that solves this case. If you have information regarding Dail’s whereabouts, please call the City of Columbia Police Department at 1-803-545-3500 or Crime Stoppers at 1-888-274-6372.

Related Reading

“Dail Boxley Dinwiddie” – The Charley Project file overview

“Case File 635DFSC” – The Doe Network file overview

“Dail Dinwiddie” – The Kristen Foundation file overview

“Crimestoppers: 25 Year Anniversary of Dail Dinwiddie Disappearance” – City of Columbia Police Department press release

“On Dail Dinwiddie, missing for twenty years” – J. T. Ellison article

“Parents hope new technology will help solve 20 year disappearance” – SCNOW Morning News article

“25 years later, we still don’t know what happened to Dail Dinwiddie” – The Washington Post article

“After 25 years, the search for Dail Dinwiddie continues” – WACH Fox 57 article

“Missing 25 years, Columbia resident Dail Dinwiddie’s family and friends hold on to hope” – Post and Courier article

“25 years later, Dail Dinwiddie disappearance a case full of mystery and misery” – The State article

Interested in mysterious missing persons cases? Check out the disappearance of Fariba Amani and the vanishing of Tamra Jewel Keepness.

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Published inMissing Person Files



  1. Michael Schneider Michael Schneider

    So no video cameras caught her walking at all?? and this is before cell phones so wouldnt be easy to call anyone. sounds like either someone she knew offered her a ride or a stranger did or she came upon someone she knew. either way it was probably a guy or a couple/few guys and they took advantage of her sexually and then killed her or she died from her asthma (fatal asthma attack) and they dumped her body somewhere. obviously someone out there knows something, its going to take a tip or a confession. doesnt sound like any evidence, this one is a tough one to solve.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Michael. Widespread security cameras were just starting to role out in 1990s and the Five Points area did not have any at the time of Dail’s disappearance (as I saw mentioned a couple of times in my research). And yes, in the early 1990s cellphones were still big and bulky, expensive, and mainly used for business. Sadly, I agree with you that Dail was likely abducted, sexually assaulted, and dumped somewhere. I worry that unless her remains are found the case will be at a standstill. The police need some kind of physical evidence to work with. As you mentioned, without that (or at least some viable suspects) this is indeed a tough one to solve! Thanks again for reading!

      • melinda melinda

        I remember the case very well. I have a friend that said her grandmother saw a red truck with a black male driving and a white, blonde girl trying to get out of the window on Old State Road the night she went missing. She went to the Cayce SC police and reported it. The officer started writing down the information and made some remark about probably some girl getting tired of her boyfriend and crumpled up the the report and threw it in the trash. I have left this information on many sites and even reported it on Crime Stoppers. I don’t know if it was ever followed up on or not, but her grandmother said look on Old State Road. They may have followed up on it and I just don’t know it. I hope the family can find out what happened and where she is one day. My heart goes out to this family, the Josephson family and all the others who have had to go through such a heart breaking loss.

        • Christine Christine

          Hi Melinda. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment. Wow. Talk about this case hitting close to home for you! I’m so sorry you and your friend have had such a hard time getting the red truck tip taken seriously. But thank you very much for trying. I find it all very odd. I sure hope the police did follow up! Thanks for sharing the information with us.

        • Mandy Mandy

          As a Columbia native, this case has always haunted me. For context, while this is a popular area for college students to party at night and a lovely spot for lunch, the area behind and surrounding the bar has always been dicey. It’s not somewhere anyone, male or female, should walk alone at night. Late night crime is not unusual in this area, as witnessed on national news earlier this year when a university student was murdered after getting into the wrong car while intoxicated.

  2. Todd Todd

    I believe it was a stranger abduction.. cold case like this are hard to find, especially w/no DNA, camera footage or witnesses.. have to hope for a some remorse and a confession!

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Todd. I agree on all accounts! This case is definitely going to be a hard one to crack. I do hope someone confesses or has let something slip over the years and someone finally feels compelled to come forward. Have a great week!

  3. C C

    Maybe she had been hit by a vehicle and the person was drinking and didnt want to get in trouble. I believe that could be possible. Similar case like that of bridget claudfelter. Was walking an never seen again. If so maybe s confession later in life for that person or persons.

    • Christine Christine

      Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment. This could be a possibility. It is just hard to know what the heck happened in this case! Like you, though, I sure hope Dail’s loved ones can find some sense of closure one day.

  4. Tim Tim

    If her friends thought she had left the bar but didn’t , makes me think she was off maybe with a guy she had met there. Then when she found out her friends had left she started walking and ran back into that guy She had met at the bar. Then he could have took advantage of her and she had an asthma attack and he panicked and dumped her.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Tim. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment. That’s a good point. Maybe Dail didn’t leave the bar when everyone thought she did, which would alter the possibilities somewhat as to what happened. But the bouncer then would have to be wrong about her leaving, which I find unlikely because he chatted with her for quite some time at the door and then saw her leave and walk down the road. Unless he was wrong about who it was he was talking to. Regardless, she could have been picked up by someone while walking and then had an asthma attack and the person panicked. The asthma playing a role is a possibility, no matter the scenario. Thanks again!

  5. Jeannee Jeannee

    altho I am no longer a young woman, cases like this -especially in the pre-cell phone era – frighten me! once, in my early 20s, I was with a group of people (26, actually) including my best friend at a theme park i had never been to, and a sudden, fierce rainstorm separated all of us. i never found anyone – in fact, my best friend drove the 2 hours home & was surprised i wasn’t there! (Today, mother of 5 children, she knows better!) Thank god a very decent stranger took pity on the soaking wet, sobbing woman on a bench – it turned out we were neighbors, altho we’d never met! Never, EVER leave anyone behind!!!

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Jeannee. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment. I agree. This sure is a tough case. You just never know. Hopefully Dail’s loved one can get closure one day. And I can’t even tell you how happy I am you managed to get home safe! That must have been scary. Every little decision those around us make can make a difference. Thanks again.

  6. Me Me

    The car in the pond was not investigated due to clairvoyants. It was checked out from a tip given to investigators by an inmate.

  7. Kein Kein

    I guess the police already investigated the bouncer or the bar’s owner, but I always think it’s weird it is little info of the bouncer.

    I mean, is the last one supposedly who saw her alive.

    • Christine Christine

      Thanks for reading and for taking the time to share your thoughts. I agree. It would be awesome if we could learn more about the bouncer.

  8. Heather Heather

    This is similar to a case in Fort Smith AR – the abduction and murder of Melissa Witt. She was abducted from a Bowling Alley in Dec 1994, looks just like this girl. So crazy. They are making a documentary about Melissa’s case now…

  9. Bill spires Bill spires

    My parents lived close to Old Date Rd. It was always the place local kids went trail riding, camping and went for privacy on dates. If there is any evidence laying around I doubt anyone would think twice about it. If there was a body dumped there it’s hard to imagine it not being found. Also, Old State Rd. Didn’t really go anywhere. It came out by the Eastman plant. This case has stuck in my mind and I hope it will be resolved some day.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Bill. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to share your thoughts. It’s nice to hear from someone who knows the area so well – those kind of insights I think are invaluable. Me too, Bill… here’s hoping Dail’s loved ones get some kind of closure on day soon. Take care and thanks again.

      • Sarah Sarah

        There are so many new leads. Recently a man who lived down the street from Dail was accused of assaulting a girl and saying she reminded him of Dail … email me I’ll tell you everything

        • Christine Christine

          Hi Sarah. Thanks for reading and for sharing this interesting update! It would be awesome if you could provide the details here in the comments section so everyone in the community could be updated. If the person in question hasn’t been formally charged, please avoid using their name. Thanks!

  10. Martha Martha

    I was with her that night….at Jungle Jim’s….I am a classmate of hers….she said she was leaving….and I ask her if I could go with hee….she said she was going up the hill to the apts across from groucho’s…to a friend’s apt. I got worried about her and walked up the hill a few mins after she left…I had a fried that lived in the same building and tried to enter his code…to get in it did not work so I went back to the bar….we were all drinking…but when I offered to walk her up the hill she said she was fine. I should be on camera trying to get in….she should be on camera going in….it was a high security building. I was home for a friend’s wedding…Dale and I went to school together at Heathwood Hall.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Martha. Thank you for taking the time to share your personal connection to Dail’s case with our true crime community – and I’m so sorry you still don’t have answers about what happened to your friend. I can’t even imagine what that was like for you to go through. Your insights make me think the police have footage and more info than is publicly known, in which case I hope it helps them solve the case one day. Thanks again and take care.

  11. Dupre Dupre

    Martha does the new investigator know all of this? There is a new cold case investigator on the case. I have his information if you need it!!! I think they have some new leads

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