Case File Overview
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
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
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.
“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