Human Remains Found in Costa Rican Jungle Could Belong to Cody Dial, His Father Reveals
'It is with profound sadness and incredibly mixed emotions that I can say my son s remains have likely been found,' his father, famed explorer Roman Dial, tells PEOPLE exclusively.
On Thursday, just three days before the premiere of the National Geographic Channel’s new true-crime series, Missing Dial, Roman and Peggy Dial got word that authorities had found human remains in the Costa Rican jungle, near where they believe their 27-year-old son, Cody, went missing in 2014.
Now they may finally get the answers about their son’s mysterious disappearance they have waited for all this time – answers they never hoped they would have to hear.
“It is with profound sadness and incredibly mixed emotions that I can say my son s remains have likely been found,” Roman tells PEOPLE exclusively. “I am on my way to Costa Rica, where Peggy will join me shortly to identify what appears to be Cody s body. The FBI and the OIJ are continuing their investigation, though no arrest has been made at this point.”
The National Geographic Channel’s New True-Crime Series, Missing Dial, which is directed and executive produced by Aengus James, details the Dial’s exhaustive search for the son they love so much, after he vanished in Costa Rica’s lush but treacherous Corcovado National Park.
The six-part documentary series, which debuts Sunday at 10/9c, chronicles their despair over not knowing what happened to Cody and the shocking discoveries they make along the way.
“Roman and Peggy agreed to allow us to film their search for their son in the hope it would help lead to answers,” James tells PEOPLE. “It’s something we’ve hoped for, but also have dreaded. There have been so many twists and turns with this investigation that I’m just waiting to have confirmation before jumping to any conclusions.”
National Geographic, he adds, “is helping to bring justice to the son of National Geographic Explorer, Roman Dial, and his wife, Peggy. Their commitment to Roman and Peggy in seeing that their story has been told has been constant throughout.”
The Dials first learned that human remains had been found in the national park on Thursday. “But only today did they learn it was likely Cody,” says James.
Police told The Tico Times in Costa Rica that it is “very likely” the human remains belong to Cody, though authorities have yet to confirm that.
The director of the Judicial Investigation Police, the OIJ, said that national park rangers and local residents notified police Friday morning that human remains had been found inside the vast reserve, according to the Times.
The remains were found outside the areas where the Red Cross and Costa Rican authorities had searched for Cody, the Times reports.
Sneakers, camping gear and other items were found near the remains. The OIJ director said these items matched descriptions Cody’s parents had given police. The director said he could not comment on the cause of death until forensic experts review the remains, according to the Times.
I Miss My Son
On July 10, 2014, Cody, an experienced outdoorsman, set out on a solo trek through the jungle in the sprawling park. The day before he left, he sent an email to his parents from an Internet caf , joking that since he would be hiking between the park’s main trail and the coastline, that, “It should be difficult to get lost forever.”
That was the last time Roman and Peggy, ever heard from their son again.
“He is on our minds 24 hours a day,” says Peggy. “The only time we get any relief is when we are sleeping.”
Cody, whose parents call him Roman, had the skills and knowledge to trek through the dense rainforest alone. As a teenager, he had visited the Costa Rican jungle with his father, a famed National Geographic Explorer and adventurer who taught his son everything he knew about mountain climbing, rafting and survivalist skills. Cody grew up learning how to navigate the Alaskan wilderness with his father, who took him on many of his explorations, including to Borneo and Australia.
In October 2013, Cody had taken a break from pursuing a Masters degree in Environmental Science at Alaska Pacific University to travel. He started out in January 2014 in Mexico with his girlfriend and was later joined by his father. In February 2014, he set off on his own for a tour of Central America – including the park.
Even though tourists are required to hire a guide under Costa Rican law, Cody chose not to use one and decided to hike off the permitted trails.
Cody always emailed his parents, telling them where he was traveling, in case anything ever happened to him. When the Dials didn t hear anything from their son for ten days after he first emailed them about his five-day trek into the jungle, they knew something was wrong.
“I felt nauseated and kind of light-headed,” Roman says. “I was in emotional shock, like, ‘Oh, no. Oh my God. This is bad because no matter what’s happened, if he is ten days overdue, it’s not good.”
On July 23, 2014, Roman, 55, who has a Ph.D. in biological sciences from Stanford and teaches math and biology at the Alaska Pacific University said he and Peggy, 54, an elementary school teacher, reported their son missing. The next day, he was on a plane to Costa Rica on a mission to find Cody.
“I had a lot of emotional angst and pain but I funneled that into what I had to do. I had to go down there.”
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When Roman arrived in Costa Rica, the government and the Red Cross were already searching for Cody, but didn t want him helping, he says. “They were doing a great job, but I wanted to do a more focused search in the area,” he says. “I wanted to check the areas where he said he would be. They forbade me from going in the jungle because they were concerned about my emotional state. But I could not sit by the sidelines.”
Especially since he wasn t getting any answers. “The official narrative was, ‘Your son went into the jungle without a guide and probably got bitten by a snake,'” says James, who spent more than seven months with Roman as he searched for Cody.
After Roman’s extensive search, says James, “he was left with a real conviction that his son did not die at the hands of the jungle. He thought, ‘There is foul play here.'”
When the Costa Rican government and the Red Cross stopped searching for Cody in early August, Roman pushed to get official permission to look for his son. Roman and Peggy continued to search the area while asking the U.S. embassy in Costa Rica for help, getting few answers.
Undeterred, they began a new search in July 2015, this time with the help of Carson Ulrich, a former DEA special agent and Ken Fournier, a retired Air Force Pararescue Jumper – and a documentary film crew.
“I hoped private investigators and the presence of a film crew would add urgency and momentum in the search,” says Roman. “I was right. Within a week we received a significant break in the case.”
The series follows Roman and Peggy for more than seven months as they navigate the jungle’s rough terrain, searching for their son, who they initially thought might have gotten hurt by falling into a canyon or being bitten by a snake.
But as their travels unfold, they begin to suspect something far more sinister has happened to Cody – including the possibility that he was kidnapped or murdered.
“We just want answers to our questions about what happened to our son,” says Roman. “I go to bed wondering and I wake up wondering.”
On Thursday, Roman and Peggy met for the first time with the FBI, which has now joined the missing persons investigation.
“We’re really appreciative of all the help we have gotten from the Costa Rican authorities and the embassy and the FBI. I know this is one of many cases they have to work on but I feel like I have to do something about it because he is my son.”
Early on Friday, he told PEOPLE that he and his wife are still holding out hope that their son is alive. “It seems unlikely but weird things can happen. You never know.
“I miss my son.”
Starting Sunday, Missing Dial will air Sunday nights at 10/9c on the National Geographic Channel. Episodes will be available the day after each episode airs on Hulu.com.