On the last Sunday’s premiere of Missing Dial, a new true crime documentary series on the National Geographic Channel, Roman and Peggy Dial search for their son, Cody Roman Dial, in the thick Costa Rican jungle, where he vanished in 2014.
At the end of the episode, the Alaskan couple, along with the two investigators they hired to help find Cody and the film crew they brought to document their search, are shocked to learn that the U.S. Embassy had their son’s backpack in its possession for 60 days before notifying the Dials about it.
Upon learning this, Roman wasn’t sure what to think about what happened to his son.
“Roman felt that he’d searched the jungle extensively and found nothing and there wasn’t enough momentum on the case with local authorities, so he wanted private investigators to look into this,” Aengus James, who executive produced and directed the documentary, tells PEOPLE.
As viewers learn about the Dials’ search for their son, shocking developments in the case are emerging in real time.
On May 19, two days before the premiere of Missing Dial, the mystery of Cody’s disappearance deepened off-screen when the Dials learned that human remains had been found in Costa Rica’s vast and treacherous Corcovado National Park, where the 27-year-old went missing.
Roman, a famed explorer who taught his son how to survive in the wilderness, flew immediately to Costa Rica on May 20 when he learned the remains could belong to his son.
“We believe it’s Cody,” says James, who traveled extensively with the Dials as they searched for their son. “They found his passport and Roman confirmed the belongings found near the body were Cody’s.”
For Cody’s parents, who held out hope that their son was alive, finding the skeletal remains is painful.
“We are relieved to find some concrete sign of him after two years,” Roman tells PEOPLE. “But we are also profoundly hurt by the very likeliness of his death.”
Costa Rican authorities are trying to determine whether dangers in the jungle killed Cody – or if he was murdered.
“This is still classified as a homicide and hopefully the authorities will dig into this and determine the cause of death,” says James.
“We all feel that the relevant experts and law enforcement entities looking into this should be the ones to determine this, particularly now that his likely remains have been found and there’s a forensics analysis being done,” says James.
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A Family’s Agonizing Discovery
According to the Organismo de Investigacion Judicial, Costa Rica’s equivalent of the FBI, a local man found the skeletal remains deep in the jungle, about three hours from Dos Brazos, where Cody had been spotted before he disappeared, The Tico Times of Costa Rica reported.
On Sunday, Roman, and later, Peggy, joined investigators at the site, where they found other items he believes belong to Cody, including his backpack, money, a map, a stove, a machete, a sleeping pad and a mosquito net.
“We have positively identified Cody’s equipment – the pack, the clothes, the shoes, the pad and other items,” says Roman.
Cody had left some of his belongings at a hostel where he was staying, including a large backpack, which the U.S. Embassy had in its possession.
“The backpack that the Embassy had was left in the town as storage, with his mountain climbing clothing and sleeping bag and other things he did not need in the rainforest,” Roman explains.
“The backpack he bought in San Jose only days before heading into Corcovado,” he says. “I found this by tracking down his bank records and visiting the store he’d spent the money in. It was a style and size much better suited for the type of trip he was undertaking.
Among belongings found near the bones were blue and green sneakers, which fell apart when they were handled.
“Rainforest organisms do not degrade synthetics very quickly, but the glues holding the shoes together do disintegrate,” Roman explains. “The shoes are exactly like the ones he wore when we were in Mexico together the previous January. All of the objects found appear to have been in the jungle this entire time.”
DNA extracted from the bones is being tested at the Judicial Forensics Laboratory in San Joaquin de Flores, Heredia.
“We trust that the DNA results will be accurate, but we will also supply the dental records we have at home,” says Roman.
The Dials may not get the results of the testing for weeks. “The Costa Rican authorities said that they have made this a priority, that it normally takes a month but that it could be much sooner,” says James.
While the Dials wait for the results, James is scrambling to rework the end of the series to include some of the latest developments.
“We’ve continued to go back down to document developments in the ongoing investigation,” says James.
We have a profound obligation to the family and to the local community to tell this story as fully and accurately as possible,” says James. “We are looking at ways we can include the latest findings into the final episode.”
Despite everything the Dials have learned in the last week, they still don’t know what happened to their son.
“Now that we believe we’ve found Cody’s remains, we want to allow the relevant experts and law enforcement time to conduct a thorough investigation into what happened.”
Adds James: “Finding the remains answers a lot of questions but opens up a lot of new ones, too.”
Missing Dial airs Sundays (at 10 p.m. ET) on the National Geographic Channel. Episodes are also available on Hulu.