Finding Cody Roman Dial
$25,260 of $15,000 goal
On the morning of July 9, seven months into an overland journey starting in Mexico, he wrote family and friends one of his usual emails outlining his plans. He said he planned to cross Corcovado National Park, a huge wilderness of rain forest, tropical coastline, and rugged mountains, alone for 4-5 days. He articulated his route and included a link to a map.
We had received similar emails about his solo crossing of Guatemala's Peten wilderness, a river trip descending to the Mosquito Coast of Honduras and Nicaragua, and a selection of volcanoes and canyons in between. These trips would last upwards of ten days and be followed up by articulate stories of the places and animals he had seen, the people he met, the experiences he'd had.
This time we did not receive the usual "I am out of the wilderness" email and on July 24, ten days after he should have been out, I contacted Corcovado National Park and the US Embassy in Costa Rica and reported him missing. Due to the way my emails were threaded, and the fact I had been away on my own trip, we didn't fully realize he had actually left on his trip until that day, July 24.
By July 26 I was in Puerto Jimenez where Cody Roman had written that he was shopping for food before his trip. With me was my Spanish speaking friend, Thai Verzone, who had dropped everything to come help me find my son. The night we arrived we discovered -- before the police, the Costa Rican Red Cross who was already searching for him, or the US Embassy -- the hostel he'd spent the night of July 8 and left his non-essential gear and personal items to lighten his load for his wilderness trip.
My wife Peggy and I had raised our son on wilderness and biological research trips around the world. By the time he arrived in Mexico in January 2014 he was no stranger to tropical rain forests. At three years old the two of us travelled to the Caribbean when I scouted my PhD research site for a rain forest experiment. At eight years old and as a family we spent three weeks at a research station deep in Indonesian Borneo. At 12 he had walked with my tropical ecology class across Corcovado. Now he was exploring the wildest areas of Central America.
From the beginning confusion surrounded the search in this remote, rural area where all "gringos look the same" to a countryside people who don't keep close attention to dates or time. There was another gringo who looked like Cody Roman but with a guide a week after he should have been out from his traverse and miles away from his planned route and outside the park.
Also confounding the search is an antagonsitic relationship between the Park Service and local gold miners, many of whom sneak into the park to mine illegally. My friend Thai encountered such an illegal gold miner who with three others had seen a gringo three hours from the end of the road on July 14, about when Cody Roman should have been ending his trip and running out of food.
This miner and his three companions are the only ones to describe a gringo who matches our son, his behavior, his equipment, and the fact that he was in a place that he'd likely have ended up given the terrain, his map and compass, and the network of illegal mining and poaching trails he would have encountered on his traverse.
As the Red Cross would not allow me to participate in their search, I was forced to fly friends down to help in my own clandestine search. I've spent nearly six weeks here in Costa Rica now as I write this. Over half of those days I have searched jungle trails and bushwhacked past vipers looking where he may be lost and injured, rappelled over waterfalls into inaccessible canyons where he may be trapped, tracked down miners hours from the road to interview them about gringos they'd seen. The other half I have talked to Red Cross; Park Servic; the Costa Rican version of the FBI called "OIJ"; powerful, political people in San Jose and the US; hung flyers all across the southern Osa Peninsula; and employed a private investigator.
After the first two weeks, including ten hours of helicopter time, the Red Cross and the Park Service announced they were pulling out. The helicopter would have helped lure an injured person into an opening but otherwise even with infrared sensors could not see past the multiple layers of leaves that make up the rain forest. The Red Cross had searched all the major valleys and ridges, to no avail. My friends and I had combed through the one square kilometer surrounding the area where Cody Roman had last been seen and found nothing. Together these searches suggested that maybe he was not lost and injured in the jungle, but rather the victim of foul play.
So to continue the search we are reaching out for donations. It's been two months. Perhaps a miner will find him or his equipment. Or perhaps someone will come forward with a story that leads to him. In any event we need to keep the search alive.
Peggy and I happened to be at the FBI headquarters in Washington DC, telling a story of abduction and likely murder when we received a call from the US Embassy in Costa Rica.
The story we told the FBI was the same story that locals near Corcovado had convinced our investigators and us was true. How that all became the accepted narrative was documented in a National Geographic Channel series called "Missing Dial".
The day after our meeting with the FBI, we received photographs taken at the site where the miner had found camping equipment and human bones. We instantly recognized the gear in the photos as Cody Roman's, including a backpack he had purchased in San Jose day's before heading to Corcovado that we only learned about in March.
We had hired a lawyer to get Cody Roman's bank records and I discovered looking at the records that he had spent $400 in San Jose in early July 2014. I tracked the purchase down to an outdoor store in San Jose and discovered he'd bought a backpack there. All of the other equipment I recognized as his.
There were a number of items found there in the jungle and outside of his backpack that suggested to us that he had made camp.
His passport, money, and map were all there as well, in the top flap of his pack.
Peggy and I subjected our blood for a DNA comparison with that from the remains, but the OIJ has already confirmed that the dental records we sent match.
Clearly, we are grief-stricken to know that our son has passed. However, the feeling of relief to know that foul play was highly unlikely, to know with some assurance that he died a natural death in the mountains on his trip -- well, that puts us on a little hill of solace in an otherwise deep valley of despair.
We intend to make one more trip to Costa Rica to collect his bones and bring them home.
This GoFundMe site was suggested by one of Cody Roman's college friends. It has been hugely supportive to us. Its help has been both financial and emotional, knowing so many people are concerned and moved to give.
We are very grateful to all of you who contributed.
We met with a Padre at the Catholic Church here in Puerto Jimenez. He and the other two Padres there serve 23 communities and offered to speak to their congregations and hang our fliers at their chapels. We also drove to a few places and hung new flyers; most places still have the old ones. Our new ones are one page letters giving some of the details and include two recent photos of Cody Roman that other travelers took of him in Central America and a contact email. Our hope is that something new will show up, or someone decides to talk. I also hired a guide to accompany me to a few side trails I didn’t explore before.
Unfortunately Peggy's surgery on her broken wrist a month ago prevented us from searching other side trails.
On this trip learned nothing new, although we did drive down to Paso Canoas and talk briefly to the Panamanian DIJ (like OIJ) there. We went to the Panama border because Cody wanted to go to Panama but had no return ticket and very little money — although we are not sure how much money, as the credit union has not yet provided us any information. So we went to the Panama border to see if perhaps he had tried to sneak in and was caught and jailed. We wanted to see how easy it would be to sneak across (very easy) and what happens to those who do sneak over and are caught at the chokepoint-checkpoints a dozen kilometers out of town. So we met with some border police and the DIJ. They said illegals are caught and then deported.
Cody Roman had written one of his close friends on July 9 that he was in Costa Rica and that it was unaffordable. He said he was planning to bushwhack around in Corcovado. as "practice for the Darien" as he had "been entertaining notions of overlanding the Gap, but it´s pretty [much] insane. Other than the difficulties of remote jungle travel in the wet season, there are narcos and bandits and paramilitaries and guerrillas. The Panamanian border police also arent letting anyone overland, so they also have to be avoided." He went on to say that, "I probably wont end up doing the Gap into Colombia, though I am fairly certain I´ll go to Darien National Park. I want to visit the major jungles of Central America. Ive briefly visited the Lacandon in Mexico, Guatemala´s Peten, Belize´s Maya Mountains, and the Miskitia in Honduras & Nicaragua. Corcovado & Panama´s Darien are all that´s left."
He wrote that he planned to head to Hawaii then AK at the end of August to wrap up his thesis."
He wrote, "I may cut my trip short due to funds. I dont have a ticket back yet and Costa Rica is burning through my cash. Otherwise, I wanted to see Colombia and climb some mountains and go trekking. I think South America is going to wait for another trip, though."
I plan to fly to then drive from Panama City to Yaviza at the end of the PanAmerican Highway and the beginning of the Darien.
Roman I met you and Peggy hiking Torres Del Paine about 8 years ago. It is very rare to meet people who really make an impact on you, and you and Peggy did for me. You both had this calm and confident presence, and I remember bragging to you about our hikes, and you listened and asked me and my then partner a ton of questions. I had no idea how amazing you were until I googled your name after some guy recognised you on the trail. You were so humble and so great to be around. Your relationship seemed like what I would hope to have one day. And I remember thinking and even talking with my ex about how your children were so lucky to have such great people for parents. I feel really sad by this news, but I still think your children were lucky to have you as parents. all the best to you and Peggy.
You know, today a people who work like a something like Cowboys, but in the forest, found the corps of someone who can match whit your son, I guess you already know, but it's important to understand the rain forest in Costa Rica it's dangerous just to go alone, I hope he wold be your son for your concern.
Our family continues to pray for peace in this situation. May an end come to this soon....................
Our prayers and deep condolences are with you. (July 2016) The world needs more adventurous and environmentally concious young people like your son Cody Roman. He is an inspiration and I want to comment your ultra heroic efforts to find some answers in this tragic event.
Please read: https://www.facebook.com/notes/diego-delfino/el-making-a-murderer-a-la-tica-de-natgeo/1250541088289964
I have been thinking of Romandaily since just before he entered the jungle. I had found a pair of his scissors from 4th, 5th or 6th grade and was mentally composing a humorous letter to offer their return. Then I learned that he was missing.... Now deceased. He, and you have been in my thoughts daily. It is unbearably sad to have him gone.
I ran across something on the net about your son missing and I know that area somewhat well, having hiked some of the more obscure trails there. The thing I believe that happened to your son if he went off trail is that he ran into a terciopelo, commonly called the Fer-de-lance. They are large, very aggressive and called the three step snake for a reason. I know two different people that had encounters with them in that very piece of jungle and another friend that actually found the body of a dead hunter laying next to a snake he killed just before dying himself in a different jungle. That is one snake that will chase you down and bite you. I'm sure someone has told you about this possibility by now.
My mother thinks your son is being held to work in gold mines.
Has there been any news? Please post an update.
Thank you sir for the update! You are in our continued prayers. There must be a way to get better nationals attention to this! God speed & may He continue to guide you & your loved ones during the trials on your journey.
Hoping you will post an update when you get back... prayers for you all.
Roman, I'm thinking of you and your family and have been following your journey from afar. Hoping for a resolution soon.
Please update as to what the latest is on your search. I've been following & praying since the beginning and sadly, since the media has not been following this case very well there is no news out there. Continuing to pray for your family!
into the wild
Praying for a positive outcome and watching for any updates on here!