It wasn’t particularly odd when adventurer Cody Dial disappeared into the Costa Rican
National Geographic Channel’s six-episode “Missing Dial” chronicles a family’s search for its son, who vanished after embarking on an expedition through the Corcovado National Park. The ecological goldmine is a dense jungle in a region known for illegal gold-mining and illicit activity.
A 2015 article about Cody, son of renowned Nat Geo Explorer Roman Cody, highlighted his true crime case, catching the attention of a producer at the cable channel. A year later, Nat Geo’s presence and its findings may have revealed Cody’s killer — coincidentally (or probably not) just two days before last Sunday’s premiere.
“I think conspiracy theorists everywhere will have a field day with this,” producer Aengus James told TheWrap. “It is something that has made my head spin repeatedly. We just sent Episode 6 through online to the network … and this came out.”
The “this” to which James was referring is the fortuitously timed discovery after 25 months of a skull, femur and some other bones beside Cody’s passport and personal items — all within 72 hours of the series’ imminent debut. On Friday, Roman Dial walked out of the jungle side-by-side with his translator, carrying his presumed son’s remains in a bag.
“His dad saw all his stuff,” James told us of the emotional moment. “It would be bizarre if it wasn’t him.”
At first, Roman and wife Peggy didn’t want anything to do with the documentary, which has since reworked its ending as a result of the twist, after having previously wrapped in early December. Armed with their own private investigators and a bit frustrated by the lack of info uncovered by local authorities, the couple, who were split on their son’s fate — Roman thought Cody was dead, Peggy sensed he was alive — finally allowed access.
“The thing that cameras do … is shine a spotlight on a subject and a story,” explained James of their change of heart.
And that’s when the real leads started rolling in, though James earnestly credits the private investigators over his production. Witnesses, accounts, a suspect and even (ultimately) a confession would all soon be documented by James’ cameras — but there had been no real physical evidence until mere days ago. Still, the crew got such good stuff, it had to hand over incriminating audio evidence to local authorities, who previously weren’t thrilled by the outside presence.
“I’m not gonna pretend to say that they loved the fact that there was a documentary on it, for various reasons,” James said in our telephone interview. “Or that they loved there were private investigators looking into this — but they were always appreciative of us sharing information.”
While now classified as a homicide, there are still differing conclusions forming about what exactly happened to Cody. As you read this, forensic work on the remains is being performed, but those involved are 99 percent sure the bones belong to the young explorer.
Meanwhile, James and the gang are still scrambling to update their finale episode in time. They’ve got a few weeks, by which time the Dial Family will hopefully get closure.
Episode 2 of “Missing Dial” airs Sunday at 10/9c on National Geographic Channel.