Our card this week is Dale Dinwiddie, the Nine of Diamonds from South Carolina.
In 1992, Dale was a 23-year-old woman enjoying a night out with friends when suddenly she
vanished from a crowded club, never to be seen again.
Maybe the right person listening to this episode will change that.
I’m Ashley Flowers, and this is The Deck.
On September 24th, 1992, at 6.15 in the morning, Dan Dinwiddie was just getting out of bed.
He needed to let the family’s dog out because he knew his teenage son Drew would sleep in
and not do it, and the dog always slept in Drew’s room, so it fell on Dad to make sure
the morning potty break happened.
Dan shuffled down the hallway towards his son’s room and was just about to open the
door when something else caught his eye.
The door to his daughter Dale’s bedroom was slightly open.
When he peered inside, fully expecting to see his 23-year-old daughter asleep, she wasn’t
The bed she slept in every night was empty, and based on the way the bedsheets and pillows
looked, it appeared as if no one had been there all night.
To make the scene even stranger was the fact that the radio and lights in the room were
Dale had recently moved back into the family’s Columbia, South Carolina home after graduating
from a women’s college in Virginia with a degree in art history.
She was back for the time being because she made plans to attend grad school that fall
at the University of South Carolina.
Dan immediately thought the sight of Dale’s empty bed was odd.
He knew she was going out to a concert the night before with some friends and figured
she would be out late, but he never heard her say that she wasn’t coming home.
And he knew his daughter well enough to know that it was unlikely Dale was already dressed
and gone from the house that early in the morning on a Thursday.
She was scheduled to walk a neighborhood boy that she babysat to his bus stop, but that
wasn’t until well after 6.15 in the morning.
There was no reason for her to be gone this early.
To try and get some answers, Dan woke up his wife, Jean, and Dale’s brother, Drew, and
asked them if Dale had talked to them about maybe staying at a friend’s house the night
before or something, but they both said no.
Now, you might be thinking like, okay, take a breath, she’s an adult, she could come and
go freely if she wanted to, and it’s true, she could, but doing it without any communication
was just super out of character for her.
According to Dan, who spoke with our team for this episode, Dale always kept in close
contact with her parents, especially if she knew she was going to be out late.
In fact, from time to time, Dale would even call her parents for a ride if she needed
one, even if it was late at night.
But Dan knew that Dale had not called them Wednesday night and she had not called them
early Thursday morning either.
That was a clear sign to them that something was up.
But Dale not being in contact with anyone in her family wasn’t even the biggest red
flag that worried Dan.
What really concerned him was the fact that Dale was scheduled to accompany that neighborhood
boy to his bus stop that morning.
Her skipping out on that task was even more out of character.
Dale was known to be a responsible person and she wouldn’t just no-show for work, even
if it was just a babysitting gig.
One of the first things Dan did to try and figure out what was going on was to start
calling all of their neighbors and friends to see if Dale had stayed the night with any
Dale’s mom called the parents of the boy who Dale babysat to let them know she was
missing and wouldn’t be available to watch him that day.
Then Jean and Dan started tag-teaming a list of everyone in their immediate community.
With each phone call, their hearts sank more and more.
No one had seen Dale and no one knew where she was.
Eventually, Dan was able to reach some of Dale’s friends that she’d been with at
that concert the night before.
But they said she wasn’t with them anymore and they hadn’t seen her since after the
concert when they all went to a bar near the University of South Carolina’s campus.
So after that conversation, realizing that no one had seen Dale for several hours, Dan
called the police at 8.30 in the morning.
Our reporter Emily went to South Carolina to interview the cold case detective assigned
to this case to learn everything we could about Dale’s timeline that night.
His name is Detective Kevin Reese, and he’s a longtime investigator with the Columbia
In 2020, he was assigned to reinvestigate Dale’s disappearance, which is now the city’s
oldest missing persons case.
In his investigation, Kevin’s sequence of events about what happened to Dale goes like
On Wednesday night, September 23rd, a friend picked Dale up from her parents’ house to
go to a U2 concert at Williams-Brice Stadium at USC’s campus.
The invitation to go to this concert was totally last minute and not something planned
days ahead of time.
Before her ride showed up, Dale put on her favorite pair of faded blue jeans, a green
shirt and tennis shoes.
She tied an L.L. Bean jacket around her waist and headed out the door.
Based on what her friends told police, everyone in Dale’s group had a great time at the concert,
and it ended around 11.15 p.m.
After that, Dale and some of her close friends went to a bar called Jungle Gyms, which was
in the popular Five Points district in downtown Columbia.
Five Points is a spot where college kids bar hop, and it pretty much looks the same today
as it did back in 1992.
All the restaurants and bars in that area are lined up on the same road, so it’s easy
to go from one place to another.
Now, Jungle Gyms isn’t open anymore, in fact it closed a long time ago, and at one point
reopened as another bar called The Horseshoe.
But that business later closed as well, and today the building is just a dilapidated eyesore.
But back in its heyday, it was normal for the street it’s on to be a busy late-night
Kevin said the night that Dale was there, the bar was reportedly really busy.
USC’s fall semester was just about to kick off, plus crowds from the U2 concert packed
into Five Points bars.
Back in 1992, investigators learned from speaking with Dale’s friends and a few witnesses
inside the bar that around one in the morning on Thursday, Dale got separated from her group.
Kevin Reese said that according to what he’s pieced together from the investigative file,
one of Dale’s last known conversations before she vanished was with a bouncer working the
door at Jungle Gyms.
She was at the concert with several of her friends.
Somehow she got disattached from her friends in the massive crowd down there, and so she
may have been asking questions, have you seen this person?
And whoever she asked questions may have already been familiar with the person that
she asked questions about.
Kevin thinks Dale’s interaction with the bouncer was her attempt at trying to find
She specifically asked him if he’d seen the group she’d come in with leave without
her or if he knew where they were, but he didn’t.
Kevin believes wholeheartedly that this brief conversation and the moments before and after
are key to the investigation.
I think the conversation was about, and I don’t know whether Dale brought it up or
somebody in the club would have found reason to ask Dale, are you lost?
Pretty much in an environment like that, a lot of people know a lot of people.
That knows a lot of people.
I would be remiss if I didn’t put it to you like this.
Somebody down there knew somebody that knew somebody that knew somebody.
Something about this response definitely makes me think he knows more about who those somebodies
are and how they fit into Dale’s last sighting, but it’s probably information police want
to keep close to the vest, even all these years later.
The only other helpful information the Jungle Jim’s bouncer provided was that he remembered
it being around 1.30 in the morning when he last saw Dale.
He told police that he watched her try and find her friends in the bar for a little bit,
and then she left in kind of a hurry.
When he last noticed her, he said that she was walking alone toward a nearby intersection
that was just north of the bar.
Kevin Reese says that nugget of information became very important to the investigation
because it opened up a world of possibilities as to what happened next to Dale.
In the days following Dale’s disappearance, police were running several scenarios of what
could have happened.
One, she walked off on her own.
Her family and friends strongly opposed this scenario because they said Dale would never
just walk away from her life.
She had goals and dreams, even plans for grad school.
Not to mention her family said she had a big fear of being alone.
They told police it just wasn’t possible that Dale would be willing to decide to disappear
and start a new life somewhere alone.
There was also the fact that she had left all of her belongings behind at her family’s house.
If she was going to run away, her parents didn’t think she’d leave her personal possessions
behind like that.
There was also no serious boyfriend in Dale’s life who could have talked her into running off.
The second theory law enforcement considered was that maybe Dale had been in an accident.
Maybe it was possible that when Dale left Jungle Gyms walking towards the intersection,
that was her way of giving up her search for her friends and she just decided to walk home.
And then maybe she’d been hit by a car or fallen and was still out there somewhere.
In 1992, police searched all of the streets, parking lots, and ditches between where Jungle
Gyms was and Dale’s house, but detectives didn’t find any sign of her.
The idea that Dale was just injured somewhere started to become less and less likely.
Dan and Jean kept telling investigators over and over again that their daughter would never
walk home alone at 1.30 in the morning.
It just wasn’t in her nature.
They said it would have been far more likely for her to call them for a ride or to get
picked up by a friend, specifically because they said Dale was extremely wary of strangers
and wouldn’t even get into taxi cabs by herself.
So that information led police to strongly consider the last and most frightening theory,
which was that Dale was abducted.
It’s a scenario cold case investigator Kevin Reese strongly believes today.
There was somebody left around there, and my guess is friends of hers would never have
done anything to her, which to me means it was a total stranger to her.
A total stranger, according to these documents, Dale wouldn’t have given them the time of
the day, especially that time of night.
Never would have happened.
Right after Dale vanished, law enforcement announced that they were focusing more and
more on a kidnapping scenario.
Volunteers started putting up thousands of flyers all around the city of Columbia, particularly
in the Five Points District.
The biggest hurdle investigators had in front of them was the fact that they technically
had no crime scene, and they weren’t even sure how long Dale remained in the Bar District
after walking out of Jungle Gyms that night.
That’s what makes this case one of the difficult ones.
There’s never been a crime scene that’s been established.
There was a location where Dale was last seen, but that doesn’t make it a crime scene.
If that’s the case here, then you find those people that was at that location.
You find friends, you find family, you find people, employees of the club, you find people
that frequented the club, and those kind of things, especially 30 years later, it takes
a lot of time and a lot of patience to get that done.
The mega popular band U2 being in town that night Dale vanished also presented some challenges
As you can imagine, their stadium show on USC’s campus that night brought a lot of
people to Columbia who weren’t from the area, which just expanded an already large
suspect and witness pool.
It would have attracted a lot of people here.
I knew about the U2 band, but I’m not sure if I was familiar with that group 30 years
I’m familiar with them now, but it would have been easier for people to come in to
this area and the area of the football stadium just for that concert.
If Dale had disappeared on any other regular night in Columbia, finding witnesses who recognized
her, who may have seen her get into a car, might have been an easier task for authorities.
A few out-of-town witnesses did try to help law enforcement over the years, and there
have even been several occasions since 1992 where officers traveled out of state chasing
There were investigators that have left the Columbia area, found people whose names popped
up somehow, and asked them questions and interviewed them.
That did happen.
At one point, detectives’ dogged efforts paid off.
One of more than a thousand tips that came in about 10 years after Dale vanished led
investigators to look into a known serial killer, a man who just so happened to be in
Columbia the night Dale Dinwiddie went missing.
A man named Ronaldo Javier Rivera.
Rivera abducted, raped, and killed four different women in South Carolina and Georgia between
1999 and 2000.
And those are just the victims police know about.
He came on police’s radar in 2003 when he approached an 18-year-old woman in South Carolina
in a restaurant parking lot and pretended to be the owner of an escort service and modeling
He asked if he could take some photos of the woman.
She agreed and invited him to her home.
Once inside, Rivera raped and stabbed the victim three times in the throat and left
her to die.
But somehow this woman survived the attack and she helped police identify her attacker.
Officers eventually tracked him down to a motel room in South Carolina and he was arrested.
Detectives working Dale’s case got a tip and confirmed that back in 1992 when Rivera would
have been 24, he was a student at the University of South Carolina and living in Columbia when
According to a 2004 Associated Press brief that appeared in the Greenville News, Rivera
was originally from North Augusta, South Carolina and during his 2004 trial, his attorney tried
to convince the jury that their client was mentally ill, but the jurors didn’t agree.
He was 40 years old by the time he went on trial and after he was found guilty, he told
the jury he deserved to die.
According to reports by the Associated Press, which appeared in various news outlets in
South Carolina and Georgia, Rivera said that if he got the chance to kill again, he would.
He said he even still fantasized about hurting the women he killed.
According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, Rivera was convicted for that crime in January
2004 and later linked to several other rapes and murders.
He was sentenced to death in February 2004 and is still sitting on death row in Georgia
at the time of this recording, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.
Though that all seems to make him a compelling person of interest, detectives have never
been able to officially connect Rivera to Dale’s disappearance and he’s never admitted
to being involved.
Because Dale is still a missing person and no trace of her body has ever shown up, there’s
nothing for law enforcement to even compare Rivera’s DNA to in relation to Dale’s case.
They have no evidence, at least not that we know of.
Ultimately, Rivera’s only ever been accused of a few other murders from 1999, but he’s
never been formally accused of any killings prior to that.
Detective Reese said the coincidence of Rivera living in Columbia when Dale vanished is definitely
interesting, but he’s unsure if it’s simply that, just a coincidence.
I’ve entertained a lot of notions and that’s what I do for a living.
I can’t dismiss anything until I’ve proven a reason that it should be dismissed.
Over the years, there have been reports of several sets of human bones being found in
Columbia and the greater Richland County area, but so far none of them have been identified
as belonging to Dale Dinwiddie.
Finding Dale’s remains and continuing to press people from Columbia about the case
is a high priority for Reese.
Truly, if they had nothing to do with this case, then they would accept me at their door
because I’m asking them to repeat for me what they said 30 years ago and I have some
questions I want to piggyback off of those questions so that I can come up with some
answers that were never answered 30 years ago.
With or without Dale’s body, there are some indisputable facts Detective Reese says
define the case in his unit’s theory of what happened.
Remember, the bouncer at Jungle Gyms in 1992 told police that Dale was walking north away
from the bar at 1.30 in the morning and it looked like she was in a hurry.
Despite there being plenty of people out that night, no one other than that bouncer has
ever said they saw Dale after 1.30 in the morning on September 24th, 1992.
Because of that, police find it hard to believe that Dale was abducted right there in that
Five Points district if no one saw or heard anything.
They’ve theorized it’s more likely she made it out of the busy bar district and was
isolated away from the crowds when she was abducted, essentially an area where there
would be no witnesses.
On the other hand, they can’t entirely rule out the idea of her being taken in the middle
of the busy nightlife either.
Dale was tiny and petite and could have easily been overtaken in a matter of seconds.
I mean, her family and police have said that she could have passed for a teenager.
That’s how small she was.
But small or not, her family says that she no doubt would have put up a fight.
Even Kevin Reese says it’s undoubtedly clear that what Dale lacked in physical size she
made up for in attitude.
She was not the type of person to take lip from anyone, especially men.
She sounds like she had all the qualities of a crime junkie, honestly.
For example, her friend says that when Dale would get hit on and was annoyed by it, which
happened a lot, she wouldn’t just be polite and go along.
She would shut that kind of behavior down immediately.
She was a no nonsense kind of person.
She was a very beautiful young lady, petite.
She’s like five feet, 90 pounds or so.
And she was so attractive.
A lot of guys were going to approach her.
And so Dale had the kind of spirit, according to this document, that when she has no interest
in you and you won’t leave her alone, she will tell you that she has no interest in
you at all.
Now I think that’s a pretty good characteristic to have, mainly because of the reason that
we’re here right now.
And I’m glad she was that kind of person, because that tells me one thing.
It tells me that the chances of one of these people that actually knew Dale and was her
friends had anything to do with the disappearance of Dale Dinwiddie.
I could put that to the side.
I don’t have to focus so much on that.
Detective Reese is convinced Dale was taken by a person who she did not know.
And that person likely killed her.
He also believes that the kidnapping scenario that the killer or killer’s planned that
night was well thought out.
Detective Reese says that he has no doubt that during the last few minutes of Dale’s
life, she was held against her will.
The problem is police just don’t know exactly where or when that took place.
My position on this, and I’m allowed to have a position because I’m the lead investigator
on this, you know what I mean?
And so I have to generate in my mind, because it’s nothing documented yet, about how I think
things would have happened and why they happened.
So if there’s a person out there that has something to do with the disappearance of
that young lady, I’m of the mindset that that person was a total stranger.
I’m of the mindset that that is the kind of person that if Dale could have helped it,
she would never have let that person close enough to her to even touch her, let alone
to harm her.
The file the Columbia Police Department keeps on Dale’s case is massive.
It’s not just one evidence box.
It is multiple filing cabinets worth of documents and transcripts that line a couple of walls
at the Columbia Police Department.
The file that’s amassed here in this building where we are, they’re sort of like, tell me
if you know what this means, old school file cabinets, full of documents, full of files.
Kevin and his team have pored over thousands of pages of transcripts, reports, and interviews
that have been done over the years.
Many of the people critical to the case, including Dale’s friends and the bouncer at Jungle
Gyms, have been re-interviewed several times over the years.
And Detective Reese said on some reports, there are names he hasn’t completely cleared yet.
When you talk about suspects, I don’t see anything in the file that, as far as I’m concerned,
would compel me to say that person is a suspect.
I may say that person is a person of interest.
Then again, I may simply say that person is somebody that I would love to talk to.
And so that’s how I differentiate and separate the people that I’m going to pay X amount
of attention to versus the next one and the next one and the next one.
You focus on everybody that you know had nothing to do with this, you’re spinning your wheels
and you’ll be spinning your wheels for a long time.
Detective Reese says Dale’s case doesn’t just sit around and collect dust in his office.
He’s actively working different angles and going back to dig through the trove of investigative
files all the time.
His desk is literally within arm’s reach of the filing cabinets that hold all the case
He said the whole reason he chose to work in the cold case unit is because he believes
solving cases like Dale’s are his life’s purpose.
You gotta get out and you gotta work for it.
You gotta knock on doors.
You gotta go in snake infested wooded areas when it’s hot as hell out, you know, but we
get paid for it.
And some of us, we get paid by God for it as well.
That’s my goal, to bring resolution to every cold case that I’m ever assigned to.
The benefit, I think, in respect to what benefits the family is simply knowing that you got
somebody that actually believes in what they’re doing and actually believes that they can
do this and actually believes that you believe in the same thing or want the same thing they
And that is resolution of the case.
And in Dale’s case, mom and dad wants Dale home.
For him, Dale was every other young woman who walked the campuses of USC or grew up
She was a bright girl, a good student, and came from a nice neighborhood in the city.
Today, her parents, Dan and Jean, still live in Columbia, but they have since moved out
of the house they raised their kids in.
They said Dale’s empty bedroom was a daily reminder of their loss and it was just too
much to bear.
It was difficult to see their neighbor’s children grow up and get married and have
children of their own while they were left with an empty hole in their lives.
When Emily was in South Carolina reporting on this story, she visited Dan and Jean.
Their walls are lined with artwork Dale sketched and they showed Emily pictures of Dale riding
horseback, a hobby she loved and shared with her mom.
The couple hosted Emily for a few hours sharing memories of Dale and flipping through her
old photo albums.
Actually, some of those photos are on our website, thedeckpodcast.com if you want to
Jean and Dan are in their 80s now and you can tell they’ve been worn down from all
the years of searching for their daughter and doing interviews about her case.
In the three decades Dale has been missing, no amount of press her parents have done have
resulted in a break in the case.
There’s just been a few false hopes over the years that have been tough blows.
For example, Dan said that one night many years ago, the Dinwiddie’s home phone rang.
Dan rushed to pick it up and a man on the other end said, quote, I’m staring at your
Dan said he could tell from the background noise that the man was in a bar, maybe a restaurant,
but he didn’t sound drunk, he sounded genuine.
The man told Dan that he was at a bar in Wisconsin and the female bartender looked exactly like
the photo of Dale from their missing persons poster.
Dan alerted police in South Carolina, who asked authorities in Wisconsin to go check
Within a few hours, officers determined that the woman was not Dale.
They admitted that the bartender looked very similar to Dale, but she was much taller,
so even if she lied about her identity, there was no way it was her.
These types of phone calls and false leads became the norm for the Dinwiddie’s.
They’re also pretty typical for cold case detectives to vet through.
Kevin Reese even mentioned that he fully expects to get some calls after our episode
It’s just the nature of the job and working such an old cold case.
People hear this podcast, you’ll probably, we’ll probably be getting some crank phone
calls after, after that.
I don’t doubt it, but you know, if I get a million crank phone calls and one of these
calls that I thought was crank turned out to be the call I’m waiting for, it’s all worth
Every day, Jean and Dan can’t help but wonder what Dale’s life would be like today.
She would be in her early fifties by now.
She might even have had kids of her own or grandkids.
In 2019, Dale’s name popped back into headlines when another college woman was kidnapped from
the Five Points neighborhood.
According to a New York Post story from April 2019, USC senior Samantha Josephson was abducted
and murdered after she got into a car she thought was the Uber she ordered.
Authorities were able to pinpoint her last few movements and the fake Uber she got into
thanks to several surveillance cameras mounted outside of businesses in the Five Points area.
Surveillance cameras that weren’t there back in 1992.
According to various news reports, the man driving the car that Samantha got into was
Authorities later proved that he locked her in pretty much from the moment she got inside.
Then he abducted and killed her.
Her body was later found by a turkey hunter not far from Columbia.
And police were quickly able to link Nathaniel to the crime because his car matched the one
seen on surveillance footage.
And he lived near where he left Samantha’s body.
According to WLTX-TV, Nathaniel Rowland was found guilty of Samantha’s murder in July
2021, and he was sentenced to life in prison.
The New York Post reported in 2019 that the Dinwiddies spoke out in solidarity with Samantha’s
And they wondered if they would have had a better idea of what happened to their daughter
if only modern-day technology like video cameras had been in place in the Five Points area
back in 1992.
According to Fitz News, the most recent lead that came in on Dale’s case was in the fall
Around that time, a victim of sexual assault who was a minor told Columbia police that
the man who allegedly raped her made a comment during the attack that she, the victim, reminded
him of Dale Dinwiddie.
In the Fitz News article, it says in March of 2021, police served a search warrant on
this guy, an attorney from South Carolina.
The attorney was charged with several counts of committing lewd acts on a minor in 2002
and 2004, but police told the public that the raid and arrest had nothing to do with
the Dinwiddie case.
The department said that while they believed the alleged sex assault victim’s story, detailing
what happened to her, they had no reason to believe her claims that her attacker said
she reminded him of Dale.
As you can imagine, though, rumors ran wild for weeks about this possible connection between
a politically connected attorney and one of South Carolina’s most high-profile cold cases.
According to a source Fitz News quoted for their article on this development, the attorney,
who’s now in his 60s, was a regular at Jungle Gyms in the year 1992.
The newspaper even went as far as to say that the man was good friends with a bartender
at Jungle Gyms, who was working the bar the night Dale vanished.
But nothing significant has been reported about this man since police raided his house
in March of 2021, and police continue to deny any connections between him and what happened
So, like they’ve been doing for three decades, the Dinwiddies continue to wait.
And every time the phone rings, they hope and wish that the person on the other end
of the line has the answers they’ve been waiting for.
Information that will put an end to their 30-year nightmare.
Detective Reese hopes he can grant that wish.
There’s a reason you leave the light on, on the front porch.
They expect you to come home.
The Dinwiddies expect their daughter to come home.
If I got anything to do with it, she’ll get home, yeah.
If you know anything about the disappearance, abduction, or murder of Dale Dinwiddie, you’re
urged to call the Columbia Police Department at 803-749-5836.
Or you can call the South Carolina Crime Stoppers, where a significant reward is being offered.
You can reach them at 888-CRIME-SC.
The Deck is an AudioChuck production with theme music by Ryan Lewis.
To learn more about The Deck and our advocacy work, visit thedeckpodcast.com.
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