James Napoli was a 72-year-old man from Side Lake, Minnesota, who went missing on August 28, 2022, after leaving his cabin in Sturgeon Road. He was supposed to return to his home in Zimmerman the next day, but he never showed up. His family, friends, and authorities searched for him for over a week, until his body was found in a wooded area near his truck in Itasca County on September 7, 2022. His death was initially reported as a heart attack, but later revealed to be linked to fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid. In this article, we will explore the life and disappearance of James Napoli, and the cause of his death.
Early Life and Career
James Napoli was born on November 4, 1949, in Duluth, Minnesota. He graduated from Duluth East High School in 1968, where he was a star hockey player. He then attended the University of Minnesota Duluth, where he earned a degree in business administration. He married his high school sweetheart, Susan, in 1971, and they had two children, Michael and Jennifer.
Napoli worked as a sales manager for a paper company for over 30 years, until he retired in 2011. He was well-respected and successful in his field, and enjoyed traveling and meeting new people. He was also an avid outdoorsman, who loved fishing, hunting, and camping. He owned a cabin in Side Lake, where he spent most of his weekends and holidays with his family and friends. He was known for his generosity, kindness, and humor, and was well-liked by everyone who knew him.
Disappearance and Search
On August 28, 2022, Napoli left his cabin in Side Lake around 10 a.m., after spending the night there with his friend, Bob. He told Bob that he was going to drive to his home in Zimmerman, about 200 miles away, and that he would call him when he got there. However, Napoli never made it to his destination, and he never called his friend or his family. His wife, Susan, became worried when he did not answer his phone or return her messages. She contacted the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office, and reported him missing.
The Sheriff’s Office launched a search for Napoli, and checked his cabin and his phone records. They found that his phone had last pinged near Chisholm, about 30 miles from his cabin, around 11 a.m. on August 28. They also found that his credit card had been used at a gas station in Hibbing, about 40 miles from his cabin, around 12 p.m. on the same day. They could not find any other trace of him or his vehicle, a white 2021 Honda Ridgeline pickup truck with Minnesota license plate GEB-389.
The search for Napoli involved multiple agencies, including the St. Louis County Rescue Squad, the Itasca County Sheriff’s Office, the Minnesota State Patrol, and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. They used helicopters, drones, dogs, and volunteers to comb the area where Napoli was last seen. They also posted flyers, created a Facebook page, and offered a reward for any information leading to his whereabouts. They received hundreds of tips and leads, but none of them led to Napoli.
James Napoli Cause of Death and Discovery
On September 7, 2022, the St. Louis County Rescue Squad located Napoli’s truck off Turtle Creek Road in Itasca County, about 60 miles from his cabin. They notified the Itasca County Sheriff’s Office, who conducted a ground search in the vicinity. Around 11 a.m., they found Napoli’s body in a wooded area, not far from his truck. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and can cause respiratory failure and death in small doses. It is often mixed with other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, or counterfeit pills, and can be ingested, injected, or absorbed through the skin.
The friend, who was not identified, told investigators that he had given Napoli the pill as a “painkiller”, and that he did not know it contained fentanyl. He said that he had taken the other half of the pill himself, and that he had also overdosed, but survived. He said that he was sorry for what happened, and that he did not intend to harm Napoli.
James Napoli was a missing man who left behind a mystery of his fate. His death was a tragic result of the opioid crisis that has claimed thousands of lives in the country. His life, however, was a reflection of his love and joy for his family, friends, and nature. As his daughter, Jennifer, said in a Facebook post, “He was the best dad, husband, friend, and person anyone could ever ask for. He had a heart of gold and a smile that lit up the room. He will be forever missed and loved by so many”.