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Published: Friday, 5/9/2014 - Updated: 4 months ago

Fashion designer — a Toledo native — found dead in N.Y.C.

BY LEXI BELCULFINE
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

NEW YORK — A Toledo native who was a Brooklyn fashion designer and has been missing since March was found dead Thursday in New York City, police said.

The body of James “Jay” Ott, 31, was found about 11:10 a.m. in New York Bay near Second Avenue and 58th Street in Brooklyn, a New York City police lieutenant said in a news release. Mr. Ott was pronounced dead on arrival by responding emergency medical services, the lieutenant said.

The medical examiner, who could not be reached for comment Friday, will determine the cause and manner of Mr. Ott’s death, police said. A spokesman for the police department would not say Friday night whether foul play is suspected, and he restated that police will leave that determination to the medical examiner.

Mr. Ott was reported missing the morning of March 24, a Monday, after he failed to show up at the fashion investment firm, The Dock Group, where he worked as a fashion designer.

He was last seen by his friends in New York the previous Saturday evening and was last spotted by a surveillance camera just before 5 a.m. March 23 outside a bodega near his home in the McKibbin Lofts in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn.

Friends and family sought information about his disappearance through a social media campaign to “Find Jay Ott” and by plastering the city with missing-person fliers when he went missing.

Mr. Ott’s ninth-grade honors English teacher at Pine-Richland High School Lisa Erb said Friday night, “He was a beautiful man, who created beauty all around him.”

She said that even as a student at Pine-Richland, his designs were runway-ready.

“That’s what everyone remembers about him: his passion for fashion,” she said. “He was destined for greatness, and I think he achieved it.”

Ms. Erb said they would catch up about once a year, whether by phone or when she would visit New York City.

“There would be stories of what he was doing in New York and what he was doing in fashion. He was always interested in Pine-Richland and what I was teaching,” she said.

Most recently, Ms. Erb said she spoke with Mr. Ott in early March, after he returned from a fashion show in Paris. She said he seemed “happy, happy, happy.” Before that, he called around Christmas, she said, asking if they could talk about the word verisimilitude, which she had taught to him in class.

Mr. Ott was born in Toledo, Ohio, and his family moved several times to follow his father’s pharmaceuticals career, ending ended up in Pine in 1997. He began subscribing to Vogue and other fashion magazines in seventh grade and by the time his family moved to Pine, he was sketching designs and watching fashion programs on television.

A straight-A student, Mr. Ott attended the University of Cincinnati and went on to work at The Row, a couture fashion house owned by actresses Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen.

His family could not be reached for comment Friday night.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Lexi Belculfine is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.

Lexi Belculfine: lbelculfine@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878. Twitter: @LexiBelc.



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