Everyone described Jacob L. Dunakey as a caring man.
He often lived on the streets but made a point of keeping in touch with his young daughter. He talked people into living when they were at their darkest moments.
By every account, he was an energetic and loving 25-year-old — with a serious drug problem.
Dunakey’s body was discovered in a vacant lot in central Kennewick just off Highway 395 where he frequently camped. Kennewick police said there were no signs of violence.
He had been a resident of a church-sponsored homeless camp a few blocks away until the city closed it in March for code violations.
The brushy lot, scattered with clothes, cardboard boxes and other debris, is frequently used by homeless people looking for a private place to use drugs.
Two homeless men who knew Dunakey told the Herald they had gone looking for him shortly before midnight Monday. One of them went into a nearby McDonald’s for help. The employee walked back into the field, spotted Dunakey’s body and called police.
For five years, Dunakey was in and out of court for various drug-related crimes, and had just recently agreed to enter drug court in Benton County after being caught with methamphetamine.
It was a familiar pattern for Dunakey, who struggled with meth and heroin addiction since his early teens.
When he met Amy Rosen, 27, of Richland, in 2006 he was already dabbling in drugs.
“He was probably one the funniest people I ever met,” she told the Herald. “He was very helpful. He was really an awesome person.”
The pair dated for about three years starting in 2010, and had a daughter, Ariah. Soon after she was born, Dunakey enrolled in the Oxford House program in an attempt to get clean.
That’s where fellow Oxford House resident Jordan Fuentes, 27, of Richland, first met him.
“He was always calling and talking to his daughter,” he said. “He was trying to do right by himself and his family.”
He was always calling and talking to his daughter. He was trying to do right by himself and his family.
Jordan Fuentes, friend
The men remained friends after they both left the rehabilitation program.
But Dunakey’s struggles with drugs returned.
Rosen said he went through at least one more rehabilitation program, and his stepmother, Tammy Cullison-Dickman, said his grandfather paid for several programs in hopes of breaking the addiction.
But those efforts failed and the last time Fuentes saw him was when he dropped Dunakey off at Dayspring Ministries, a day shelter on Bruneau Place, a few blocks from the vacant lot where he died.
“He was looking to turn his life around,” Fuentes said.
Barb Klug, a volunteer at the ministry, remembers Dunakey as the man with the long board. He often rode it to the kitchen to get a meal.
If anybody can get a lesson out of this I will be so happy. Please, please, please get help.
Tammy Cullison-Dickman, stepmother
Shadow and Kat Pyke said he was a good kid who helped others keep going even when everything else seemed bleak. Last winter, he talked one of their mutual acquaintances out of killing themselves.
“He talked everybody out of giving up,” Shadow Pyke said.
His stepmother said she saw Dunakey a few times when he was on the streets.
“I saw him a few days before he passed away,” she said. “He would hardly look at me, and he said, ‘Mom, when I pass away I’m going to give you everything.’”
Cullison-Dickman said she can only hope her stepson’s death will serve as a lesson to others caught in the cycle of addiction.
“If anybody can get a lesson out of this I will be so happy,” she said. “Please, please, please get help.”