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Updated! (December 2015) How The Internet DID Help Solve A 20-Year-Old Mystery

Updated on February 12, 2016

Update (12/10/2015)

As you can tell from the title change of this article, authorities have now confirmed the identity of "Grateful Doe"! He was indeed Jason Callahan, a young man from Myrtle Beach missing since 1995.

Those who have followed the case all these years took to the Grateful Doe Facebook page to issue both congratulations and condolences. The family is understandably shocked and in mourning for their lost son and brother. Jason's sister did take time to tell users how much she appreciated the effort to keep public interest in the case:

"For everyone on this Facebook page as well as all the Websleuths and people on reddit who followed this case adamantly. Had I not found the post and Reddit pages in January, I would have never known that my brother Jason was still missing, or what happened to him. "

Organizers of several groups dedicated to the case expressed joy at this ID. They also cite this as proof that "web sleuthing" does have a positive role in similar cases. Curators of the Facebook group also say it's an important lesson learned about reporting missing loved ones as soon as possible.

So what's next for online amateur detectives? They aren't stopping yet! Even while they awaited Jason's DNA match, many were setting up new pages for other decades-old "Johns and Janes". There are hundreds of cases to choose from, after all.

As for the story of "Grateful Doe", it seems he can finally rest in peace with his name restored. Welcome home, Jason.


New Information (1/16/2015)

A woman from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina recently came forward claiming that her son may be the "Grateful Doe" so many have been trying to identify. Her son, Jason Callahan, went missing in the summer of 1995. Callahan was a huge Grateful Dead fan who left to follow the band's tour that year. Former roommates had previously stated the young man, whom they only remembered as "Jason", also went missing around the same time. Authorities are now conducting DNA testing with the missing man's mother to compare with the profile saved from "Grateful Doe". The internet community is hopeful that this will finally lead to a solution for the decades-old case.

Reconstruction of "Grateful Doe"
Reconstruction of "Grateful Doe" | Source

Background

On June 26, 1995 two young men were killed in a car accident near Emporia, Virgina after the driver fell asleep at the wheel. The driver was identified as 21 year-old Michael Hager. His passenger, a young man around the same age, had no identification. The only clues authorities found were a note on the man's body addressed to a "Jason" and two scalped tickets to a Grateful Dead concert. (He must have been a huge fan, as he was wearing a GD t-shirt when he died.)

Though the note had a phone number, it proved to be unhelpful; the number had no area code and attempts to call it lead to nowhere. Police managed to track down the scalper who sold the tickets, but he could not recall the victim. The case quickly went cold, and remained a mystery for nearly 20 years.

Resurfaced photo of "Jason" from someone claiming to be an old roommate.
Resurfaced photo of "Jason" from someone claiming to be an old roommate. | Source
One of the photos provided to "greymetal", one of the users in contact with the lead.
One of the photos provided to "greymetal", one of the users in contact with the lead. | Source

New Developments

On January 2, 2015 an individual claiming to know who the victim is contacted an Imgur group dedicated to investigating missing persons. They claimed to have lived with "Jason" in Champaign, Illinois around 1994-1995. He may have also resided around the area of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The user provided photos of his former roommate, which do bear striking resemblance to reconstructed images of "Grateful Doe" release by the Centers For Missing And Exploited Children.

A Facebook group dedicated to the case shortly got in contact with that individual, who released more details about "Jason", including where he may have lived in the past. The story was recently picked up by Buzzfeed, and is set to grab nationwide attention.

Now the communities involved are reaching out to determine if the "Jason" in the photos really could be "Grateful Doe".

"Grateful Doe" Physical Features

 
 
Age:
15-21
Gender:
Male
Race:
White
Hair:
Brown or blond, curly, long (may have been dyed reddish)
Eyes:
Brown
Clothing:
Orange tie-dyed Grateful Dead '95 tour shirt, blue jeans, blue Flia sneakers
Shoe Size:
11.5
Jewelry/Piercings:
Woven-style beaded necklace, pierced left ear (no ring recovered)
Tattoos:
Homemade small star (upper left arm), Unknown faint homemade design (upper right arm)
Possible Locations Last Seen:
Emporia, VA; Fairfax, VA; Gloucester, VA; Washington D.C.

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    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 21 months ago from Queensland Australia

      This was very interesting and proves that Internet and social media sleuthing can work.