Facebook users and Redditors solve the 20 year old mystery of a dead teen

Twenty year old mystery involving a dead teenager solved by Facebook and Reddit community

Though social media has always been at the receiving end from the morality brigade, this case may change their mindset a little bit. Facebook users and redditors came together for a good cause. To identify a teenager who had died 20 years ago.

Thanks to these Facebook and Reddit users, twenty years after the van he was in ran off the road in Northern Virginia, the teenager known only as “Grateful Doe” finally has a name.

Due to the their efforts, Grateful Doe has now been identified as 19 year old Jason Callahan from South Carolina. Both the Virginia Medical Examiner’s office and the US National Missing and Unidentified Persons System confirmed that Grateful Doe is 19-year-old Jason Callahan – the man first identified by the online sleuths on Reddit and Facebook almost a year ago.

Callahan had been hitch-hiking up the East Coast following the Grateful Dead’s 1995 tour when the car he was travelling in was involved in a fatal car accident in Emporia, Virginia. The driver of the car, a 21-year-old man, was immediately identified by his family.

Unfortunately for Callahan, he was so badly battered in the accident, nobody could identify, describe or sketch him accurately. Further, to make matters worse, the so-called Grateful Doe didn’t match any missing persons report.

It so happens that his mother, Margaretta Evans never filed a missing person report because she was unsure here son had actually gone missing.

“It just broke my heart,” said Lauren Rutley, who helped publicise Doe’s case online. “That he was so young, and no one had reported him missing at the time.” Rutley was one of dozens of volunteers and amateur detectives who worked on Grateful Doe’s case over a period of nearly 10 years. Users on Websleuths, a forum popular with cold-case and true-crime fanatics, had been cross-referencing Grateful Doe’s case against hundreds of entries in the missing persons’ database since July 2005. The search only heated up last December, however, when Reddit took on the case.

That month, an Australian woman with the handle greymetal opened a Grateful Doe subreddit and posted his picture to Imgur. She and other volunteers circulated the image widely, particularly within Grateful Dead fan communities; they also posted it to places like r/washingtondc and Buzzfeed.

More than half a million people saw the photo – and things began happening quickly. In early January, two men came forward claiming to have known Doe, whose first name was Jason and who was from Myrtle Beach. South Carolina. Greymetal, Rutley and a ragtag band of other volunteers, many of them now organising on Facebook, began blitzing local newspapers and TV stations with the story, hoping they’d report on it.

Twenty year old mystery involving a dead teenager solved by Facebook and Reddit community

The posts on Grateful Doe reached Evans, Callahan’s mother on January 13 and she filed a missing person’s report the next day. Once the missing person report was filed police immediately opened an investigation. It took 11 months to match Doe’s DNA with Callahan’s

The news was met with joy on the Facebook page after two volunteers updated the post.”THE NEWS WE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR!!!!” Two volunteers posted on Facebook on Wednesday. “(I’ve) been sitting here for how long in shock both for the sadness of his family and the fact that here on Facebook we are making a difference. Because of everyone here this man will finally make his way home!!!”


Evans was glad that social media found Evans’ son 11 months ago. She herself has become active in the online sleuthing movement. On Facebook, she constantly posts images of abused dogs and missing children.

“Please share,” she writes above each of them.

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