Grateful Doe was positively identified as 19-year-old Jason Callahan — 20 years after he was killed in a car accident in Emporia, Virginia. As he was not carrying any identification and did not match the description of any missing persons, the teen’s identity remained a mystery for two decades. Officials are now crediting internet sleuths for helping them identify the missing man.
On June 26, 1995, authorities were called to the scene of a fatal car accident, in which two young men were killed. Although they positively identified the driver as 21-year-old Michael Hager, they were unable to determine the identity of his passenger.
Since the unidentified man was wearing a Grateful Dead t-shirt with two concert ticket stubs in his pocket, he was given the nickname Grateful Doe.
In their attempt to identify the crash victim, authorities disclosed the little information they collected at the scene.
As discussed on the Grateful Doe Facebook page, authorities said the crash victim was between the ages of 16 and 25 with a pentagram tattoo on his left arm. Authorities said he was around 6-feet-tall with wavy blonde hair and brown eyes.
Although he was not carrying any identification, police officers found a handwritten note at the scene which was addressed to “Jason.”
The teen was also identified as a dedicated fan of the band Grateful Dead as he was wearing a concert t-shirt and carrying concert ticket stubs. Authorities believe he was hitchhiking when he was picked up by Michael Hager.
Although the young man’s “traumatic injuries left him unrecognizable,” artists used autopsy photos to compile a series of sketches of the unidentified man.
As reported by Washington Post, the unusual case became a point of interest in the Websleuths online community in 2005.
Volunteers, who are referred to as internet sleuths, spent years comparing the sketches with databases of missing persons. Although the volunteers have been credited with helping authorities solve several cases, they were unable to identify Grateful Doe.
— upvoted (@upvoted) December 11, 2015
Over the next 10 years, the teen’s sketches and information were also shared via social media sites, including Imgur, Facebook, and Reddit. As the details were shared with more than 500,000 social media users, the information eventually reached the family and friends of Jason Callahan.
Margaretta Evans was alerted to the social media posts in early 2015. As she was fairly certain Grateful Doe was her long lost son, she filed a missing person report with authorities in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in January.
Although she had not seen or heard from her son since 1995, Evans admitted she did not report him missing as she assumed he did not want to be found. The Daily Mail reported that Margaretta confirmed Jason “left home to follow the Grateful Dead.”
— Times-Dispatch (@RTDNEWS) December 11, 2015
AL.com reports the authorities compared Grateful Doe’s DNA with that of Callahan’s sister. A December 9 Facebook post confirmed the unidentified man is indeed Jason Callahan.
Lesha & Alyssa, who run the Grateful Doe Facebook page, also share information about other unidentified missing persons. They hope Callahan’s story will encourage families and friends to maintain contact with their loved ones.
“I want this story to do so much more I really pray that this story gives an important lesson to reporting your missing loved ones or even trying to check up on them if you haven’t had contact in years. If anyone needs help trying to check on a loved one please feel free to message us we can also point you to the right direction of getting them reported.”
Although Grateful Doe was identified as Jason Callahan, hundreds of missing persons remain unidentified. It is hoped that social media sharing will help identify more people so their family and friends will be able to find some sense of closure.
[Image via Facebook]