The Internet Might Have Actually Solved A 20-Year-Old Cold Case With Crowdsourcing


The track record for internet-based amateur crime investigators is not great, especially when you consider that the only skills required for such a job are a very flexible schedule and an internet connection. But if everything checks out, Reddit and Facebook might have just solved a case involving an unidentified young man who died in a 1995 car accident while following a Grateful Dead tour. The details about it are still a little sketchy, but if we can get Sarah Koenig on this, we might solve it after all.

Keep in mind that the operating word is “might.” This case still remains unsolved, but after several years of posting and sharing photos and details about this mystery, someone finally came forward who claims to know the identity of the man known as Grateful Doe. Margaretta Evans was scouring Facebook pages devoted to unsolved cases and came across a picture of a familiar-looking teenager. She left a comment:

“OMG this is my son Jason Callahan from myrtle beach SC,” she wrote on the site for “Grateful Doe” — the name given to the unidentified victim of a car accident that killed two people in Virginia 20 years ago. “I’ve been looking for him for all this time with no luck. Today, my other son saw this FB page, and after all the years of praying for him to just call me or come home…”

When Grateful Doe was found, he had no driver’s license or ID on him. The only identifying factors were his red hair, his Grateful Dead T-shirt, and his scalped concert tickets. DNA tests were taken, but never matched anyone in existing databases. He was so disfigured by the accident that in order to come up with a face, a digital reconstruction was rendered. But even when the image of that face was circulated in 2012, no one responded.

And then there’s the Nisha call…

After years of online communities sifting through details and ruling others out, an Australian who was following the Serial podcast this past December took advantage of a captive audience enamored with true crime stories to push the Grateful Doe case harder. A Reddit thread was started and grew to 800 followers who spread their efforts to other forums on the site. A spokesperson was hired who reached out to other web sites to increase awareness on high-traffic sites like BuzzFeed. Finally, two people came forward claiming to recognize Grateful Doe, including one who said the victim had stayed with his family in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Once South Carolina was targeted, that was when Evans found the picture of Grateful Doe, whom she recognized as her son, Jason Callahan. She had never reported him as missing because he’d been travelling the country with the Dead and didn’t know where to file the report. Grateful Doe’s DNA is being tested to see if it matches that of the Evans family, but Margaretta says that until she has a definite answer, she’s holding out hope that her son is still alive.

No one is saying that internet crime solvers should be the first on your list to call when someone in your life goes missing, but sometimes, you just don’t know who will turn up on your social media feed. Unless you do know them.

Source: Washington Post