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How Amateur Sleuths on Reddit Solved a Missing Person Cold Case

In 1995, two young men were killed in a car crash. One of them was identified, but the other–known only as “Grateful Doe” because of his Grateful Dead t-shirt and the concert tickets in his pocket–remained a mystery. 20 years later, mystery addicts on Reddit helped bring closure to his family.

The Clues

Although his body was mangled in the crash, preventing authorities from identifying him, there were a few clues that helped finally identify the Grateful Doe. The young man had a DIY tattoo of a star on his arm and dirty blonde hair that had been dyed red. At the time of his death, he was wearing a tie-dye Grateful Dead t-shirt.

Investigators found ticket stubs to a Grateful Dead concert at the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington, D.C., and a note from two young women named Caroline:

Jason, Sorry we had to go, see ya around, call me #914-XXXX. Caroline T. & Caroline O. Bye!!!!.

Sadly, the phone number proved to be a dead-end, and no one has ever identified either Caroline.

The Crash

The Grateful Doe and the driver, Michael Hager, were driving through Virginia after the concert. The men didn’t know each other, and investigators think Hager had picked up the young man as a hitchhiker. Hager was driving a Volkswagen Vanagon–a classic hippie ride–and apparently loved the Grateful Dead, too.

Police believe that Hager fell asleep at the wheel, causing the fatal crash. Neither of the men were wearing seat belts. Because of the severity of the Grateful Doe’s injuries, they were unable to identify him or release the photos to the public for help.

Closure at Last

A budding community of cold case enthusiasts online became fascinated with the Grateful Doe. Led by Redditor Layla Betts (/zombiegrey), the community compiled clues as well as composite images of the young man and circulated the collage on Imgur.

A man named Steve saw the image and came forward, claiming that he had been roommates in 1995 with a guy who looked a heck of a lot like the Grateful Doe. The man had disappeared that year without a trace.

A Facebook group also circulated the photos, and eventually, they came to the attention of the missing man’s family. It turns out his mother had never filed a police report, citing confusion over jurisdictions and the nomadic nature of Dead Heads who followed the band around the country.

Jason Callahan of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was just 19 years old when he died. Now, after 20 years, his family finally has answers.

Bryan Wallace

Bryan Wallace

Bryan Wallace is a contributing writer for Active Missing People. With a background in journalism and a fascination with true crime—especially stories of people who disappeared without a trace—he is committed to bringing you the latest (and strangest) reports on missing people.

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