The Strange But True Story Behind How The Internet Discovered The Identity Of “Grateful Doe” 20 Years After His Death

By Erika Hills 

After over twenty years, a South Carolina family is able to have closure thanks to the help of some resourceful Internet sleuths.

Known only as “Grateful Doe” for two decades, Jason Patrick Callahan was involved in a fatal Emporia, VA car accident in June 1995 while following The Grateful Dead’s 1995 tour.

According to The Washington Post, authorities were able to quickly identify the driver but not the passenger.

Due to the extent of Callahan’s injuries, it prevented them from accurately sketching or describing him. Callahan was hitch-hiking along the East Coast, WSOC-TV reported, which further increased the difficulty in identification.

On Dec. 9, the Virginia Medical Examiner’s Office and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUS) confirmed that Grateful Doe was 19-year-old Callahan from Myrtle Beach.

Volunteers and amateur detectives on the true-crime forum WebSleuths began working on Grateful Doe’s case in July 2005.

Ten years ago users on the site started cross-referencing the case with hundreds of entries in the missing persons’ database, The Washington Post reported.

WMBF-TV reported that following an updated facial reconstruction of Grateful Doe this past year, the case caught fire once more. This time, users on Reddit and Facebook joined the efforts to give him a name and his family closure. On the Grateful Doe subreddit and Facebook page, many people came together to post tips, updates, photos, and even the original newspaper article describing the accident.

Information indicating that Grateful Doe may be Jason Callahan was received on social media a year ago. It led to the Myrtle Beach Police Department working diligently alongside other agencies to link both cases by collecting DNA samples.

As they waited in anticipation, many people following the case expressed their elation in the mere possibility of it being solved after so long.

11 months later, upon the news of Callahan being identified, people from different corners of the Internet united.The relentless support and hard work of countless strangers, in a mission to bring a name to the nameless and closure for a family, has finally paid off.

“Rest in peace, Jason Callahan. I am so thrilled you have your name back,” a Reddit user commented on Dec. 10.

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Cover Photo Credit: Grateful Doe Facebook Group

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