Man killed in Virginia crash 20 years ago, known as 'Grateful Doe,' identified

RICHMOND, Va. - A car crash victim who became known as "Grateful Doe" because of two Grateful Dead ticket stubs in his pocket has been identified more than 20 years after he was killed, authorities said Thursday.

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DNA evidence confirmed that the man whose identity remained a mystery for two decades is Jason Callahan of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, said Arkuie Williams, a spokesman for the Virginia Medical Examiner's Office.

Callahan was 19 when he was killed in southern Virginia in 1995. His injuries made him unrecognizable and his body was never claimed.

In recent years, the "Grateful Doe" mystery captured the attention of Internet sleuths, who created pages dedicated to solving the case and circulated a computer-generated image of his face.

It was through those sites that Callahan's family recognized him and contacted authorities, said Shannon Michelson, his half-sister, who lives in New Jersey. Michelson said she's both relieved and sad that her questions surrounding her brother's disappearance have finally been answered.

"I'm glad it was solved, but I'm also incredibly sad because I wanted so badly to reconnect with him," said Michelson, who said she was among several family members who submitted their DNA to help confirm his identity. She said she had not seen Callahan since she was a child, when their father and his mother separated.

Callahan's mother filed a missing person's report for her son with the Myrtle Beach Police Department in January.

She told authorities that she hadn't heard from her son since June of 1995 when he left to follow the Grateful Dead, according to the report. Lt. Joey Crosby said she told officials that she didn't know where he had been travelling and wasn't sure where to file the report.

Callahan's mother did not immediately respond to a message from The Associated Press on Thursday.

Michelson said Callahan often ran away from home and that his parents just assumed he was living on his own somewhere.

"No one ever thought to report him missing because they thought he wanted to be missing," Michelson said.


Associated Press Writer Larry O'Dell in Richmond contributed to this report.


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