MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – A man who was killed in a car crash in 1995 in Virginia has been positively identified as Jason Callahan, a man who was reported missing from Myrtle Beach 20 years ago. New DNA samples submitted this year confirmed the identity of "Grateful Doe," months after efforts on social media led investigators to connect the two cases.
The Virginia Medical Examiner's office and a representative for the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUS) confirmed that Callahan is "Grateful Doe," a young man who died in a car accident in June 1995, but was not identifiable due to his extensive injures.
Earlier this year, efforts to identify the man were reignited in social media after a new image of Grateful Doe was reconstructed, giving new hope to those who have followed this case. Information was received via social media indicating that Grateful Doe may be Jason Callahan, and the Myrtle Beach Police Department worked with other agencies to collect DNA samples and link the cases. The Virginia Department of Health says Callahan died due to acute head injuries suffered in the accident.
A NamUS representative stated that a lab at the University of North Texas processed some of the DNA samples that contributed to the association of Jason Callahan with "Grateful Doe" through a multi-agency effort.
On Wednesday, the Grateful Doe community on Facebook posted the following message:
Within minutes, more than 100,000 people had seen it, and many of them had shared it with their friends. Lesha Johanneck was behind the post, which followed a few years of cyber investigating.
"It all kind of came together at once, and started going viral with the guy being Jason Callahan," Johanneck said.
Johanneck runs the Grateful Doe Facebook page, along with several others like it.
She says Callahan's case really started coming together in January, when his former roommate spoke up, leading the search for family to Myrtle Beach.
"That's when his mother posted to our Facebook page saying that's her son," She explained.
Callahan's mother went on to report him missing weeks later, which Johanneck says was the key to the case.
Johanneck believes everyone's efforts to identify him on social media, reignited the nearly two decade old case.
"You share it to one person, and they share it to all their friends, and their friends share it to their friends, it's just like a pyramid," Johanneck said.
We reached out to Callahan's family. They chose not to comment, saying they were still taking it all in.