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Online sleuths try to determine identity of hiker found dead in a tent

Internet sleuths are helping police try to determine the identity of a hiker discovered dead inside a tent at a remote Florida campground. 

The man, who is believed to have been aged between 35 and 50, was found by fellow hikers at Big Cypress National Preserve on July 23 2018, after they noticed a foul odor emanating from his yellow tent. 

The discovery of the dead body sparked an in-depth police investigation, but detectives were unable to uncover who the man was or explain how he died. 

While a medical examiner determined that the man weighed just 83 pounds at the time of his death, he was found less than five miles from a busy highway, casting doubt on theories that he starved. 

Examiners determined that he had no underlying health conditions, and police ruled out any foul play after $3,500 in cash was found inside his tent. 

Additionally, there were no reports of missing persons who matched the man’s description, and his DNA and fingerprints did not yield any results in database searches, leaving investigators stumped. 

But more than two years later, amateur detectives are determined to crack the case, and have pieced together clues to uncover that the man was a well-to-do tech worker who left behind a lucrative career to hike from New York to Florida and had gone by the moniker Mostly Harmless.

Using both wit and WiFi, the social media sleuths believe they will finally be able to solve the mystery. 

Internet sleuths are helping police try to determine the identity of a hiker found dead inside a tent at a remote Florida campground. The man is pictured in a photograph taken prior to his death 

A composite rendering showing what the man likely looked like before he died was published by local authorities following the discovery of his corpse. It attracted the attention of fellow hikers, some of whom say they met him along the trail in the months before his death

A composite rendering showing what the man likely looked like before he died was published by local authorities following the discovery of his corpse. It attracted the attention of fellow hikers, some of whom say they met him along the trail in the months before his death

The composite rendering prompted fellow hikers to share photographs of the man, whom they had met on their journeys. He went by the trail name 'Mostly Harmless'

The composite rendering prompted fellow hikers to share photographs of the man, whom they had met on their journeys. He went by the trail name ‘Mostly Harmless’

A composite rendering showing what the man likely looked like before he died was published by local authorities following the discovery of his corpse. 

It attracted the attention of fellow hikers, some of whom say they met him along popular hiking trails in the months before his death.

The man did not provide his real name – which is common for hikers who have set out on epic adventures and are determined to leave behind their trappings and old identities. 

However, the fellow hikers provided photographs and stories that have now been published online. 

Amateur detectives have used these tidbits of information to piece together a  timeline tracing the man’s movements in the lead-up to the discovery of his corpse. 

Nearly 5,000 people belong to a Facebook group dedicated to the case, where they share tips and theories as to what happened. 

Some say the case resembles Into The Wild – a popular film based on the real life case of Christopher McCandless. 

McCandless was a well-to-do man who left his affluent surroundings in order to live off the grid and explore remote areas. He subsequently died alone in an abandoned bus in rural Alaska. 

According to an in-depth report in Wired, published this week, many of sleuths devoted to the current case  are women captivated by the man’s rugged good looks in the snaps that were captured by hikers he met along the way. 

One online investigator even claimed that the man was more attractive than Brad Pitt. 

According to an in-depth report in Wired, published this week, many of sleuths are women who are captivated by the man's rugged good looks in the snaps that were captured by hikers he met along the way

According to an in-depth report in Wired, published this week, many of sleuths are women who are captivated by the man’s rugged good looks in the snaps that were captured by hikers he met along the way

According to the rough timeline pieced together by internet detectives, fellow hikers say they first met the man in upstate New York in April 2017 – more than a year before he was found dead.  

Initially, the man used the trail name ‘Denim’, but others who say they met later on say he had switched to the name ‘Mostly Harmless’. 

The man claimed he knew how to code and had left behind a job in tech to explore the great American wilderness. 

Several people who say they met ‘Mostly Harmless’ say he did not have a cell phone, and had completely done away with all technology in a bid to start a new life. 

By the summer of 2017, ‘Mostly Harmless’ has made it to Virginia, where he walked more than 100 miles with a female hiker. The woman – who has shared her story with police – allegedly taught him how to make a fire. 

Others say they spotted the man further south in the following months.

In December, an employee at a Georgia hiking store remembers having a conversation with ‘Mostly Harmless’ and corroborated that it was the same man seen in other hiker’s photos. 

‘Mostly Harmless’ told the store worker he was headed toward the Florida Keys.  

'Mostly Harmless' is seen in a photo taken by a fellow hiker before his mysterious death

‘Mostly Harmless’ is seen in a photo taken by a fellow hiker before his mysterious death

The hiker was discovered dead inside this yellow tent at a campsite in Florida. More than two years later, his identity and cause of death is shrouded in mystery

The hiker was discovered dead inside this yellow tent at a campsite in Florida. More than two years later, his identity and cause of death is shrouded in mystery

The next month, a Florida woman by the name of Kelly Fairbanks, recalls picking up the same man and giving him a ride in the north of the state. 

‘He was a good-looking dude,’ she told Wired in an interview. 

‘He had very kind eyes. I saw the huge beard first and thought, “It’s an older guy.” But his eyes were so young, and he didn’t have crow’s feet. I realized he was a lot younger.’

Fairbanks snapped several images of the man before he went on his way. 

Just six months later, Fairbanks was left stunned when she saw the composite rendering of the missing hiker. 

‘I started freaking out,’ she told Wired. She then shared her photos with the authorities who attached them to flyers pleading with the public for more information. 

However, no one has been unable to solve the mystery.  

One woman who spoke to Wired says she became hooked on solving the case during the coronavirus lockdown. 

Natasha Teasley, who manages a canoe and kayak company in North Carolina, told the publication that business began to slow and she ‘filled the gap in her life with the hunt for Mostly Harmless’. 

She has spent hours combing through missing persons databases, tracking cars and calling various officials in states trying to piece together what happened.  

‘He’s got to be missed,’ she stated, when asked why she was so consumed by the case. 

‘Someone must miss this guy.’ 

A flyer distributed by authorities in the area where the man's remains were discovered

A flyer distributed by authorities in the area where the man’s remains were discovered 


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