4 Decades-old Disappearances Solved By The Internet

Paulette Jaster Paulette Jaster was born in
1954 and lived with her family on a ranch in Davison, Michigan. Paulette was known as
a bright, pretty girl who was well-liked. In late August Paulette left her Davison home
to begin studies at Central Michigan University, but she dropped out after the initial semester.
Within the next few years, Paulette started suffering from mental health issues.Paulette
had recently had a break up with her high school sweetheart, then quit her good-paying
job at the Chevrolet plant in Flint, Michigan. By 1974, Paulette was also suspected of using
marijuana. In June 1977, Paulette told the Davison police that people were trying to
kill her and “use her mind.” When the police petitioned the state, saying Paulette
was unable to care for herself, a county probate court deemed her mentally ill and sent her
to the Ypsilanti State Hospital for evaluation and treatment.Paulette’s sister believes
Paulette may have been suffering from Schizophrenia at the time. Today, such a diagnosis might
mean medication and treatment. But during the The 1970s, mental illnesses were often
judged as a character flaw, not as a physical malady or a treatable body chemical imbalance.Less
than two months after Paulette, then 23, entered the state hospital, she signed herself out.For
the next year, Paulette came and went from the family home. In December 1978, just before
Christmas, and after a fight with her father, Paulette left Michigan for Florida, where
the family had relatives. Paulette would return home in April 1978, for her mother’s
birthday. She would leave the family house 2 days after the birthday and would never
be seen again. She was last seen carrying an Army-style duffel bag and walking toward
Interstate 69 not far from Davison.When her family did not hear from her for a while,
they reported her missing. Police wouldn’t find anything until almost a year later when
social security records showed that in 1980, Paulette earned $319 while working at a Walgreens
lunch counter in Mesa, Arizona. There would be no leads after this and the case would
grow cold for 3 years until, in 1983, Caroline Jaster received a tip that Paulette had returned
to Florida and could be in trouble.Several witnesses would claim to have seen her in
the last few months, but none of the sightings were ever confirmed.  Six more years would
go by when in 1989, Paulette’s sister received an anonymous call. The caller wouldn’t say
anything and hang up the phone every-time she picked up. Paulette’s sister believes
it was Paulette.Seven more years passed and in 1996, Michigan state police issued a new
nationwide missing person bulletin for any information regarding Paulette. The police
would receive a call that claimed that A Blue Earth Minnesota Jane doe could be Paulette.
However, after forensic testing, she was ruled out.The case would once again grow cold, but
her family never gave up searching for her. In 2014, Paulettes’s siblings began searching
missing person websites, including one called Websleuths,  which is a forum where registered
users can discuss and classify information related to crimes, trials and unsolved cases,
which they try to solve. The site led them to a woman named Debbie Saunders who goes
by the name of Houston Mom on Websleuths.Debbie was able to find a victim of a hit and run
case from 1980, that had some similarities to Paulette. She submitted her findings to
forensic scientist Dr. Sharon M. Derrick, who noticed the similarities as well. But
without fingerprint or DNA, Dr Sharon had to use unorthodox methods to identify the
body. A comparison of Jaster’s dental charts with the dental work of the hit-and-run victim
was a match but not exact because of a lack of X-rays. Then, scanning an autopsy photo,
Derrick saw distinctive freckles on the woman’s cheek. On January 30, 2014, after comparing
two freckles on the woman’s left cheek and one near the right eye to Paulette, she was
able to positively identify the victim of the fatal hit and run case to Paulette.It
was found that Jaster had hitched a ride from Arizona to Houston, and was seen getting out
of an 18-wheeler at a truck stop on Interstate 10 shortly before midnight on March 28, 1980.
Paulette had no identification on her when a car, driven by an intoxicated driver, swerved
into her, killing her.However, the woman had a blue duffel bag that remained in the trucker’s
cab and stayed in his possession. That duffel bag detail was never followed, and the police
never collected the bag from the trucker. According to a report from the Harris County
Sheriff’s Office, the young woman had been hit by Robert S. Cowick, who was 23.Cowick
was arrested and charged with failure to stop and render aid, along with involuntary manslaughter.
He pleaded guilty to failing to stop and was placed on probation for five years in July
1980Paulette had been buried in Houston and was known only as Jane Doe from 1980 to 2014.
After the positive identification, her grave that was previously marked with only a case
number was replaced with a plaque identifying her as Paulette Jaster, with birth and death
dates.    William Earl MoldtWilliam Earl Moldt was a 40-year-old mortgage broker from
Florida. On 7th November 1997, went to a club in Lantana, Florida. William was not
a heavy drinker, in fact, he rarely drank. He mostly kept to himself at the club and
then left alone in his 1994 Saturn SL around 11 pm. According to the witnesses, he didn’t
appear to be drunk.  Before he left the club, William had called his girlfriend around
9:30 pm to say that he would arrive home soon. But William did not make it home that night
or any of the night after. When he did not arrive home, he was reported missing. Police
searched for him but were unable to find any clue or any leads as to where he might be.With
no leads to investigate his case grew cold. He remained missing for the next two decades.Then,
On August 28th 2019, A former resident was looking at his old neighbourhood on Google
Earth in Grand Isles Sausalito housing development in Wellington, Florida, when he noticed what
he thought was a car in a retention pond. The former owner told the current resident,
Barry Fay, that a car was there in a retention pond behind his house and sent screenshots
to him.When Fay got home he looked into the pond behind his house but didn’t notice anything,
just as he hadn’t for the past 14 months he’d lived there. Fay called a neighbour who owned
a drone with a camera attached and the footage it returned showed there was a car submerged
in the pond. Fay called the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office immediately.When the vehicle was pulled
from the water, it was heavily calcified and skeletal remains were found inside it. Investigators
towed the car and the remains to the county medical examiner’s office for processing and
one week later the remains were positively identified as belonging to William Earl Moldt.
Apparently the vehicle had plainly been visible on Google Earth since 2007, but no-one had
noticed it until 2019.The police believe that William, while returning from the club, most
definitely lost control of his vehicle and driven into the pond. At the time of his disappearance,
the housing complex surrounding the pond was under construction and the car went undiscovered
throughout the rest of construction. His family finally found closure after 22 years.The Strongsville
Jane DoeLinda Marie Pagano lived with her stepfather,  Byron Claflin. Her parents
had been divorced and her 2 siblings Cheryl and Mike Pagano lived with their mother and
her new boyfriend. According to Linda’s mother and her siblings, Byron was abusive
towards them so they decided to move away from him, but Linda decided to stay as she
was not fond of her mother’s new boyfriend. According to Cheryl and Mike, Byron was abusive
towards them but wasn’t abusive towards Linda and both got along well.
On August 31, Linda took her Mustang with her boyfriend to Cleveland to attend a World
Series of Rock concert at the old stadium. She would not arrive home that night. When
she came home the early morning, Byron and Linda got into a fight and he kicked her out
of the house. Linda was never seen again.The next day, Byron called Linda’s mother at
their home in a Springfield mobile park and told her that he was looking for Linda. After
calling their friends and family and no one had seen her, they notified the police.Police
treated the case as if Linda ran away from home. Her family however kept searching. On
February 5, 1975, three boys found skeletal remains along the bank of the Rocky River
in Strongsville, which currently is known as Mill Stream Run Reservation. There was
no physical evidence at the scene. An autopsy later revealed the remains were that of a
white female in her late teens or early 20s. The unknown woman died from a gunshot wound
to the head. The case was classified as a homicide. Mike Pagano heard a TV news report
about the woman found in Strongsville and wondered if it was her sister. He immediately
called the police in the Cleveland suburb.A woman answered. Mike said that “I gave her
the description, told her the name and how long Linda had been missing, and she said,
‘Oh, no. This girl is a little older and probably a little taller. Oh no, that’s
not your sister.’ And that was the last of it.”Years would go by with no news about
Linda and both cases would grow cold. Weeks turned to months. Months turned to years.
Years turned to decades. The Strongsville Jane Doe’s remains went unclaimed and were
later interred at Potter’s Field at Memorial Gardens in Highland Hills.Then in 2015, 22-year-old
Amateur sleuth and genealogy researcher Christina Scates was looking in the Highland Park Cemetery
records for one of her ancestors. She noticed a grave from 1975 that had no name. It simply
said, “Unknown white female bones.” Scates felt compelled to search for the identity
of this young woman. She began to search at her local library and found the newspaper
clipping about the murder of the Strongsville Jane Doe. She called as many local detectives
as she could, until one finally sent her the digital cold case file.Scates then decided
to go to Reddit. She posted all her findings and case information on subreddit called r/UnresolvedMysteries
under the username called “callmeice.” From there the case made its way to WebSlueth
where a user who worked as a forensic artist, Carl Koppelman,  was able to recreate a digital
version of the woman’s face from crime scene photographs. Koppelman’s unique skills in
facial recreation have earned him respect in the criminal investigation community. The
young woman was never listed in any public databases like NamUs or The Doe Network for
unknown reasons. Scates then contacted the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office
about the case. Days later, the case was entered into NamUs, a federal database for missing
and unidentified persons.In December 2016, as soon as the Case was entered into NamUS,
the Akron police and its cold case detectives quickly made a potential link. They attempted
to use dental records to identify the Strongsville Jane Doe with Linda Pagano, but they were
unsuccessful.  Authorities then exhumed the skeletal remains in October 2017 with the
assistance of The University of Akron, which provided magnetic and electronic surveying
equipment to help map out the unmarked graves.Bone samples from the exhumed remains, in addition
to DNA samples from Mike and Cheryl Pagano were sent for DNA testing.The DNA revealed
on  June 29, 2018, that the remains belonged to Linda Pagano.Police are now trying to determine
who killed Linda Pagano. The only person to be named a person of interest in Linda Pagano’s
disappearance was Byron Claflin. But he died in 1990 and no suspects have been publicly
identified since.  Grateful DoeOn June 26, 1995, 21-year-old student named Michael Eric
Hager who was travelling from Fairfax, Virginia to his mother’s house in Inman, South Carolina,
when he picked up a 19-year-old hitchhiker with shaggy blonde hair into his Volkswagen
van in Virginia. At some point during the drive, Michael fell asleep at the wheel.  At
1:30 pm, Micheal’s Van veered off and crashed into a pair of trees on U.S. Route 58 West
in Greensville County, Virginia. Both of them suffered head injuries and died immediately.
Michael was Identified but the unknown hitchhiker carried no identification which made it impossible
to identify him. It has been suggested that Michael may have agreed to transport the hitchhiker
because of their similar styles of dress, as they both appeared to be fans of The Grateful
Dead.  Amongst the hitchhiker’s belongings, he had a lighter, a few coins and two scalped
ticket stubs to a Grateful Dead Concert. The concert took place at RFK Stadium in Washington,
D.C. one for June 24, 1994 and another for June 25, 1995. A note was also found near
his body which read “Jason, Sorry, we had to go, see ya around, call me.  Caroline
T. + Caroline O.” The note had a phone number with a 914 prefix, but no area code. The number
turned out to be a dead-end for the police.Since he had no identification, the hitchhiker was
deemed “Grateful Doe”. Fingerprint analysis was also unsuccessful. Due to the severity
of the lacerations on hitchhiker’s face, mortuary photographs could not be released to the public,
although a facial reconstruction was later released. In 2012, another facial reconstruction
was created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  Days turned to months
and months turned to years and eventually, the case grew cold.Then 20 years later, Across
the world in Queensland, Australia, Redditor Layla Betts started getting into unsolved
mysteries.  She stumbled across the Grateful doe case where two men were killed in a car
crash. One man was identified, but the other wasn’t. Immediately, Betts (otherwise known
as Reddit user zombiegrey) was drawn to his story.In January 2015, Under the username
greymetal, Layla published a post to Imgur titled “Do you recognise me? I have been
without my name for nearly 20 years” in hopes of finding any information about the
young man. She also created the Reddit community r/Grateful Doe in order to keep track of any
possible leads in the case. Thousands of people joined in and she spent several hours a day
moderating the community — replying to comments, contacting law enforcement, and posting updates.Soon
she got a message in her Reddit inbox from a guy named Steve.  Steve said he recognized
the guy in the composite sketches. He thought it looked like one of his old roommates from
Illinois — a guy named Jason. He only knew him by his first name.  The man described
Jason as a young, free, hippie surfer. At the time, Jason was working at the local McDonald’s
and discussed subjects like atheism and hallucinogens. And much like the deceased hitchhiker, Jason
was a “major Deadhead.” The roommate also said that he hadn’t seen Jason since 1995.The
man supplied photographs of his former roommate who had a striking resemblance to that of
the reconstructions of the Grateful doe. Not too long after, the story reached the mainstream
media and a lady named Margaretta Evans came forward stating that the young man in the
photos was her son, Jason Callahan, who had been missing for 20 years.On 12 January 2015,
Evans finally filed a missing person report regarding the 1995 disappearance of her son
Jason Callahan. When asked why she hadn’t reported him missing in 1995, Callahan’s
mother said she didn’t know which jurisdiction to file the report with due to the nomadic
nature of Grateful Dead fans. Due to his nomadic nature, Callahan’s family had presumed he
had gone to “live on his own, elsewhere.” In January 2015, law enforcement conducted
a DNA test to see if Grateful Doe was the same man as Jason Callahan.  DNA testing
confirmed that the body was indeed that of Jason Callahan. The case was finally solved
after 20 years. The Grateful Doe subreddit still exists. Now that its namesake case has
been solved, the community features other missing person cases — several of which
have also been solved.

Danny Hutson

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