PORTLAND, Ore. — Authorities in Oregon say text messages found hours before the discovery of a missing college student’s body on a heavily-wooded hill were the first indication he planned to kill himself.
Johnathan Croom was found just 1,000 yards from the vehicle he abandoned near Riddle, Ore.
Douglas County sheriff’s spokesman Dwes Hutson said crews searching the area for days after Croom’s green SUV was found were looking for a live person. They called his name and made lots of noise, as they had since last week, but heard nothing back.
The discovery of the texts changed the nature of the search.
“That led us to believe that he was probably going to do this,” Hutson said. “In these kind of cases, sometimes people leave very detailed notes and instructions. Sometimes, you don’t.”
Hutson says crews brought in dogs used to find cadavers, and found the 18-year-old Croom’s body within hours.
The Apache Junction, Ariz., college student was scheduled to drive home from Seattle and was due back Aug. 17.
Croom’s father said Monday night his son was grieving the end of a recent relationship.
“He was a young man who had a broken heart and headed out to try to find himself,” said David Croom, Johnathan’s father. “We’re looking forward to finding out exactly what happened.”
He thanked everyone who helped search for his son and added, “Please pray for our family.”
The teen had talked with his parents about the book “Into the Wild” and told a friend he wanted to run away.
Croom also talked to his parents about Christopher McCandless, whose journey to Alaska was documented in the book. McCandless gave up his worldly goods to live in the Alaska wilderness, only to die there, perhaps from eating wild potatoes.
Earlier this year, a 19-year-old from Oklahoma disappeared after talking to his parents about the same book and setting out to test himself against the Oregon wilderness.
Dustin Self’s truck was found in April on Steens Mountain in southeast Oregon. The last search for Self was in the spring, after snow melted, but it yielded no hints to his location.