The Death Of AJ Fader

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crewtime 04/23/15 (Thu) 01:03:29 #83920137

The death of AJ Fader (and of their friends) remains one of the Pacific Northwest's most puzzling mysteries. Despite clear photographic evidence of the presumed killer, he remains unidentified.

They were six recent college graduates from the University of Washington Seattle, Class of 2003. One - Matt Mantell - had graduated a year early, through a combination of AP credits, summer classes, and a heavy course load. After graduating, he moved back home to Eureka, California. The other five - AJ Fader, Blake Thorburn, Elisa Tran, Liv Benjamin, and Zach O'Grady - all graduated the following year. After graduation, they planned to road trip down from Seattle to Eureka in AJ's 1997 4Runner, spending some time on the Oregon Coast.

According to Matt, the plan had been for the group to drive from Seattle to Portland. They'd spend the night there and then spend a few days lazily going down the coast. They weren't in any particular rush, and Matt would have been busy with work if the group had arrived as soon as possible. The plan had been to camp on the coast, in some redwood forests, and generally take it easy after a hectic senior year. It was supposed to be a safe trip, but AJ brought their gun, just in case.

As far as anyone can tell, the trip had no problems for the first few legs. The group arrived in Portland without a hitch, staying with a friend of AJ's in the city. They visited a few bars on the night of their arrival and a few parks the next day, before leaving in the afternoon. Throughout this time, they kept in close communication with Matthew, letting them know their progress throughout.

crewtime 04/23/15 (Thu) 01:10:11 #83920828

Things take a turn for the worse after leaving Portland. The group gets dinner in Tillamook and then leaves for Nags Beach Campground, a small and infrequently used campsite about an hour from Tillamook, close to the water. They pick the campsite for its isolation, hoping they would not be bothered. It is off the beaten path, and rarely receives visitors. Often, campers find themselves the only people there.

However, they are not alone. On a call to Matt at 8:13 PM, Elisa mentions another camper at the campsite at the same time as them. Nags Beach is large enough the two groups can spread apart, and on this call, Elisa only mentions seeing the campfire of the other party through the trees. She doesn't spend long talking about their fellow camper, choosing to discuss the day and the other features of Nags Beach.

It is unknown what happens between 8:19 PM (when Elisa finishes her call) and 11:47 PM, when AJ leaves Matt another voice mail. (Matt had fallen asleep.) Throughout this second call, Elisa, Liv and Zach can be heard talking in the background, having their own, quieter conversation.

AJ: Hey, Matt. Just a heads up, wanted to let you know how our plans are going. We got into a bit of a uh, well, thing — a fight — with one of the other campers at Nags Beach. The only other camper, in fact. Felt it was best if we just headed out after that. Not physical, but … could've, maybe.

Elisa: (Background) Why would he say something like that? How could he have known?

Zach: (Background) I'm less concerned about what he said and more about what he was. I don't think (unintelligible).

AJ: I'm not really sure what our plans are for the night, Blake is the one driving. Uh, Blake, where we headed?

Liv: (Background) Did you see his eyes? Did you get a good look at his eyes?

Blake: Anywhere that's away from that freak. I don't know about you, but I'm scared of him. Not just in the normal way, which is bad enough, but … you saw him too. You get it.

Elisa: (Background) No, it was too dark to make anything out. Just saw shadows.

AJ: So yeah. Not sure where we'll end up. I'll let you know where we are, give you a recap of tonight when we get to Eureka.

Zach: (Background) It wasn't that dark, Elisa. I could see yours just fine. His weren't-

The call abruptly ends before Zach finishes.

crewtime 04/23/15 (Thu) 01:13:36 #83921076

The five sleep in their car in a Walmart parking lot that night, as all campsites had closed before they left Nags Beach. Regardless, they had no further problems that day. They stayed at their next campsite - Harris Beach without issue, remaining in contact with Matthew.

The group gets a late lunch in a Crescent City IHOP and are recorded on a security camera. While the group is eating, a man wearing sunglasses enters behind them, and the group instantly freezes. There is a brief moment where the two look directly at each other, without moving or reacting, before the man is taken to a table. While his back is turned, the group rushes out, hastily throwing a fifty onto the table (not enough to cover their entire meal).

Matt gets another voice mail from AJ, not long after the five flee the IHOP. This time, Matt is at work.

Hey Matt, AJ here. The guy from the other night, from the Nags Beach campground, followed us, we think. He walked into the diner we were eating at, so we left as fast as we could get out. Not sure how he followed us, but… I was worried this would happen.

Saw it coming. We're going to take a detour in from the coast, see if he's still following us then. Still going to Eureka, just a different way. Call you soon.

crewtime 04/23/15 (Thu) 01:18:08 #83921273

However, AJ did not call back soon. This voice mail was the last communication that Matt would ever receive from his friends.

After making this call, the group drives away from the coast, into the heart of California. It's hard to guess at what their travel plans are at this point, but the most logical is that they plan to drive north on 199, take Greyback Road to 96, and then go to Eureka — a route that adds four hours to their travel time. Their reasons for this much longer route are unknown, as are their sudden lack of calls.

The next sighting comes late on the night of the fourth day of their trip, caught in the outside security camera of a gas station in Klamath Falls, Oregon. At this point, they have been driving in the opposite direction of Eureka for three hours, and there is no path they could be on that leads to Eureka.

The 4Runner drives up, and AJ, Elisa, Blake, and Liv exit. Zach is nowhere to be seen, not even in the car. The gas station camera is in black and white and doesn't capture sound. Blake and Elisa have an argument, and AJ and Liv join in. AJ gestures to their gun, sitting on the dashboard throughout. It lasts for a few minutes before they get back into the car and drive off.

Two minutes later, another car, this one a 1969 Ford Mustang. It has no license plates, front or back. A man exits, still wearing sunglasses in the dark. This man inspects the ground near the pump used, and then suddenly jerks his head to the camera. For almost a minute, he stares directly at the viewer. He then proceeds to calmly buy gas and takes off in the same direction as the group.

AJ's 4Runner was found abandoned just outside of the Sheldon National Antelope Refuge, almost two hundred miles away from Klamath Falls, five days after they left Seattle. Matt had reported them missing by the evening of the fourth day, but nobody could have expected to find them that far away. As best as can be told, the five drove continuously from the station without stopping, until they ran out of gas, and pulled off on the side of the road.

A highway patrol officer found the car stopped on the side of the road and pulled over to investigate. Inside, he found three dead bodies, — Blake, Elisa and Liv — each stabbed to death. Their eyes had all been carved out of their skulls, nowhere to be found. Zach was — and to this day still is — missing. Each had been propped up in the car seats, seat belts buckled in.

Leading off from around the side of the 4Runner were two trails of footprints. The officer followed them, although he noted one stopped twenty feet before the other and turned back. The other led straight to the corpse of AJ Fader, clutching their gun and facing the direction of the road.

Cause of death? A self-inflicted bullet wound, shot by AJ through their own right eye.

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