Identified! FL - Big Cypress Natl Preserve, Male hiker, "Denim" & "Mostly Harmless", Jul 2018 - Vance Rodriguez

Discussion in 'Identified!' started by Gardener1850, Aug 3, 2018.

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  1. Gareth_H

    Gareth_H On Time Out

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    That's the one! His right-hand middle finger looks severely swollen, as do the others actually, but that one really stands out. That isn't Reynauds, that's a long term deformation of soft tissue, cartilage and bone. His PM photo of his right foot shows a dropped 1st MTPj joint to a degree that would need surgery, it would have made walking unbelievably painful. It didn't even decrease despite every gram of bodyweight aside wasting away.

    In fact, it would have made it all but impossible and certainly not with any additional weight.
     


  2. elmomom

    elmomom Well-Known Member

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    RA is not remitting, the joint damage is permanent. If it were RA it would be obvious on the autopsy photos and it is clearly not, as posted by Branmuffin.
     
  3. Gareth_H

    Gareth_H On Time Out

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    Except his obliterated 1st MTPj joint of his right foot, as posted by me, someone trained and experienced looking at foot abnormalities? And his clearly grossly damaged right hand finger joints when put under load and his constant wearing of knee braces and him telling a hiker he had a health condition that was degenerative?

    Plus fyi RA is almost always bilateral and rarely affects men. MH had psoriatic arthritis.

    Protip - If you can't or didn't notice something, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2020
  4. elmomom

    elmomom Well-Known Member

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    Note, noticing that his finger joints are normal at autopsy is noticing something. Normality, it is a thing.
     
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  5. Ursamajr

    Ursamajr Well-Known Member

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    Would psoriatic arthritis be detectable post mortem? I ask because I am wondering if the ME would take note of that and if they did, why was it missing from the autopsy report.
     
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  6. Monger

    Monger Well-Known Member

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    Do you mind posting comparison pictures of the foot you remarked about? The one in GA I believe you mentioned and the PM? Just trying to follow along with your observations. Thanks!
     
  7. annemc2

    annemc2 her name is Suzanne Marie Sevakis

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    The autopsy wasn't the most thorough. As mentioned previously, I think it was assumed that MH was a transient who died of "natural causes" and that nobody would bother going over the report with a fine-toothed comb. Who would have ever expected thousands of people to be talking about it?!

    I'd also be really interested in seeing that MTP close up. I tend to agree with the good doctor, especially if a deformity like that jumps right out. Psoriatic arthritis can be associated with a higher incidence of cancer. Unlikely that they tested for any sort of hematolympohid malignancies. Could a scalp manifestation of psoriasis be the reason for MH's ever-present head coverings? Are there any other close-ups of his nails?
     
  8. mjak

    mjak Well-Known Member

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    Just a couple of comments regarding MH and is health. My understanding is MH commented to other hikers wanting to hike the trail while he could. No where have i read where he attributed that statement to having an illness. He could have meant, while I have the time, finances, freedom, before I get too old. Or many other things. As the ME found no evidence of chronic disease we really have little for us to conclude MH had a chronic illness. I have psoriatic arthritis. Like most people with psoriatic arthritis I have psoriasis. MH did not have visible psoriasis or the ME would have noted that. Psoriatic arthritis causes what is referred to as sassuage digits. That is overt swelling of the whole finger or toe. MH did not have this. MH did not have any medications in his possession to put psoriatic arthritis in remission. It is inconceivable to me that someone with active unmedicated psoriatic arthritis would be hiking the AT. As just walking the regular life day to day trail is more than enough of a struggle.
     
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  9. Luckymissrose

    Luckymissrose New Member

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    Obsidian did tell Jason Nark that MH had many medications, albeit we don’t know what they were nor was it confirmed they were found in his belongings. I’m curious what they could’ve been? Or were they possibly just the Benadryl and Ibuprofen? Thoughts?
     
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  10. UnlicensedPI

    UnlicensedPI Well-Known Member

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    Not to be overly redundant on this point, but the account of the woman who claims MH told her he was "hiking while he still could" does not match up with the known timeline. I have yet to see another witness make the same claim about him.

    His hands look like normal (severely underweight) hands to me. My knuckles bulged when I was underweight, though they're fairly prominent at a healthy weight. I have very small hands so I think everything in them is a little squished ;) You can search "anorexia hands" or "thinspo hands" or something similar to get a better idea of what normal (non-arthritic) underweight hands look like and the variances within normal.

    @Luckymissrose can you point me to where Obsidian made the claim that MH had many medications? @Narkj any insight into his possible medications?
     
  11. MadMcGoo

    MadMcGoo Well-Known Member

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    I actually don’t remember hearing this tidbit. But lots has been discussed pertaining to him, so I very easily could have missed it or forgotten it. I wonder if “many” would be used to describe the Benadryl and IBP. I can’t recall when he encountered Obsidian, but if he were taking other meds besides those two, would they have had time to clear his system? Interesting.
     
  12. MadMcGoo

    MadMcGoo Well-Known Member

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    RBBM

    This is very interesting to me. Something I had never thought of, but could explain a few things. How do you figure he was able to endure such a long journey? Could the trek itself have caused what you’re describing? I know nothing about feet or arthritis, but it seems like you do and I’m curious now.

    And welcome to WS!
     
  13. AllisonS

    AllisonS Member

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    I agree with this, and if you are to believe that this witness saw him in Pine Log State Forest on the Feb 24th, when multiple witnesses saw him in Monticello, FL on Feb 22nd, and then turned around and hiked backwards to Pine Log State Forest, and then turned around again to hike back towards Monticello and Paisley. It just doesn't make much sense to me. I think this witness is mistaken.

    Unfortunately, this is also the witness that talked about the sister in Florida, so if she was mistaken about who she met, then this whole sister thing might be a wild goose chase IMO.
     
  14. Laughing

    Laughing Well-Known Member

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    Not our Podiatrist, but a person living with arthritis.

    I have osteoarthritis in multiple joints. The level is my spine is Severe. Right hip & joints in both feet, right is worse, are involved.

    But, the arthritis is not my only health problem, and Gastroenterology won't let me take common arthritis medications, starting with ibuprofen & moving up from there.

    I do take the generic of Tylenol Arthritis. Acetaminophen does help with the pain, but not as a prescription arthritis medicine would.

    My remedies include mechanics, ice & heat, turmeric, ginger, green tea, fish oil. There's a cold pack under my right foot right now.

    I am in pain most of the time.

    Physical therapy greatly improved my mobility 10 years ago. The physical therapist said that, yes, the joints will hurt, and that each patient decides who is in charge. When the patient lets the pain be in charge, the patient gives up. When the patient chooses to be in charge, appointments are kept, and the home PT becomes a part of the patient's life.

    My joints hurt, and I'm in charge. I do (parts of) my PT every day, more if some more difficult activity is planned -- long car trip, for example.

    Mobility matters to me, I won't give that up.

    If Denim decided to be in charge of the pain, that was just part of his hike & his life. His joints hurt. Sometimes he needed to move slower, but kept moving. Weather was likely a factor, if his arthritis is anything like mine.

    I think he chose to walk away from his physical pain, on the AT.

    The hike mattered to him -- mattered more than the pain.

    Just my experience.

    YMMV LRR
     
  15. MadMcGoo

    MadMcGoo Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for sharing! I’m sorry about your pain, but I’m glad you chose to take charge! ;)

    It sounds like this could very well be why Denim hiked fewer miles than most per day (among other things). I really hadn’t thought about something like this playing such a big role in things, but it seems likely.

    The more I think about it, and the more we discuss, I realize just how extraordinary his journey was. And we don’t even know the half of it.
     
  16. lonewanderer

    lonewanderer Well-Known Member

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    Well, at this point I feel like we are mainly just stirring the bottom of the pot. DNA appears to be the biggest hope.

    While we wait, here is an interesting story that I cannot recall mentioned in any of the MH/Denim/Ben Bilemy threads (and have been through them MANY times). Forgive me if this has been posted before.

    I will do "TL;DR" version first. A businessman embezzles large amounts of money, and basically disappears the day his company confronts him about it. He vanished from his wife and children, hiking the AT as a means of anonymity. He is caught years later after being recognized by a fellow hike, and he was still hiking the trail with the trailname "Bismarck".

    Link: Fugitive Spent Years Hiding on the Appalachian Trail — FBI

    Full story from site:

    In February 2009, James T. Hammes was called to his employer’s headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio to answer questions about a possible fraud scheme inside the company. A long-time, respected controller for a family-owned beverage bottling company, Hammes handled all his business division’s vendor accounts and payments.

    During the interview, conducted by the FBI, Hammes repeatedly denied any knowledge of the fraud. But shortly after he left the company’s headquarters that day for his home in Lexington, Kentucky, the 46-year-old husband and father disappeared without a word.


    Hammes was later charged with embezzling more than $8.7 million from his employer over an 11-year period. “Agents recovered boxes of documents at his home that detailed the fraudulent transactions,” said Special Agent Jonathan Jones, one of the investigators who worked the case from the FBI’s Cincinnati Field Office. “It was also discovered that he was doing research on the Internet about how to disappear.”

    As it turns out, for the majority of his six years on the run, Hammes was hiding in plain sight on the Appalachian Trail, the nearly 2,200-mile wilderness path that runs from Georgia to Maine. Hammes, who went by the trail name “Bismarck,” came to be known and liked by fellow hikers on the trail. No one guessed his real identity or that he was wanted by the FBI.

    Court documents show that Hammes' embezzlement began around 1998. As a controller, he was responsible for all financial accounting and internal controls for his division, including supervising accounts payable to several hundred outside vendors. He carried out the fraud by establishing a new bank account for an existing vendor at a different bank. He then deposited hefty payments to that vendor—often $100,000 at a time—in the phantom account that he alone controlled. He then could transfer money from the phantom account to his personal accounts.

    “He knew how to cover his tracks by manipulating audits and ledger entries,” Jones said. “He got away with it for so long because he knew how to manipulate his subordinates and how not to raise accounting red flags.”

    Eventually, bank employees who handled accounts for the victim company and the vendor discovered canceled checks being returned from a bank they were unfamiliar with, and the scheme began to unravel. Hammes was also coming under scrutiny from the Internal Revenue Service for failing to file tax returns. He had invested a majority of the stolen funds in the stock market and lost most of that when the market had a severe downturn in 2008.

    While he was a fugitive, his wife divorced him. Hammes apparently had little contact with the outside world while he was hiking, so he may not have known that his case had attracted widespread media attention, including segments on popular crime reenactment shows such as American Greed and America’s Most Wanted.


    In late 2014, a hiker who had spent time with “Bismarck” on the trail was back at home when he happened to watch a rerun of American Greed that featured the Hammes case. He recognized his trail companion and called the FBI. Hammes was arrested in Virginia in May 2015 and pleaded guilty to wire fraud in connection with the embezzlement that October.

    Jones credits the media and the public for assisting in the fugitive’s capture. “Without the publicity,” he said, “we may never have caught him.” Last month, a federal judge sentenced Hammes to eight years in prison and ordered him to pay nearly $8 million in restitution.

    Jones pointed out that Hammes did not appear to have a gambling problem or a drug addiction, which often explains why people embezzle money. “I think he was just greedy,” he said. I think he just wanted a lifestyle that his current position couldn’t afford him. He was an outgoing guy. People liked him,” Jones added. “But it’s obvious by his actions he didn’t care about anyone but himself.”
     
  17. ballads1

    ballads1 Active Member

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    What an interesting story! Perhaps MH was in some kind of debt (possibly from student loans, or loans from family/friends) that he couldn’t pay off, so he decided to go off the grid. Or, he could have been in some kind of legal trouble that he needed to get away from.

    He doesn’t seem like the type to commit any serious crimes, though. All the things that people who have met him have said about him have been positive. But then again, you can’t really trust anyone these days, he could have just been putting on a front. (still, pretty unlikely IMO)
     
  18. Gareth_H

    Gareth_H On Time Out

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    Hey man thank you. Sorry for the delay in responding. Right here is a summation, which would be obvious to anyone with a background in foot and ankle disorders or rheumatology.

    <modsnip>

    >Hurr durr the PM photos don't show it.

    His right foot is literally worse than the example I've posted below.

    Ok, so here is a pic of MH tentatively checking out his right foot.

    upload_2020-9-17_20-18-34.png

    Now, we can't see the foot here unloaded, i.e. similar to the PM photos where he is on his back and not weightbearing. But even here (if we discount the fact that he clearly looks like he's inspecting it) the "big toe" and the bone (metatarsal) look relatively fine.

    In contrast, if you haven't seen them, his post mortem photo of his right foot, the same as above (and I am more than willing to send the one in question if allowed and by request) looks almost identical to this...

    If you notice, the "big toe" here, is noticeably riding on a lower "level" than the rest of the toes.

    upload_2020-9-17_20-22-40.png

    For context, this is the pic I clipped this from. It's from the radiological report of a rheumatoid arthritis patient.

    [​IMG]

    https://ars.els-cdn.com/content/image/1-s2.0-S187705681630189X-gr9.jpg

    This is his right hand obviously, when in Georgia just after he'd bought his new camping gear. Note middle finger. Not normal by an stretch of any imagination when under load i.e. he's holding something.

    upload_2020-9-17_20-20-13.png

    And here's his left...

    upload_2020-9-17_20-21-45.png

    Note the deviation of the far joint of the index finger.

    Here's a comparison pic from the NHS website here in the UK for Psoriatic arthritis joint destruction. Rheumatoid left unchecked is similar however.

    [​IMG]

    Psoriatic arthritis

    Now if we compare the timeline from the very first pic, where he's looking at his right foot, to the PM photo, that shows a marked increase in the amount his 1st MTPj has dropped. Within just over a year basically. The degree to which his foot had deformed (actually worse than the photo I posted above) would have made even putting his foot to the floor excruciating, let alone walking and let alone walking with weight.

    My take on his ability to endure the hike was that MH was probably fairly recently diagnosed or had just begun to experience the symptoms of whatever auto-immune arthritis he was suffering from. I believe, as evidenced by his blood results, that he was basically living on ibuprofen and whatever other analgesics.

    It's my firm belief (having studied his notes extensively over the last few weeks) that MH simply found the diagnosis/advance of the condition too much to deal with, given he was clearly someone who very much liked to be in control to quite an extreme degree. Also, psoriatic or rheumatoid arthritis would very much have started to impede on his ability to use a computer mouse.

    In regards to whether the hike caused it, this is an excellent question. This would take us away from the realms of auto-immune arthritis and into mechanical damage. Repeated heavy trauma can cause the foot deformity he had.

    If he didn't have the finger joints as per Georgia photo, I would be tempted to err with that, and still don't discount it. The point still remains however, the destruction Mostly Harmless had in his foot joint would have been disabling.

    Again, I am more than happy to send the PM photo of his foot, for people to compare.

    Hope this helps folks!
     

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    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 19, 2020
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  19. Gareth_H

    Gareth_H On Time Out

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  20. Gareth_H

    Gareth_H On Time Out

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    PS - Apologies to anyone else I've missed replying to!
     
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