Into Thin Air: The Baffling Disappearance of Jason Jolkowski

Jason Jolkowski was a kind-hearted 19-year-old man who lived in Omaha, Nebraska. In 2001, he was a high-school graduate attending Iowa Western Community College part-time while living at home and working at a local restaurant as well as at 89.7 The River, the college’s radio station. Jason had slight learning difficulties relating to speech and language which were not visible but would become apparent if you spoke to him. Jason was said to be of above average intelligence. In 2001, he vanished into thin air in his own neighbourhood within a 30-minute time frame.

A Reddit user, djg123, who says she knew Jason from his job at 89.7 The River, had this to say about that job: “He went by mostly JJ, but also “Jammin’ Jason” for one segment he did. 89.7 The River calls themselves “The Cutting Edge of Rock” and so they play rock and alternative. As JJ, he did a lot of evening and late-night shifts (that is when the students in the Media Studies Program worked). He was a River at Night deejay, so it was a lot of harder rock. Sometimes he had me call in during his shifts to be “Party Girl” and he would put me on air to give updates on parties that were happening in the area. Jammin’ Jason was his handle when he did sports I believe.”

Jason was known for his shy nature and kindness; his mom has said he would open doors for elderly people and help someone across the street. In high school, he would help a boy in a wheelchair get from class to class. He was described as shy but aspired to a career as a radio DJ. At the time of his disappearance, he was due to start a new job as a radio DJ the next week (different from his current radio DJ job).

Jason worked at a restaurant called Fazoli’s part-time. He usually drove to work. It was normal for him to be called in to work to start early and on June 13, 2001, that is exactly what happened. It was a Wednesday and Jason was at home with his younger brother Michael, 13, while his parents were at work. Unfortunately, Jason’s car was in the shop and he told his manager that he would walk to work. This was quite a distance, so the manager called back and told Jason that a female co-worker would pick him up at Benson High School at 11am and drive Jason to work. The school is eight blocks from Jason’s home. Jason agreed. The reason for meeting at the high school rather than at home is that Jason thought it would be easier to direct his co-worker there, rather than try to explain the directions right to his front door. Of course, this was 2001, before we all had GPS to direct us everywhere.

Before he left for work, Jason showered and dressed in a Chicago Cubs t-shirt, black dress pants and black dress shoes and helped his younger brother Michael bring in the trash cans, which had been emptied that morning. This was at 10:45am and was corroborated by a neighbour who saw Jason in the driveway. He then left his home and has NEVER been seen since. The co-worker waited for Jason at the high school but eventually left at around 11:15am. Jason was not seen on surveillance cameras near the school, indicating he never made it that far. Jason’s co-worker called his house from a payphone to find out where he was. It is at this time that Jason’s disappearance was discovered.

Like many people, Jason’s family incorrectly thought they had to wait 24 hours to file a missing persons report, which they did. It took the police a further nine days to start investigating. Law enforcement argued that adults, as Jason was, have a right to disappear for a few days.

The family was concerned and did not think Jason would just up and leave. He was looking forward to his new job. The family have criticized the police for their inaction in the early days of the case. While the family agrees that the police eventually did a full investigation, they have been critical of the fact that Jason’s disappearance was not investigated sooner. Readers, can any of you remember things you did and saw ten days ago? Any witness testimony gained ten days after the disappearance may not have been very useful. As such, important clues could have been lost.

Theories

Mistaken identity. A random, unlikely, option, but in a case this cold, we have to think outside the box. Jason could have been targeted and killed in a case of mistaken identity. People on WebSleuths have pointed out a criminal, Jeremy Sheets, who was released from prison around the time of Jason’s disappearance, who could have been the real target. Jeremy Sheets raped and murdered a 17-year-old girl.

Runaway. Unlikely, in my opinion. Jason only had a maximum of $60 on his person at the time, while $600 was still in his bank account, untouched. He also did not have access to his vehicle at the time. No personal belongings were taken with him. One possibility I can think of is this: Jason did not feel like going to work that day, and he knew he had a better job starting soon. Maybe he blew off work for the day. This would give a much, much wider net of possibilities for his disappearance. I think it’s possible he skipped work but still ran into trouble that very same day, doing who knows what. However, he brought his change of work clothes with him when he left the house and his family has asserted that his disappearance is very out of character.

Fazoli’s restaurant. The workers at Fazoli’s are the only people who knew about Jason’s change of schedule. Even Jason’s parents did not know he was called in to work early. The only people who could have planned a crime in relation to Jason would be workers at Fazoli’s. Additionally, if the Fazoli’s workers plotted anything, they could cover for each other. Maybe Jason actually was picked up by the worker at the high school, somehow unseen by the cameras, and the workers called Jason’s family to complain about his absence to cover up whatever they did. This is a good a possibility as any, but you have to keep in mind that the more people are involved, the more likely the true story is to come out. After 16 years, if Fazoli’s workers are responsible, someone likely would have slipped up by now. The workers were all interviewed and cleared by the police. Additionally, the workers at the restaurant have no known motive to hurt Jason.

Opportunistic killing. This one I find unlikely. Jason was 6 feet, one inch tall and weighed 165 pounds. Yes, he was alone, but I still don’t think he is a likely target for murder in broad daylight. He would be difficult to subdue because of his size. The only thing I can imagine is if Jason was lured somewhere because of his kindness. Jason’s family said he preferred to see the good in people and was very trusting. Maybe this could have been his downfall. However, if Jason was on his way to meet a co-worker to drive to work, I don’t see him being distracted by someone asking for help, I suppose it would depend on the severity of the situation. He also would not have hitchhiked to work as he had plans to meet his co-worker at the high school. He may have accepted a ride to the school where he was meeting the co-worker, this was a distance of eight blocks.

Suicide. Obviously this will be an unpopular theory but it is more logical and statistically possible than some of the other theories. The main hitch would be: where did he commit suicide that would have hidden his body for this long? And it would probably have been in walking distance to his home as Jason did not have access to a car. If his suicide was planned, then why not wait until you have access to a car? In addition, his disappearance would be noticed right away because of the co-worker waiting for him. A suicide where your body will never be found would require planning. Family and friends have stated he was not depressed, but sometimes people don’t always show signs of depression or leave a note. I find this scenario unlikely, however it is still more logical than some other theories that have been explored.

Accident. Jason could have been hit by a car accidentally and then his body taken elsewhere. I don’t think this could happen as it was broad daylight and some evidence would have been left behind. This also would have been likely to be noticed by someone. Additionally, Jason is 6’1″ and 165lbs and would be difficult to move once hit by a car. However, there is a slim possibility this could have happened, and it was 10:45am on a Wednesday when most people are at work.

What do you guys think happened to Jason? I personally think suicide or opportunistic killing. Suicide is probably more statistically likely but the timing really does not make sense to me. If an opportunistic killing could have happened, I wonder if the perpetrator knew Jason and what the motive could be..

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7 thoughts on “Into Thin Air: The Baffling Disappearance of Jason Jolkowski

  1. I think someone he knew saw him that morning and offered him a ride and then murdered him. I just don’t think that he left to start a new life. I hope I’m wrong and he’s alive and well somewhere, but I don’t think so. He seemed like such a sweet kid.

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  2. It is also possible that whoever picked him up for the shift did something to Jason and just returned to the store afterwards and said they didn’t show. Either someone knew in advance he was getting called in and took advantage of the situation. Or it was something that was spur of the moment. Someone or a group of people took Jason and likely murdered him. I heard the co worker was completely cleared tho. And the coworker was a “she”. So unless she had an accomplice or a weapon its unlikely. Someone along the route he took to get to the school is the key I believe. Meaning someone who lived in the immediate area. I believe him to still be there. Well, The body anyways.

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  3. His neighborhood is ok BUT if you go about a mile east its the worst of Omaha. Omaha currently rates a 8 on neighborhood scouts crime index (1 is the worst 100 is the best). Back then 95% of murders where in that neighborhood. Every guy i know has been jumped while in that neighborhood. One incident they made my ex put a coat over his head to contain the mess but then someone talked him out of killing my ex.
    I feel like he was walking & some gangbangers decided to force him in the car to rob him somewhere quiet and out of site. He maybe refused to give them his pin number and they killed him. They usually do not care about the body but this time its possible they put it in a dumpster (on a trash day) or buried it in their yard. It would not surprise me if they just left it in their house or a vacant house (since that has indeed happened before). Miles out there is also a large park that is Forrest like, likely they would of dropped him there. That park is pretty well knows as a body dropping site since its wooded and can sit there unnoticed.

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  4. It is a very big mistake to assume that a off the option that a predator could not possible have gotten to him just because he was19 and six foot, as neither Gacy, Dahmer, Dean Corll, William Bonin or Ben Berdella, to only mention a few, cared a bit about the size of their victims, as they used methods with which they knew they were able to subdue their selected prey regardless of size and age, and several of their victims were also adult males in their twenties. För example, Robert Berdella was very short himself yet repeatedly focused on males considerably larger as his prey.

    Another important thing to keep in mind is that one of the most common methods these and many other predators preying on young males use(d), was/is qrusing around on the lookout for lone walking young males who they then offered a ride, wherefore many of the missing males consequently disappeared also very suddendly and while on their way to somewhere, if only just a few blocks.

    In an interview in 2016 with Kelly, Jason’s mother, she likewise revealed that the investigation have been working on this angle, as well.

    Here follows some of the details she revealed about the investigation:

    She said that during the time of Jason’s disappearence, there were a number of registered sex offenders residing within and around their neighborhood area, and one of those offenders lived just across their street. This person was of interest and investigated, and his house was also searched, but nothing was found tying him to the disappearence.

    The investigators also investigated an eldely man on Jason’s previous work, who had a habit of inviting young males back to his home; however neither this man could be tied to the disappearance.
    You can listen to the interview here: https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/unfoundpodcast/episodes/2016-09-24T09_48_05-07_00

    Another thing of importance to know is that each and evereyone at Jason’s work were conclusively ruled out already quite early into the investigation, and were concluded to *not* have anything to do with the disappearance.
    I am saying this as I have noticed that many have believed that either Jason’s ride (a woman at his work) or someone else at the work had something to do with it, but as said that angle was conclusively cleared.

    As said in the beginning, this type of disappearance in the history of missing persons and crime is sadly anything but rare, and when this type of disappearance has been solved, it has repeatedly turned out to have been a predator behind it, and I am to 99% confident that such is also the case here.
    Perhaps worth mentioning in this connection, is that there have also been a number of other young Omaha males going missing throughout the years.

    We can only hope that the person responsible will eventually be caught, although I will admit that I am not that hopeful that he/she will, as this type of crime is often very difficult to solve because of the modus operandi such perpetrators tend to use.

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    1. Thanks for your very insightful comment. The longer this case goes unsolved, the more likely it DOES seem like he could have been the victim of a random attack.

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  5. I am with the theory that someone offered him a ride, he accepted, and they killed. I dont think he committed suicide because he was excited about his new job and if he had committed suicide, his body would have been found long before now. He didnt go off somewhere else to start a new life either. From what his family says, he was not street smart. I am almost positive he got in a car with someone and they murdered him.

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