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February 8, 2011 1:44 PM   Subscribe

Is Jennifer Goodwin White really dead? The Alaska State Troopers say she is. Facebook says different.

"We grew up together...we were very close, very good friends. We use to talk for hours about what seemed to outsiders useless things, but not useless to us. You are sweet, kind, caring, and above all the most loyal friend. We were suppose to grow up and be roommates forever...not sure if you remember that ..."
posted by Diablevert (58 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's kind of a badly written article, and it comes off like the reporter knows something that she's not saying in print.
posted by empath at 1:52 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know what, I was going to say that it is some bullshit that whoever this person is, they're claiming that they just kind of took a knock on the head and lost their memory.

But then I saw that forensics test on the skull found in a driveway included dental records and was a match.

So you know what, I guess I could imagine you might lose some memories if you were hit on the head so hard your skull fell out.

She looks pretty good these days despite that. Prosthetics maybe.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:53 PM on February 8, 2011 [19 favorites]


That article was quite confusing.
posted by mecran01 at 1:53 PM on February 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


It feels like there should be some change in text, some headers or section breaks. As it is, it feels like a bunch of text copied from Facebook posts, losing the normal break-up of who said what.

And if you read to the end, it sounds like a non-story, one that already has at least one ending, but nothing that would be so interesting as to read as a woman back from the dead.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:55 PM on February 8, 2011


The article was really confusing. I'll try to sum it up:

1. Jennifer White went missing and remains that matched her dental records were found in 1996.
2. Someone created an account matching her details and used a picture that was dated pre-1996.
3. The Facebook account used information about Jennifer White that anyone who knew her would know (high school, graduation, etc.)
4. It was further claimed she had a case of amnesia (except for aforementioned info).
5. Someone talked to the person who was not an expert in voice recognition talked to someone associated with the account and claimed that despite not talking to Jennifer White for over 15 years, that it was her.
6. The person was also soliciting information on the Facebook about Jennifer White, which could have easily lead people to give personal stories the Facebook account holder would not have known.
7. Facebook account is deleted.

If looks like a duck and quacks like a duck ...
posted by geoff. at 2:01 PM on February 8, 2011 [17 favorites]


It's a Twilight Zone episode where the DSL cable leads to a grave?
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:02 PM on February 8, 2011 [16 favorites]


See, read a badly written article and it rubs off on you:

5. A person associated with Jennifer White, who did not have any expertise in voice recognition and who had not talked to Jennifer White since her disappearance, talked to the person who owned the Facebook account and by a phone conversation alone, confirmed it was Jennifer white.
posted by geoff. at 2:03 PM on February 8, 2011


I tried to read the article non-sequentially hoping that a Memento style treatment of the information might help.

I didn't really.
posted by quin at 2:03 PM on February 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


(Also this was all just a ploy to get us to click on a link expecting to see Ginnifer Goodwin)
posted by geoff. at 2:04 PM on February 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


This seems to be a really obvious hoax. If someone is running a fake profile, they need some sort of way to explain why they have no idea who their "friends" are, and the amnesia story fits that need perfectly. Whereas someone who suddenly figures out that they have been in a 15-year dissociative fugue and learns their real identity (which is apparently a dead person), their first step is usually to contact the authorities or otherwise make concrete steps at resolving the situation, rather than catching up on old times on Facebook.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:06 PM on February 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hmmm....I appear to have inadvertantly over-promised. I came to the link from a digest of the piece on the anchorage daily news site, so perhaps it was less confusing for me. What I thought was interesting about it was the bizarre frisson of this woman popping back up on Facebook, and how that must be for the people who knew her. That what happenned to her --- either her skeleton in the driveway or her probable impersonator online --- was unknown and ambiguous made it intriguing for me. Also the fact that it's so easy to do, make a self on facebook that other people will buy, even when they know you're dead. I was curious what other people might make of her/whoever's motives....
posted by Diablevert at 2:08 PM on February 8, 2011


Great googly moogly, but that's a poorly written article, and the poor formatting of the online version just makes it worse.
posted by Gelatin at 2:16 PM on February 8, 2011


Whereas someone who suddenly figures out that they have been in a 15-year dissociative fugue and learns their real identity (which is apparently a dead person), their first step is usually to contact the authorities or otherwise make concrete steps at resolving the situation, rather than catching up on old times on Facebook.

Indeed. Further, if I'd lost my memory of the last 15 years of my life, that, despite all the other troubles it would cause, there would be a few benefits. And one of them would be not knowing what Facebook was. I hope my loved ones would keep me in the dark about it for as long as possible.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:20 PM on February 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


Yes, that is atrociously written. She seems to be attempting to write a suspense story with sudden reveals and reversals instead of doing any journalism.

Still -- passing no judgment on this case, because I do not understand what the hell is going on with it -- Facebook does occasionally turn up people believed to be deceased. A friend of mine, when I met him five years ago, was effectively an orphan with no surviving siblings (estranged from his abusive father; mother abandoned family thirty years earlier, sister and brother both deceased). Facebook revealed that his brother was in fact still alive and in and out of prison, and his mother is now in touch with him again and they are on good terms.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:22 PM on February 8, 2011


Here is my translation of the article:

(A) Someone made a Facebook profile claiming to be a dead woman. It claimed that she was not in fact dead, but instead had amnesia the whole time. It may have been the woman's own sister who made the page, and it sounds like she went so far as to have phone conversations with people prentending to be the dead woman and stuff. That's pretty fucked up.

(B) But I'm a pretty bad writer, so I think it would be even MORE interesting if *I* pretended for a while that there was some actual mystery here as to whether or not the whole Facebook amnesia story was true rather than a weird hoax. So, in an effort to build suspense, I will leave out crucial facts that make the story obvious (e.g. dental record identification of the dead woman's skull), and be as vague as possible. I will bury that lede so far it will never breathe oxygen!

(C) Oh, wait, did it get so vague I never actually bothered to mention the actual gist of the story? Wow, I am a really bad writer. I'd better put in some not altogether relevant quotes about Facebook by someone currently semi-trendy.
posted by kyrademon at 2:24 PM on February 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was curious what other people might make of her/whoever's motives....

Well...

Her sister claimed to the cops that she had a plan to drum up some information on the murder case, but wouldn't say what her plan was, exactly. Then the facebook page went up and then the sister skipped town for parts unknown.

Meanwhile the facebook page used the kind of clumsy exposition style ("I am so lucky my sister stepped in to raise my kids while I was 'dead.'") that one tends to see in bad or hoaxy writing.

A charitable view is perhaps that her sister believed that she could draw out someone who knew something by doing this. A less charitable view is that she thought she might be able to get something out of people - financial or otherwise - who knew her dead sister way back when. But those are just the best-case/worst-case ideas for the scenario in which this is definitely her sister. Realistically, who knows.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:27 PM on February 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maybe the facebook page was created by the murderer stupidly hoping it would cause the investigation to be closed.
posted by zarah at 2:39 PM on February 8, 2011


Forensics say she is dead, so she's dead as far as I am concerned, and this is messed up, someone pretending to be her. My money is on the sister as the culprit.

Let's say you lost your memory. Maybe you were in a coma after being hit on the head, and when you wake up you have no idea who you are. You try, unsuccessfully, to discovery your identity. You don't know, in fact no one around you knows how you ended up where you are. They search missing persons but nothing rings any bells. Maybe they only check locally...

Anyway, somehow, you decide to go by the name of Rose. Maybe the name sounds familiar, or someone at the hospital started calling you that. And you go with that, because you don't know what your real name is, so why not? So, fine, for 16 years you go about rebuilding your life. During that time, no one comes forward. You ARE Rose.

But then, one day, somehow, someone tells you you are actually woman named Jennifer--because even though this woman has been declared dead and no one saw the resemblance before, well, now someone steps forward. Or, hey, maybe you get hit on the head again, and a light goes off, and you remember, at least, your name, and that you have a family, including a sister, and you had kids, and you went to this high school in this little town.

So you reach out and find your sister, or maybe she finds you. And then what do you do? Before you even meet her in person, you make a Facebook profile! Interestingly, you don't put any information about what you've been doing in the meantime, or link to your Facebook profile for Rose, which is who you've always been. You never made a Rose profile. But Jennifer? Sure, yes, let's put her on Facebook, and talk excitedly about meeting your sister, and thank your sister for raising your kids. And mention how your sister is coming to see you. And then start asking people if they went to high school with you.

So, wait, you're a Mom and you don't mention the kids any more? You fixate on high school friends from 16 years ago? What's that about?

Yeah, I'm not buying it.
posted by misha at 2:44 PM on February 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


Amnesia pretty much does not work like that. I mean it does in the movies, but not in real life.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:58 PM on February 8, 2011


Did the reporter really use the word "could've"? Really?
posted by amro at 3:05 PM on February 8, 2011


Did the reporter really use the word "could've"? Really?

"Could've" is perfectly cromulent US English, even in a newspaper.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:08 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm seconding everyone who is on Team "The Reporter Is Trying to Make a Mystery Where There Is No Mystery, Because 'Someone Makes Facebook Profile for Dead Person' Is a Crap Story."
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:09 PM on February 8, 2011


Won't Facebook reveal the email address and/or IP address of the account creator, upon subpoena?
posted by desjardins at 3:23 PM on February 8, 2011


I mean, not to find the dead woman - to find the hoaxer. There should be some penalty for propagating a hoax.
posted by desjardins at 3:25 PM on February 8, 2011


Won't Facebook reveal the email address and/or IP address of the account creator, upon subpoena?

Surely it's already been shared with companies who advertise on Facebook....
posted by hippybear at 3:27 PM on February 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


There should be some penalty for propagating a hoax.

Someone created a fake Facebook page pretending to be a family member of mine and is being prosecuted, so I assume that something can be done.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 3:31 PM on February 8, 2011


"Could've" is perfectly cromulent US English, even in a newspaper.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:08 PM on February 8 [+] [!]


Show me where it's been used in a reputable newspaper. Not in a quote.
posted by amro at 3:39 PM on February 8, 2011






I dunno. There are a bunch.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:49 PM on February 8, 2011


Well then, I stand corrected. But I don't like it. In my perfect world, this word would not be used by journalists.
posted by amro at 3:50 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are you opposed to all contractions, or is there something special about "could've" that bothers you? I don't get it. I mean, "I do not get it."
posted by Pater Aletheias at 3:53 PM on February 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sounds like a cold-case fishing expedition. It could have been carried out by

1) Law enforcement
2) A private investigator
3) The dead woman's sister in cooperation with 1 or 2

The investigator(s) may have speculated it was a contract murder, and perhaps they could ensnare a guilty party that didn't witness the act. When it looked like the trap was going to be exposed the investigator(s) deleted the profile. Or perhaps the bereaved sister called it off for emotional or financial reasons.
posted by clarknova at 3:57 PM on February 8, 2011


Could've been "could of."
posted by Alles at 3:59 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Could've been "could of."

What? That's not how that contraction works....
posted by hippybear at 4:00 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is the New York Times "reputable" enough?
posted by Flunkie at 4:04 PM on February 8, 2011


It's pretty obviously the sister, trying to capture the killer, in a really sad and twisted way. Perhaps she watched one too many episodes of The Mentalist, or something. Sad.
posted by Malla at 4:06 PM on February 8, 2011


It's pretty obviously the sister, trying to capture the killer

Of course... and now the killer has come for the sister.
posted by zingzangzung at 4:10 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are you opposed to all contractions, or is there something special about "could've" that bothers you?

Just "could've." Also, I suppose, "would've." Can't think of any others off the top of my head.
posted by amro at 4:13 PM on February 8, 2011


Is the New York Times "reputable" enough?

Where is it on that page?
posted by amro at 4:14 PM on February 8, 2011


Nevermind, I see it.
posted by amro at 4:15 PM on February 8, 2011


In my perfect world, this word would not be used by journalists.

In my perfect world, nobody would write newspaper headlines with subjectless sentences like "NAB REPS IN BRIBE SCHEME" but there it is. Until either of us writes a style book that replaces the AP, we're doomed.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:27 PM on February 8, 2011


NAB REPS...trying to buy off the Keebler elf, man.
posted by clavdivs at 4:31 PM on February 8, 2011


Just "could've." Also, I suppose, "would've." Can't think of any others off the top of my head.

Should've?
posted by mr_roboto at 4:41 PM on February 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I dunno guys.

"OMG you guys so much has happened, I've been flying charter planes in Alaska for the last ten years but I just met this dreamy pilot named Scott Summers, and all of a sudden my past started rushing back to me..."

"Weird dreams lately, just lots of images of fire and birds and stuff."

"Status update: So hungry I could eat a planet and three billion of its sentient lifeforms!"
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 4:54 PM on February 8, 2011 [10 favorites]


"party HEARTY", not "party hardy"
posted by Ron Thanagar at 5:41 PM on February 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I did a story a few years ago about a missing woman who supposedly had a Facebook profile years later, but it was not nearly as elaborate at this one. This case has been in the news fairly recently, but from a different angle.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 6:06 PM on February 8, 2011


Man, I saw the first comments about how this was badly written, but I was not prepared. By the time it was almost over, I expected it to end with, "In conclusion, it was the best summer vacation ever."
posted by Nattie at 6:59 PM on February 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


"NAB REPS IN BRIBE SCHEME"

...or, for that matter, any heds that have been so telegraphically compressed as to admit parsing in multiple valid ways. See, for instance, "BUSH VETS RUNNING MATE LIST" from 2000: apparently GWB was reviewing his choices for vice president, but I was initially convinced that some sort of dating service was being operated by wilderness veterinarians.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 9:51 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't so much mind compressed headlines in print newspapers -- there's an actual reason to conserve space there, after all. What baffles me is that I'm still being made to do this kind of thing for the internet-only articles I post in one of my day jobs. Are they worried they're going to run out of room on the page?
posted by kyrademon at 1:27 AM on February 9, 2011


"I sent her a little letter on there," he said. Something like, "It's really weird that you are alive."


This is what every random fucker from high school should say when they friend me on FB. To which I will reply "I'm sorry I don't remember you I was hit on the head."
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:59 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


So now we have to friend ghosts too?
posted by iamck at 7:11 AM on February 9, 2011


I liked this story better when it was a Joe Coleman anecdote in the RE/Search Pranks book.
posted by Scram at 7:21 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know who else had a posthumous facebook profile?

I totally goodwinned the thread
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 7:55 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


So is this the start for a new ARG? If all it takes is a Facebook profile to make a person real then I should start collecting a paycheck with my alternate Facebook persona.
posted by JJ86 at 9:21 AM on February 9, 2011


The story is pretty crap, but I don't hold it against the reporter -- embiggening one's clip file by sensationalizing a borderline cromulent story is a journalism tradition. I'm sure Brielle Schaefer will find a way to move beyond her igmockitant beginnings at the Peninsula Clarion.
posted by Zerowensboring at 12:58 PM on February 9, 2011


I read this but got really confused, although that is possibly because I lost my memory in an accident in Tuscaloosa and am only just regaining it. Is this reporter really intimating that people on the internet aren't always who they say they are?
posted by MuffinMan at 2:52 PM on February 9, 2011


Hoax. I've been hearing some crazy stuff on Facebook about this "Alaska," but it's pretty clear the whole place was made up, probably to promote some reality show.
posted by aaronetc at 7:33 PM on February 9, 2011


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