Seattle Times asks readers to help with a mystery

The Seattle Times

Seattle-based Social Security Administration investigator Joe Velling is trying to untangle the case of Lori Ruff, who killed herself in Texas in late 2010. She left behind a box that showed she'd stolen the identity of a child who died in a fire in Fife, Wash., then changed her name legally.

The paper has put photos of clues to Ruff's identity online and asked readers for clues. "So far, we've gotten a lot of response, but they haven't cracked the case yet," reporter Maureen O'Hagan wrote in an email to Poynter.

The comments for the piece are wild (readers can also submit tips via a form): Ruff "looks like a good friend I lost track of in 1974 or 75 named Linda Christine Baker," one writes. "On the scrap of paper, there is a phone number 688-7092 next to the word 'library'," writes another. "That phone number goes to a library in Stafford, PA, but her timeline does not put her in Pennsylvania."

Will this go the way of the Jalopnik commenters who helped cops track down murder suspects, or Reddit's famous "investigation" of the Boston Marathon bombings?

Front page courtesy the Newseum
  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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