(Lafayette, Louisiana) - A new Max documentary "They Called Him Mostly Harmless" tells the story the men and women who tirelessly worked for 2 years to identify an Appalachian Trail hiker whose body was found in a tent in Florida.

He was simply known to fellow hikers as Mostly Harmless or Denim, but as Facebook sleuths and the hiking community dug deeper, they discovered a checkered past...and that checkered past led to South Louisiana.

Vance Rodriguez Mostly Harmless Documentary
YouTube Via Max

They Called Him Mostly Harmless Documentary

The story of the man known as Mostly Harmless is believed to have begun in April of 2017 when he left his residence in New York and headed to hike the Appalachian Trail.

Interestingly, the man brought nothing with him that could lead to anyone identifying him.

No driver's license, no cell phone, no credit cards, no social security card, nothing.

What he did carry with him, other hikers who met him thought was a bit unusual.

From time.com -

"Hikers he met along the way identified him by the unusual belongings he carried with him: an overstuffed backpack and a notebook filled with code later discovered to be designed for the online programming game Screeps. He never gave out his real name."

Unsplash Via Dylan Freedom
Unsplash Via Dylan Freedom

Tragically, on July 23, 2018, hikers discovered Mostly Harmless dead inside of his yellow tent.

To this day an official cause of death has not been determined, but it seems that he may have starved to death.

When he was found, he was severely emaciated, weighing only 80lbs.

The peculiar thing is, he allegedly had $3,500 in his tent that he could have bought food with, and he reportedly wasn't far from help if he had needed it.

With no I.D. of any kind to properly identify him, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office posted a sketch of Mostly Harmless to their Facebook page in hopes of someone being able to positively identify him.

Mostly Harmless postmortem rendering
Wikipedia Via NamUs

At this point, the internet sleuths and arm chair detectives jumped into action to find out the true identity of Mostly Harmless.

From time.com -

"In 2020, a Facebook group formed of users who spent their free time outside their day jobs searching for this hiker’s identity.

The Facebook users helped keep sustained attention on the case, even when local law enforcement hit a wall."

Eventually the Facebook group was in contact with a genetics company who specializes in cracking cold cases.

Through crowdfunding, the Facebook group quickly generated the $5,000 needed for the genetics company to run a DNA analysis.

Vance John Rodriguez
YouTube Via Max

The DNA results suggested that Mostly Harmless had roots in South Louisiana.

The group that was working to identify him began posting pictures of Mostly Harmless to multiple South Louisiana news outlets' Facebook pages until eventually, it paid off.

He was recognized by several people in Baton Rouge who then contacted Florida authorities to identify him.

Based on the information received, DNA test were conducted with members of his presumed family, and a positive I.D. was made.

Mostly Harmless or Denim was identified as 42-year-old Vance John Rodriguez from Lafayette Parish.

Mostly Harmless Denim Vaejor Ben Bilemy
YouTube Via Max

Who Was Vance John Rodriguez?

Vance John Rodriguez was born February 25, 1976 in Lafayette Parish.

He had a twin sister and an older brother.

The details of Rodriguez's past paint a fairly tragic picture.

From wired.com -

"When he was about 15, according to friends, Rodriguez headed off into a field with a gun, intending to kill himself. He fired into his stomach.

But then, as he lay bleeding to death, he decided to live. He raised his hand weakly and a passing truck saw him and pulled over."

At 17, with the consent of his parents, Rodriguez was emancipated by a Lafayette court.

After graduating high school, Rodriguez enrolled at USL, now UL, where he was reportedly a "computer nerd", spending up to 18 hours a day on computers and playing video games.

All of the time spent with computers paid off for Rodriguez as he became extremely talented at code-switching and developing for an eCommerce company.


Vance John Rodriguez Louisiana
YouTube Via Max

Allegedly, Rodriguez was deeply troubled and quite abusive in his relationships.

While living in Baton Rouge, Rodriguez was involved in a relationship that would last 5 years.

According to wired.com, when this relationship ended, the woman he had been dating posted to her Facebook page saying -

“Apartment 950 a month / bills 300 a month / Standing up to the monster that beat you up emotionally and physically for 5 years? Priceless.”

After Mostly Harmless was identified as Vance Rodriguez, the mother of the woman he had dated for 5 years posted “This man was so abusive to my daughter, he changed her.”

In 2013, after meeting a woman on-line, Rodriguez moved to New York City.

The woman spoke to Wired about their relationship, describing serious mental and physical abuse.

The details of this relationship are troubling to say the least, which you can read in detail HERE.

In the documentary, all of the hikers that had met Rodriguez on the Appalachian Trail spoke warmly about him, to which his former girlfriend mentioned above tells wired.com "I think it just hurts that he was capable of being this person with complete strangers, but when it came to us he couldn't even be a decent human being to treat me or my body with any dignity."

In mid April of 2017, Rodriguez left his old life and worldly possessions behind to hike the Appalachian Trail.

Read much more at time.com and wired.com.

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