If there’s one thing absolutely nobody can deny, it’s that the 2018 death of Vance Rodriguez can only be described as equal parts heartbreaking and mysterious for more reasons than one. This much has actually been explored in HBO Max’s ‘They Called Him Mostly Harmless,’ especially as it shines a light upon the way it took over two years for his body to even be identified. Though, if we’re being honest, it’s his abusive upbringing, unconventional background, last few months on the Appalachian Trail, as well as cause of death that leave us baffled to the core.
Vance Rodriguez Didn’t Have a Great Life
It was reportedly back in the mid-1970s when Vance was born in Southern Louisiana as one of three in the Rodriguez family, just to file for complete emancipation at the tender age of 17. According to the original, his father (unidentified) was allegedly so cruel towards him it affected his mental health to such an extent he tried to die by suicide at 16 before changing his mind. Therefore, while some claim his ensuing step for utter independence was due to the abuse, others assert it was because his parents pushed him to get help he didn’t want — the truth is unclear.
However, what we do know is that Vance’s state of mind didn’t improve while he was in college — he would apparently have periods where he’d simply stop taking care of himself in every way. He wouldn’t brush, eat, drink, shower, sleep, be social, or prefer to be in the same room as anybody else for days, weeks, or maybe even months on end, as per the documentary production. Nevertheless, despite his complete shutdowns, he ostensibly managed to graduate before settling in New York for good as a Computer Programming plus Information Technology professional.
Vance’s life was still far from perfect and stable though because then came his own extensive issues with anger; he himself was purportedly abusive towards the women in his life, aka his girlfriends. It’s actually unclear precisely what kind of actions he took, yet one of his exes did once post on Facebook, “Apartment 950 a month / bills 300 a month / Standing up to the monster that beat you up emotionally and physically for 5 years? Priceless.” The woman’s mother later also commented on the same online platform, “This man was so abusive to my daughter, he changed her.”
Vance Rodriguez’s Death is Shrouded in Speculations
Since Vance was recently single and had had little to no contact with family for years, he decided to undertake the Appalachian Trail anonymously in the spring of 2017 despite being a total novice. He thus even earned the moniker Denim for having kickstarted his journey in April wearing jeans, only to refute it in favor of Mostly Harmless — a title he himself had allegedly picked in January. According to reports, he met several people along the way with whom he clicked photos, opened up a bit about his past, and shared compassionate conversations, but never did he reveal his actual name.
It hence comes as no surprise identifying Vance was challenging after his body was found in his tent by two fellow hikers in Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, mere meters from a highway. After all, not only did he not have his identity cards, phone, or wallet on him owing to his long desire to remain off the grid, but he was also known in the outdoor community by just his trail names. Furthermore, his dental information, genetic DNA, fingerprints, or anything else of this sort did not match any missing person reports in any of the extensive databases available to the authorities.
It turns out Denim/Mostly Harmless was last seen alive following his arrival in the southwestern region of Florida in April 2018 and was recovered more than three months later on July 23, 2018. As per police documents, his gray Columbia baseball hat was still covering his slightly graying brown hair, he had a relatively long beard, plus his backpack contained $3,500 in cash alongside a notebook full of Screeps’ (an online game’s) codes. Yet, even though Interstate 75 was just a few miles away, he was extremely malnourished (weighing a shocking 83 lbs) at the time of his death, with only two low-intensity medication pills in his system.
In other words, Vance hadn’t consumed any drugs, nor had he endured any recent injuries to suggest foul play, which ultimately drove the coroner to ascertain both his cause and manner of death as unknown. Regardless, considering his past, many do believe he died of either accidental or intentional suicide — he might have slipped into a shutdown or deliberately starved himself to death so as to repent for his past actions, but alas, nothing is clear. All we know is that obviously none of these speculations even came to light until Vance was positively identified in December 2020 thanks to a couple of his former co-workers — it took this long since no one had actually noticed him missing, let alone report it or be looking for him.
Read More: Where is Vance Rodriguez’s Family Now?