On the morning of June 13, 2001 the Jolkowski residence located on 48th and Bedford st in Omaha, Nebraska would be filled with the cadence of a telephone ringing. The sound was quickly carried throughout the home and almost instantly stimulating the ears of 19 year old Jason Jolkowski. Jason rose to his feet and made a b - line towards the phone and upon reaching it he brought it to his ear revealing a familiar voice. Jason’s boss’s voice rested on the other end and soon traveled through the receiver delivering a simple request. “Can you come in early today?” After a brief hesitation knowing that his car was in the garage, hindering his means of transportation, Jason broke the silence once more and said he would ask a coworker for a ride and that he would call him back soon. Within this idea, Jason gave birth to an unsolved disappearance, leaving many still searching for answers to this day…
Who was Jason Jolkowski?
Jason Jolkowski was born on June 24, 1981 to Kelly Murphy and Jim Jolkowski in Grand Island, Nebraska. Jason was known to have had a learning disability related to speech and language. It sometimes took him longer than others to process what someone was trying to say. But, despite this and what some may see as a shortcoming, Jason was characterized as having higher than average intelligence. This characteristic was evident by his expansive knowledge of sports trivia. His mother would explain in an interview on The Unfound Podcast, “he was like a walking sports trivia, dictionary of sorts, you could say who won the world series in 1953 and he would know the answer.”
Jason’s mother Kelly would also explain that he was shy, quiet and kept to a small group of friends. He was not involved in drugs or alcohol and was very close to his family. By age 19 Jason stood at 6’ 1” tall and weighed around 165lbs, with brown hair and brown eyes. After graduating from Benson high school, Jason worked part time at a local Italian fast food restaurant named Fazoli’s while he attended Iowa Western Community College.
Although Jason had a known speech and comprehension impairment, he surprised his mother Kelly and family when he decided to major in radio broadcasting at Iowa Western. While attending college Jason would form his own persona and soon find himself hosting the college radio station. Jason's mother Kelly recalls that he made a big “splash” with one of his first broadcasts. As she listened in she was presented with an extended period of silence, and she could help but think to herself “he must be missing a button or something.” Before long Jason would make the necessary correction and his voice would carry across the radio broadcast falling upon the ears of all that were listening. Jason would quickly grow a following and within grow his radio personality. Jason Jalkowski on air was a completely different person, a 180 degree turn from the shy, introverted 19 year old that his former high school classmates might have known. Jason Jolkowski had finally found himself.
Jason was looking forward to late June 2001, when he would start his new job at a local radio station. He was ecstatic at the opportunity. His hard work had finally paid off and he would be able to put his skills to use in front of a new audience. Sadly a phone call on the morning of June 13, 2001 would take this opportunity away from him forever.
On the morning of June 13, 2001 a bellowing of rings could be heard carrying throughout the Jalkowski residence. It was a familiar noise, and one that Jason was quick to respond to. Once he brought the receiver to his ear and delivered his greetings, Jason was hit with a familiar voice. His boss at Fazolis located on 80th and Cass St in Omaha NE, met him with a plea, “Can you come in early today?” Jason hesitated and paused for a moment, thinking to himself “my car is in the garage, I guess I could walk to work… but that would take over an hour...” Finally, Jason broke the silence once more and said he would ask a coworker for a ride and call him back.
Jason was able to contact a local coworker and arrange for a ride. Being notorious for giving bad directions, his coworker and himself agreed to meet on common grounds, at a high school they both graduated from, Benson High School. Benson High School is located on Maple St in Omaha Nebraska sitting just 8 blocks away from the Jolkowski residence. The route that Jason would take to reach the parking lot was all so familiar to him, he knew it like the back of his hand. Jason had made this walk countless times growing up and the residents who lived in the houses that line the street that he would walk, more than likely knew him too.
Jason had agreed to meet his co-worker at 11am and knowing that the walk to Benson High School would take him roughly 15 minutes, he spent his final moments finishing up some chores. Jason’s brother Michael and fellow neighbor recall watching Jason retrieve garbage cans from the curb, returning them to the garage, before departing with his red Fazoli's t-shirt in his hand, to meet his ride. By the time 11:15am rolled around, his co-worker grew impatient and as the time neared 11:30am she became worried. Jason’s co-worker exited her vehicle, destined for a nearby phone. She found an available line at a nearby gas station and called the Jolkowski residence. Firstly, Michael answered the phone pretending to be Jason, when he noticed the panic in her voice, he quickly dropped the act and soon became just as concerned. Jason had never made it to the high school at the agreed time. Michael would tell Jason’s co-worker that he had left more than an half hour ago, and suggested that he should be there any moment. After her conversation with Michael, Jason’s co-worker phoned her boss at Fazolis, and he would have her return. Jason Jolkowski has not been seen since.
Jason’s family would report him missing 24 hours later, abiding by the common “waiting period” instated at the time. Initially believing he was a possible runaway, police failed to open a formal investigation until 10 days after Jason’s disappearance. Many agree that the hesitancy more than likely missed crucial details and possible evidence in Jason’s case. During the formal investigation, police interview Jason’s co-worker, clearing her of any involvement in his disappearance. Police reviewed footage from security cameras that blanketed the Benson High School campus, making it apparent that Jason Jolkowski never made it to the school.
Up until the time of his disappearance nothing seemed out of the ordinary or to suggest that Jason was planning to run away. He made sure to complete his daily chores, he didn’t take any personal belongings with him, and it is believed that he carried no more than $60 on him. Jason left behind $650 in his bank account, that still remains today. His car was never picked up from the garage, his cell phone or ATM card have never been used, and his final paychecks from Fazoli’s remain uncashed. So what happened to Jason Jolkowski?
Over the years many theories as to what happened to Jason have surfaced. Ideas range from Jason being met with an untimely fate after a hit and run accident, to Jason simply being a runaway. Let's talk about some of these theories.
Hit and Run
The first theory involves Jason being the victim of a hit and run accident. With it comes multiple different angles and much like his disappearance entirely, it leaves us all with more questions than answers. While Jason endured his 8 block trek to Benson high school, is it possible he left the comfort of the sidewalk to cross the street and while doing this he was struck by a passing motorist? This unintentional accident could have left Jason with life threatening injuries or even worse, dead. In a fit of panic is it possible the motorist either scooped the injured Jason up and had rushed him to the hospital with good intentions to help the now injured teenager? Or if this event had possibly left him deceased, did he drag Jason’s lifeless body into his vehicle getting rid of him once and for all? Others have mentioned the idea that Jason had possibly “walked off” this accident but in doing so he was left with amnesia and to this day has no recollection of his previous life.
Considering that this accident would have happened between 10:45am and 11:15am someone would have to have witnessed this event. Car accidents cause quite the commotion, and not entirely from the initial impact, but with the added hysteria that follows. We know that the police hesitated with their initial investigation into Jason’s disappearance, but during their investigation no one stepped forward to report such an incident.
Suicide Or A Run Away
Another theory that soon surfaced is that Jason had possibly taken his own life, or was a runaway. Both of these theories are provided with little to no substantial evidence and are merely speculative.
We can build an account for both sides of the conversation as to why a teenage boy would have decided to take his own life. From a family perspective you can say that Jason was a happy guy with a lifetime of goals ahead of him ready to be accomplished. He was ecstatic to be taking up a new job as a local radio broadcaster in the coming weeks, an opportunity that allowed him to thrive in his newfound persona. His family also doubts the idea of suicide based on his strong religious beliefs and him showing no signs of depression. But in contradiction, we know that some of the happiest people are bottling up some of their biggest personal challenges.
What I think is the biggest argument against Jason taking his own life is where is his body? If this was his ultimate maker, you would assume that he would have been quickly found in a city as large as Omaha Nebraska.
Could Jason have been a runaway? A Lot of the previous arguments against Jason taking his own life can apply here. We know from familial accounts that Jason was a happy person and looking towards the future, so doubt into the idea is expressed. But if Jason did decide to run away how far could he have gone on $60? Even if Jason was able to make it to an airport and skip town, what happened next? There would have been countless cameras that could have picked up on Jason, and today our lives are overrun by social media, wouldn’t there be a picture of Jason somewhere? And even if it was possible for Jason to start a new life under a new identity and completely avoid all social media platforms, why would he have put his family through so much trauma?
Abducted, Abducted by a know acquaintance
The last theory we will talk about is the one I find the most practical. It is a theory involving Jason making a decision that forever changed his life, by choosing to trust a stranger or possibly someone close to him. Was Jason Jolkowski abducted?
Is it possible that while Jason Jolkowski made his way to Benson high school a passing motorist slowed down meeting Jason’s pace. Did Jason notice a motorist parallel to him and answer his presented small talk? Did he accept this small talk and stop still in place continuing to engage? Is it possible that after carrying on a conversation with this unknown stranger that Jason accepted an offered ride to work?
Now think of this same scenario but replace the unknown driver with an acquaintance of the family or even possibly a close family friend. How would that scene play out? Maybe something like this. As Jason walked down the sidewalk nearing Benson High School with every oncoming step his ears rang as his name was shouted from an approaching vehicle, “Hey Jason, where ya headed?” Jason laid his ear upon a familiar face, raising his hand slightly in a wave. “I’m headed up to Benson to meet my co-worker for a ride to Fazoli’s, I agreed to come in early. I can’t talk for long. I don't want to keep my ride waiting.” The familiar face responded, “Well hop in Jason, I’ll give you a ride.” After some hesitation and the feeling of pressure from the eyes resting upon him Jason accepts.
Jason’s family agrees that he was more than likely met with foul play. They believe that it is highly likely he was abducted and then killed, and law enforcement officers can agree that it is a possibility. In the area that Jason disappeared, there were multiple sex offenders and detectives made it a point to interview almost all of them. They even went as far as searching one of their homes for any sign of Jason. After multiple interviews and the single search, investigators found no evidence that suggested or linked any involvement into Jason’s disappearance.
Jason Jolkowski’s disappearance has baffled internet sleuths and detectives alike for more than 20 years. To this day we are still no closer to truly knowing what happened to Jason Jolkowski. Following his disappearance his parents founded “Project Jason.” Project Jason is a non-profit organization that focuses on providing public coverage of missing person cases as well as helping families with missing loved ones. After lobbying by Jason’s parents, in 2005 the Nebraska Legislature passed “Jason’s Law.” Jason’s Law provides Nebraska with a statewide missing persons database. Kelly Jolkowski over the years has been prominent in volunteering and an advocate for missing persons. She has earned multiple awards including a “Volunteer for Victims” award in 2010 presented by US Attorney General Eric Holder, and in 2014 the Nebraska Governor’s “Point of Light Award.”
Jason Jolkowski disappeared on June 13, 2001 headed to Benson High School for a ride to work at Fazoli’s on 80th and Cass Street in Omaha Nebraska. He was last seen carrying garbage cans outside of his house on 48th and Bedford Streets in Omaha Nebraska around 10:45 am. At the time of his disappearance he was 19 years old, and is described as a white male, with brown hair, brown eyes, standing at around 6’ 1'' tall and weighing approximately 160lbs. Jason was wearing a white Chicago Cubs or Sammy Sosa t-shirt, a blue or black Chicago Cubs baseball cap, black dress pants, and black dress shoes. If you have any information into the disappearance of Jason Jolkowski you are urged to call the Omaha Police Department at 402-444-5657.