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Missing U.S. teenager, fascinated with wilderness movie, found dead

Missing U.S. teenager, fascinated with wilderness movie, found dead. (Photo by  Hocho)
Missing U.S. teenager, fascinated with wilderness movie, found dead. (Photo by Hocho)

By Karen Brooks

(Reuters) - The body of an Arizona teenager whose disappearance into the woods a week ago may have been inspired by a movie about a young man who died after venturing into the Alaskan wilderness has been found in Oregon.

The death of 18-year-old Johnathan Croom, whose body was found on Monday evening in a wooded area in Oregon about 1,000 feet from his 2000 Honda CRV, is being investigated as a suicide, a statement from Douglas County Sheriff's Office said.

No other information was released in the statement from the office late on Monday.

Croom's car was found abandoned last week near the small town of Riddle, Oregon, in the southwestern part of the state. His identification and money were found inside the car.

Croom had failed to return on August 22 to resume classes at Mesa Community College in Arizona after driving to visit a friend in Washington state.

Croom's father David said son had sent a text message to a friend more than a week ago saying: "I'm going adventuring."

Speaking to Reuters on Sunday, David Croom described his son as a happy young man with an electric smile who in the past six months had grown fascinated by the true story of Christopher McCandless portrayed in the 2007 movie "Into the Wild."

In the early 1990s, McCandless, a recent college graduate, embarked on a cross-continental journey, discarding his possessions and living in the rugged Alaskan wilderness, where he eventually died of starvation.

McCandless' story was first made famous by a best-selling non-fiction book, "Into the Wild," by adventure writer Jon Krakauer, published in 1996, and then the movie.

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office found Croom's car on Wednesday.

David Croom said residents had told him they had noticed the abandoned vehicle as early as the weekend before that. He said he had been told by a logger that he had seen a young man with "the most amazing grin" walking with a woman two days earlier. Croom said he did not know who the woman might have been.

Croom said his son had split up with his girlfriend a few weeks ago and that may have been weighing on his mind.

Volunteers joined the search for the missing teenager, including one group that offered to send in drones and horses.

Aside from a stint with the Boy Scouts of America, David Croom said his son had little outdoors experience.

"He doesn't really have the skill set for this," he said.

Croom said he had not been aware of his son's fascination with McCandless' journey until after he went missing.

"The problem I have with that movie is that several kids have tried to emulate it, and what he was doing was dangerous," he said. "The guy in the movie doesn't make it."

(Reporting by Karen Brooks; Editing by David Brunnstrom)

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