The faces seem to float from his computer - morgue photographs, artist sketches, forensic reconstructions - thousands of dead eyes staring from Web sites as though crying out for recognition. John and Jane and Baby "Does" whose bodies have never been identified.
His wife, Lori, complains that Matthews, 37, spends more time with the dead than he does with the living. You need a hobby, she says, or a goal.
I have a goal, he replies, although he describes it as a "calling".
He wants to give "Does" back their names.
His obsession began two decades ago, when Lori told him about the unidentified young woman wrapped in canvas whose body Lori's father had stumbled on in Georgetown, Ky., in 1968. She had reddish-brown hair and a gap-toothed smile. Locals named her "Tent Girl."
Tent Girl haunted Matthews. Who were her siblings? What was her name?
Matthews began searching library records and police reports, not even sure what he was seeking. He scraped together the money to buy a computer. He started scouring message boards on the nascent Internet.
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And so, families of the missing continue to turn to people like Todd Matthews.
At his house in Livingston, Matthews has built a little nook next to the living room - his "Doe office," he calls it. His desk is laden with pictures of dead bodies. He says he gets hundreds of e-mails about cases every week. Every night he scrolls down the lists, searching for new information.
And every few months he drives to Kentucky, to a lonely plot in Georgetown to visit the "Doe" that changed his life.
Standing by her grave, he tells of the night in 1998 when, scouring chat rooms for the missing, he stumbled upon a message from Rosemary Westbrook of Benton, Ark.
Westbrook sought information about her sister, Bobbie, who was 24 when she went missing 30 years earlier. Bobbie had married a man who worked in a carnival, and she was last seen in Lexington. She had reddish brown hair and a gap-toothed smile.
In his heart, Matthews knew.
Lori, he cried, racing into the bedroom and shaking awake his wife
"I've found her. I found Tent Girl."
E-mails were exchanged. Phone calls were made. When Matthews received a photograph of Westbrook's sister, he had no doubt. She looked just like the forensic artist's portrait sketched years earlier - the one engraved on Tent Girl's headstone, the one that had obsessed him for years.
Weeks later the remains were exhumed. The match was confirmed by DNA.
"It was the best peace of mind in the world," Westbrook says. "What Todd did for our family ... I can't describe it ... I don't have the words. Just to have a grave to visit means everything when you have been wondering for so long."
The family decided to re-inter Taylor in the place that had been her resting spot for so many years. Beneath the stone etched "Tent Girl" they placed a small gray one engraved with her real name, the name that Matthews had restored.
She was Barbara Ann Hackmann, for now and for Eternity.
Source: South Coast Today
Todd Matthews spruces up around the grave marker of "Tent Girl," whom he identified through his work on the Doe Network.
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This brings me renewed faith that others like St. Louis Jane Doe and Baby Hope will be identified - KWH