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The mystery of the personality of Laila Stevik: how suicide in a motel led to a long-term Internet investigation

A hanged man was considered a spy, a Croatian soldier, then the organizer of the September 11 terrorist attack. After almost 17 years, he was identified.

A note found in Stevik's room. Photos of the Harbor County Police
A note found in Stevik’s room. Photos of the Harbor County Police

In 2001, in an American motel found the body of an unknown man, who, when settling in, was named Lyle Stevik. He hanged himself on his own belt a few days after the arrival in the room, leaving a suicide note with the word “Suicide”. The police were never able to find out who he was: the deceased had no documents with him, and his name did not appear in any of the databases.

A few years later, the Internet explored the mystery of Stevik. Thousands of people tried to find out his past and real name, calling him a Croatian soldier, a doctor, a terrorist. In May 2018, the police finally managed to identify the deceased person – and the truth about him turned out to be quite different from what the users expected.

Death in a motel

September 14, 2001 on the threshold of the motel of the most ordinary town in the state of Washington appeared a man who seemed to be a little more than 20 years. He was greeted by a hotel sign “Welcome. Catch the wave. Life is beautiful “- a rather optimistic motto for such a nondescript place. The man went to the counter and, like many before him, left his data on the registration form.

Name: Lyle Stevik

Address: 1019 S. Progress Ave

State: Meridian

In this registration there was nothing unusual, especially given the circumstances of those days. On September 11, 2001, the planes crashed into the towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon – compared to this September 14 was another boring afternoon for the lodgers at Lake Quinault Motel.

Lyle Stevik got the keys to the room, but after an hour he asked to change the number because of the noise. The manager of the hotel Barbara, who was all simply called Aunt Barb, then remembered that meeting with the guest: Lyle avoided eye contact and behaved very strange. At that moment, he frightened Aunt Barb. The manager offered the client another room: Stevik spent the last few days in it.

The motel where Stevik stayed
The motel where Stevik stayed
On Monday, September 17th, a cleaning lady came into the room: the guest was delayed with eviction and did not react to her knocking at the door. At first she saw the tenant kneeling on the lap and decided that the man was praying. But then the cleaning lady saw that her knees were raised above the ground, and Stevik’s neck was wrapped in a leather belt. The resident hung himself in the room.

The owner of the hotel, Gabe began to search the room to call Stevik’s family. But there was no passport, no driver’s license, no bank card. On the table, the administrator found several dollar bills, which was enough to pay for the room, and a note with the inscription: “For the number.” Gabe called the police and 911.

Arriving detectives immediately began to interview other guests to find out something about Lyle Stevik, but they did not know anything. The hanging began to punch through the base of the missing people in the town, but in the last week nobody reported disappearances, just like many weeks before. Checking DNA, fingerprints and dental data also did not work. The address indicated by Stevik at the registration, belonged to another motel, but nobody recognized him there either.

The deceased man was not in telephone directories, search engines, voter lists and census data. Laila Stevika did not seem to exist.

Initiation of investigation

Detective Lane Yumans (Lane Youmans) during his career in the police saw many mysterious murders and suicides. But this incident became special for him because of a combination of strange circumstances. Arriving at the place after the call Gabe, Yumans began to inspect the number of the motel: Stevik at this time still hung in the corner on the belt.

Lyle Stevic
Lyle Stevic

Laila’s suicide was painful. Because of the low height of the hanger, the man had to kneel down to carry out his plans and fight with an instinctive desire to get back on his feet and be saved. In the nightstand, the detective found a red Bible with a bookmark on the page with the phrase: “He said, letting him know by what death He will die.” And in the urn was a discarded death note.

On the note in capital letters was written the only word: “SUICID”.

Because of the handwriting, Yumans thought that Stevik could work as a doctor. Even if not – the deceased’s things betrayed a person with an income above the average. At the same time, all the clothes were great for him: new holes on the belt showed that the suicide was rapidly losing weight. Yumans did not have other clues. “I investigated suicides in which people came from other states without documents. But I always managed to establish their identity – to Laila, “- said the detective.

The body was handed over to the coroner Daniel Delove, who on September 19 went to the examination. The doctor determined that Laila was about 25 years old, and also found on the body a scar from the appendicitis cut and abrasions on the knuckles. Otherwise, his body was a “clean sheet”: no tattoos, remarkable moles or tan lines, on which one could determine the place of residence. Nationality was also difficult to determine. As a result, Stevik was buried in an unmarked grave, and without identifying it.

Detectives around the world

For five years the investigation has not progressed. But in 2006, the mysterious business of Laila Stevik attracted the attention of users of Internet forums. He had a page on the well-known Websleuths site, where they try to uncover such cases by means of a joint search for databases, appearance and potential acquaintances. Later Stevik was dedicated to several Facebook communities , a podcast and a section on Reddit.

Lyle Stevic
Lyle Stevic

The users had several versions of who in fact was a man hanging himself in a motel:

  • American Patrick Beavers, who disappeared back in 1997. He was the first favorite of online detectives because of his strong external resemblance to Stevik. But this version was officially ruled out in 2015.
  • Croatian soldier Ilya Dukich, who disappeared during one of the fights, attracted users with a similar skull structure and a small mole on his chin. But this option was later abandoned.
  • Americans Craig Alexander, Stephen Needham, John DePati, Todd Fraser – each of these disappeared men at different times was considered Lyle Stevik.

As a result, the Internet was divided into two camps: the first believed that Lyle Stevik is the real name of a person who has avoided any mention of himself in the databases. And the latter claimed that Lyle Stevik is a pseudonym taken for cover. There was also a version that he was an illegal immigrant, because the family name is common in Norway and the Balkans.

The community of researchers grew, and people moved on to more active activities. A group of users contacted the media to raise the story of 2001, and then posted posters in several cities in Idaho. When this did not lead to anything, Internet detectives began to look for Stevik on the serial number of dollar bills, which he left on the table.

The announcement about the search of Laila Stevik, posted by users
The announcement about the search of Laila Stevik, posted by users
A Reddit user named Lyndsay Sawler recalled that several times it seemed to community members that they were a step away from the truth, but at the same time the theories became increasingly conspiratorial. In different years Stevik was called the creator of sex cult, then a spy, then a criminal. And one of the most popular versions turned Lyle into a terrorist: he allegedly was afraid to fulfill the mission on September 11 and started running.

But in life everything turned out to be much more banal.

Disclosure of the mystery of Stevik

On May 8, 2018, representatives of the DNA Doe Project announced that they had identified the identity of Lyle Stevik. They checked his DNA on genealogical databases and found a coincidence in Alameda County, California – one and a half thousand kilometers from the Lake Quinault motel. The search participants contacted the family of the missing person and checked their fingerprints: they also coincided.

The case could not be disclosed, if not for the help of online detectives with Reddit. It was they who posted data on Stevik in social networks for several years and eventually went to the DNA Doe Project. It turned out that Lyle was not a spy or a terrorist – in 2001, for some unknown reason, he simply left home and did not return. Until 2018, the family hoped that he was alive.

At the same time, Lyle Stevik is, most likely, not the real name of a suicide. The police did not disclose his real name, referring to the request of the family. Because of this, some users admitted that they do not feel their work done. “I’m so happy that now his family has the answers to all the questions. But some of me still want to know his name. At least a name, “- wrote one of the participants of the multi-year investigation.

With the DNA Doe Project, the section on Reddit, dedicated to Laila Stevik, lost all meaning, although by that time it had gained almost four thousand subscribers. Users began to write tributes to the hanged man from the motel, noting how he became important to them during this time.

I wish Lyle knew how important his life was to us. People across the country became part of the 17-year journey, whose goal was to find his real name. I wish that Lyle knew how valuable his life was to countless strangers. Rip.

u / robthebot

Among the active participants in the search were Russian users.

The room where Stevik stopped
The room where Stevik stopped

It’s time to calm down and finish it. The family knows his fate. All. It’s time to move on. But he will always remain in my heart and the hearts of many other people. “Lyle” will live forever. Olya, Russia.


At the moment, the community at Reddit is discussing its future. While users do not know whether they will deal with other undisclosed matters or their ways will disperse. “It’s not easy to recognize, but we all knew that someday this moment will come,” said one of the moderators of the section who spent several years solving the mystery of Laila Stevik.

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