Yesterday, TheBlaze posted about the inspiring last words of a deaf 24-year-old with a severe case of cerebral palsy. David Rose held a strong Twitter contingent of more than 15,000 followers. His positive attitude, despite his disability, was highlighted on his Facebook page and blog.
Rose, according to his Twitter feed with the handle @daveonwheels which was updated by his sister, supposedly died last Wednesday of complications due to pneumonia. The Internet latched on to his thoughtful words in a final blog post, published Thursday also by his sister, where he said people should "love each other," make each other smile, and "always do what is right [...] but forgive yourself if you forget sometimes.”
This was a featured image on David On Wheel's Facebook page. (Image: Facebook)
The website theCHIVE had followed Rose for a time and even reported when he had slipped into a coma. But now theCHIVE -- citing some of their own experiences and an investigation done by a blogger named Kristi-Anne Beil -- believes it has found the story of David Rose to be a fake.
Beil wrote in a blog called David-On-Wheels Exposed that she began looking into Rose's story because she thought something wasn't right. She told TheBlaze in a phone interview that she felt the Tobii eye-tracking technology Rose supposedly used to write his tweets would be more efficient than recording only four words per minute, as his sister claimed it did. She also felt his following, which she observed as being a lot of young women, was questionable. She said it was strange that after he gained a lot of followers after theCHIVE published its first posts about him, his health suddenly began to deteriorate.
Beil's first step was to put a purported image of Rose into Google's image search. Using the camera icon, she was able to upload a photo and see if there was a match. She got a hit. Among several photos purporting to be Dave on Wheels, there was a match going by the name Hunter Dunn. From there, using Google search, Beil found that the picture of "Dave on Wheels" is really of Dunn. Dunn was featured on a local TV station in Virginia in December of last year. He was also profiled on the Tobii website.
This image was used by @DaveonWheels but it is also the same one used by Tobii for Hunter Dunn's user story. (Image: Twitter)
This screenshot shows Hunter Dunn in a feature by GoDanRiver.com, a news website serving Danville, Virginia, and Reidsville and Eden, North Carolina. (Image: GoDanRiver.com)
Beil said she believes this exposé should serve to credit the "remarkable young man" who actually is living with cerebral palsy. In his testimonial on Tobii, Dunn said:
“[...]Even with my uncontrolled movements due to my cerebral palsy, for the first time there was a system that could read my eyes. Now, I could surf the net, write my music lyrics without someone to put it on paper for me, chat with my friends, and email people on my own. Communication was finally really opened for me. The freedom of downloading music to my iPod, turning on my TV, and scrolling channels became a reality as well!
All of these things are exactly what I have been doing too. I am no longer shut out from being able to “talk” to friends, because not only does the P10 allow me internet access, it also is my augmentative communication device. I can openly be a part of a conversation with peers, friends, and family.
Beil goes on to show Dunn's Facebook page and a speech he made at his high school graduation. She also notes that she finds it suspicious that Rose's sister was updated Twitter and the blog only hours after her brother's death. Looking further at TweetStats, Beil found many of Rose's tweets were sent via TweetDeck, a website that allows for management of accounts, something she believes a person tweeting with Tobii would not have used.
Beil found these TweetStats showing how Rose's tweets were posted. (Image: Kristi-Anne Beil)
theCHIVE's co-ower John Resig writes in a post that two women who were supposed to meet with Rose's sister after his death, were suddenly and suspiciously put off from the meeting with Nichole. Resig describes Nichole's excuse for not meeting with the women who had forged a friendship with Rose on Twitter as a "feeble excuse."
All other social media sites for Dave on Wheels, including his blog, Facebook (established in 2007) and Twitter accounts, have been deactivated. Rose's sisters' Twitter account, @NicholeRose85 has been deactivated as well.
But the plot thickens. Apparently the supposed sister, Nichole, commented on Beil's blog post exposing the hoax. Nichole Rose -- who is later admitted to have never existed -- first congratulates Beil for her investigative work. Here's what "she" writes of Dave on Wheels:
- David was just a character, a part of my psyche, and fame would soon reveal what it has revealed today. So, the character passed. In hindsight it probably would have been better just to shut it all down and have everyone wonder what [...] happened, but the final post was meant to have the effect it did. To inspire people to love and live a better life, and the public knowledge that it came under this false pretense takes it all away. I hope that people who were moved by it still live by it, but it seems unlikely. It's possible that more damage has been done in your reveal than in the original deception.
This character, who does not reveal his or her identity, goes on to apologize to the individuals who were hurt in this hoax. However, there is no way to verify if this is the real person behind the hoax or just someone claiming to be. Beil told TheBlaze she believes it to be the real hoaxster because the comments were made from "Nichole's" blog before it was shut down.
Resig on theCHIVE writes as further evidence of the hoax that no death certificate has been filed for David Rose.
"We’ve all been victimized by this disturbed individual," Resig writes. "Here at theCHIVE, we often post funny and inspiring stories. It never dawned on us that somebody [with] such an established internet footprint would actually be mascarading as a deaf, physically handicap person. It would seem absurd to believe somebody would go so far as to fake a death."
By the way, eagle-eyed readers might note that the blog account on which Beil wrote her story was established in 2010. She told TheBlaze the reason for that is she never used it because she chose a different platform on which to blog, wanting to keep her primary blog, which she uses for make-up tutorials, separate from her investigative post.
Read Beil's full personal investigation, where she has more details, as to who the real David Rose is and her theories as to what was going on with this supposed impersonation here.
Update: CBSLA.com is reporting that Dunn's mother contacted them saying they didn't know of the use of her son's photo until Monday and that the family is upset over the fraud.