The inspirational young man with cerebral palsy never existed
The story of Dave on Wheels was a touching and heartbreaking one.
The deaf quadriplegic with cerebral palsy quickly became an Internet sensation with his inspiring Tweets and upbeat blog posts.
Many Twitter users changed their handles to include the words "on Wheels" in support of him and at one point, @daveonwheels had more than 15,000 followers. News outlets around the world including ABC News, the New York Daily News and Huffington Post picked up the story.
And that's when things started to get strange. Dave tweeted he had checked into hospital with shortness of breath.
The Chive followed Dave's condition closely through blog posts his sister Nichole Rose was writing. On Thursday, Nichole announced Dave had slipped into a coma and later that he passed away. His final words from his blog post went viral and were picked up by numerous outlets.
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She shows the picture used for Dave is actually someone named Hunter Dunn who lives in Danville, Virginia.
People from The Chive went to the Los Angeles area to attend Dave's funeral, but after Nichole made up an excuse about why she couldn't meet with them, they hired a private investigator. They learned nobody by that name had died recently.
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Kristi-Anne also looked at Dave's tweetstats to learn most of his tweets were posted from TweetDeck. A person using a Tobii ocular reader (an eye-tracking device) couldn't use TweetDeck.
The pieces were starting to add up, but nothing could be confirmed until Monday morning when a person with the user name Nichole Rose posted in the comments section on Kristi-Anne's blog.
"Congratulations on some very nice online sleuthing," he wrote. Yes, "Nichole" mentions in the comment he is a "guy".
"I started the whole thing — but it was to quietly die after 'David' did, and Nichole would just disappear."
The hoax didn't just start and end overnight. Dave started on Facebook in 2007 and on Twitter in 2010. He and his sister would sometimes tweet each other a dozen times a day.
The mystery person goes on to write he didn't want to be famous and until recently only had a handful of friends. He writes the final post was meant 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."
He said he had received messages from young people contemplating suicide but reconsidered after Dave's final post. He said after Dave's passing, people offered gifts and money, but he ignored all of them.
"To all of those people affected, from those I'd never exchanged a word with to the ones I'd had lengthy and heartfelt conversations with over the years. I apologize," he wrote. "I am very, very sorry for the hurt this has caused you."
He also apologizes to Hunter Dunn. Dunn is a man living with cerebral palsy in Virginia. Earlier this year he was asked to speak at a high school graduation and wrote a speech read by friend Jon Fulton, who was drafted in the third round by the Florida Marlins. In the speech he talked about determination, setting goals and finding the motivation to overcome giants.
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