One Halloween night many years ago, a man named Riddle told a 17-year-old boy a chilling, true tale of murder and mystery.
As the boy grew into a man, the story was the foundation of the mission he chose for his life: to bring light into the dark corners of the criminal justice system, where the dead languish unclaimed in morgues around the country because they have lost their names as well as their lives.
"I feel this is my calling," said Todd Matthews, 39, the father of two boys and husband of a very patient woman.
Today, Matthews is Southeast regional coordinator for the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, or NamUs. It is a new federal program designed to aid law enforcement -- and involve the public -- in identifying John or Jane Does and connecting them with some of the nation's estimated 100,000 active missing persons cases.
But for years, Matthews and a few other dedicated private citizens with similar quests labored alone.
The roots of Matthews' quest are near Georgetown, Ky. There, on May 17, 1968, well driller Wilbur Riddle uncovered the corpse of a woman wrapped in green tent canvas.
Her right hand was clenched, as if she had tried to claw her way out of the material. She had no identification, and authorities guessed she was about 16 years old.
In newspaper stories, she became known as "The Tent Girl."
Riddle later retired and moved to Livingston, about 20 miles north of Cookeville. On Halloween 1987, Matthews was in the Riddle household for the first time. He was visiting their daughter Lori, whom he later married. That was when he heard of the Tent Girl and how she was buried without a name.
"Everybody loves a mystery, I guess, but that story really grabbed hold of me," he said. "It definitely changed my life forever."
He was driven to find out who she was and, perhaps, who killed her. He relentlessly pursued information about the case, devoting nearly all his spare time to scouring newspaper stories for missing persons cases and talking to law enforcement agencies.
He even spoke with the funeral director who had buried the girl.