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'Into the Wild'-inspired teen found dead in Oregon

'Into the Wild,' a book by Jon Krakauer about a young man who died in the Alaska wilderness, may have inspired a young man who headed into the Oregon wilds after sending suicidal text messages.

By Nigel DuaraAssociated Press / August 27, 2013

Emile Hirsch starred as Chris McCandless in Sean Penn's 'Into The Wild,' based on the Jon Krakauer book of the same title. 'Into the Wild' tells the story of Chris McCandless, a young man who left everything behind to live in Alaska.

Francois Duhamel / Paramount Vantage / AP

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PORTLAND, Ore.

An Arizona teenager who vanished into the Oregon woods may have been inspired by "Into the Wild," a book by Jon Krakauer based on the true story of a young man who headed solo into the Alaskan wilderness and ultimately died there, his father said Sunday.

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The teen's body was found Tuesday, on a heavily-wooded hillside just 1,000 yards from the vehicle he abandoned near Riddle, Ore.

Johnathan Croom had talked with his parents about "Into the Wild" and told a friend he wanted to run away.

Croom also talked to his parents about Christopher McCandless, whose journey to Alaska was documented in the book. McCandless gave up his worldly goods to live in the Alaska wilderness, only to die there.

Douglas County sheriff's spokesman Dwes Hutson said crews searching the area for days after Croom's green SUV was found were looking for a live person. They called his name and made lots of noise, as they had since last week, but heard nothing back.

Then, Monday night, they found text messages indicating that the college student planned to kill himself. The discovery of the texts changed the nature of the search, he said.

"That led us to believe that he was probably going to do this," said Mr. Hutson. "In these kind of cases, sometimes people leave very detailed notes and instructions. Sometimes, you don't."

Hutson says crews brought in dogs used to find cadavers, and found the 18-year-old Croom's body within hours.

The Apache Junction, Ariz., college student was scheduled to drive home from Seattle and was due back Aug. 17.

Croom's father said Monday night his son was grieving the end of a recent relationship.

"He was a young man who had a broken heart and headed out to try to find himself," said David Croom, Johnathan's father. "We're looking forward to finding out exactly what happened."

He thanked everyone who helped search for his son and added, "Please pray for our family."

Earlier this year, a 19-year-old from Oklahoma disappeared after talking to his parents about "Into the Wild" and setting out to test himself against the Oregon wilderness. Dustin Self's truck was found in April on Steens Mountain in southeast Oregon. The last search for Self was in the spring, after snow melted, but it yielded no hints to his location.

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