Part I: Running from the end of the world

An Irish Examiner special report in 2021 uncovered the death of an American asylum seeker living in a Tralee direct provision centre.

Noel Baker and Mostafa Darwish investigate the strange story of Thomas Stofiel

The simple wooden cross, bearing a plaque, says Thomas Stofiel died on November 14, 2020. The plot is untouched, bar a wreath.

He was laid to rest at Rath Cemetery on the edge of Tralee town. A minute-long video clip shows Thomas's coffin being lowered into the ground at his funeral. A small knot of mourners, maybe 10 people, are close to the graveside, as the rain patters down. 

An American, who sought asylum in Ireland, Thomas was reported missing on October 25, 2020 while the country was in the second Covid lockdown.

He disappeared from his room in the centre of Tralee – leaving his two mobile phones, money and much else of what he owned behind.

Three weeks later, a local farmer herding sheep spotted something across the small valley at Tonevane on Slieve Mish. It was Thomas's body. The emergency services were immediately contacted. The scene was consistent with a man having taken his own life.

Members of the rescue team who recovered the body say it’s very easy to get lost in those mountains. It’s believed Thomas followed a river path up the mountain. It's likely there was no plan to come back down.

But the story of how this mysterious mountain man from America ended up in a remote valley in Tralee began more than three years earlier, 4,500 miles away on a Native American reservation in Oregon, USA.

Noel Baker

Journalist Irish Examiner

Mostafa Darwish

Journalist The Echo

Audio from KOIN 6 News Oregon on the 7 March 2017AUDIO KOIN 6 NEWS YOUTUBE ACCOUNT


On a snowbound day in February 2017, members of a forestry crew came across an unoccupied pickup truck in the Warm Springs Native American Reservation in Oregon. They didn't take much notice, even though it was blocking their route due to the haphazard way it had been parked. But then, on days two, three and four, things began to take a strange turn.

They contacted the police. 

The turn off from Warm springs Highway to Mt. Wilson. Thomas Stofiel's truck was found abandoned - about a half mile down this turn off on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. PICTURE GOOGLE IMAGES

Shortly after members of Warm Springs Police arrived at the scene, the fuel in the truck ran out. Then officers heard a single gunshot about a mile west of the vehicle's location.

Inside the truck, officers found a notepad with a name written on it. On one page, in what appeared to be a child's handwriting, it said, "I am never going to see Snowflake again". A rifle case and a box of ammunition were also found. 

The truck belonged to Thomas, or Tom, Stofiel, a 44-year-old former military reservist who believed the world was coming to an end - and soon. With him was his young daughter. Their location was unknown. 

The discovery of the truck and that booming shot echoing around the treetops triggered a joint police/FBI search operation. Thomas was a man of the mountains and woods. By March 7, 2017 a news report on a local TV station in Oregon was describing him as "having a history of erratic behaviour", with his daughter's family saying he had taken off with her five years previously. The young girl's half-sister appeared on the news broadcast. "I am worried about her because he is very strict, and not very nice, and he doesn't have a good temper," she said.

"I feel he's trying to brainwash her and thinking all kinds of crazy things."

Thomas's former partner, unnamed in the TV report, was quoted as saying he was unlikely to hurt the child, but that he could be distraught. The FBI warned that no one was to approach him - he had survival skills and was likely to possess weapons.

The truck had been left half a mile from Highway 26 close to the reservation proper, a 1,000 square mile home to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. The police installed motion-activated cameras at the truck site and announced themselves over the patrol vehicle's radio system, asking Thomas to reply. A store receipt found in the truck led them to foodstore CCTV showing father-and-daughter buying items on March 2. Police learned from an old friend of Thomas’s that he was likely in possession of an AK-47 rifle and possibly another rifle, as well as up to 1,000 rounds of rifle ammunition.

They made multiple attempts to locate Thomas and his daughter, including the use of foot tracking, the flying of a privately owned drone, several searches using quadbikes, and a flyover by plane. Still nothing. 


And then, in mid-March, Joshua Capehart spotted Thomas and his daughter, cold and shivering, hitchhiking on the side of the highway.

Capehart, a Lieutenant of Investigations in Warm Springs Police Department, had already investigated Thomas's abandoned vehicle, interviewed anyone who might have information. Now he had eyes on the pair who had been missing for at least a fortnight. In his police vehicle were flyers bearing their names and images. 

"People were pretty worried about the daughter because of the weather and maybe they didn't have enough supplies, or they did - we didn't know," Capehart says. "So after several days I was heading up towards the Portland area to drop off the missing [persons] flyers and I happened to come across them on the side of the highway because we had towed their pick-up, so it wouldn't be damaged.

"[I was] able to talk to him, brought him back to the police department, the Department of Human Services intervened and took custody of the daughter. We had a minor interview with Mr Stofiel and he was in some sort of a state of paranoia, stating he was being followed by the freemasons, and they were out to get him, and that was just the spot where he had pulled off of the road to get up into the mountains and hide."

According to the police report on the incident: "Thomas said he is sure the people chasing him and his daughter are the 'freemasons'. Thomas said he has studied everything about the freemasons for the past six years and knows all of their secrets and the corrupt activities they are involved in. Thomas said the freemasons are after him because he does not believe in the devil. When Thomas said 'the devil' he pointed in the air." 

FBI Missing Persons appeal poster as issued in March 2017PICTURE WARM SPRINGS POLICE DEPARTMENT

Thomas had been so spooked that day in late February that he had simply dumped his truck, grabbed a knife and a sleeping bag, and with his daughter, ran into the woods in the direction of power lines. They stayed in the trees for three days, before returning to the vehicle for supplies and then leaving again. The engine had been left running as, on that return trip, Thomas thought he had been spotted. Thomas's daughter wasn't dressed for the weather - he later explained this is why they decided to try and hitchhike. According to the police report: "Thomas said he saw clear skies, and knew it was going to rain. Thomas said he did not want to stay out in the woods to have him and [his daughter] die from the elements as they were running low on supplies. Thomas said him and [his daughter] agreed that if the masons wanted to kill them then they were going to walk out and get it over with."

The AK 47 and another rifle were found. Neither was loaded. Within a few days, the young girl was in the custody of her mother, and Thomas was reported to be back at work. 

"Based on Thomas' mental condition and with the totality of the circumstances in mind, it is a joint recommendation between the FBI and the Warm Springs Police Department, not to pursue charges against Thomas," the report said.

According to Lt Capehart, Thomas “was known to be a prepper and to be prepared for anything - he had a paranoia for quite a good portion of his life”.

Lt Capehart was right about Thomas's persistent sense of paranoia. Sometimes it was seeing other people as reptilians, demons, satan in human form - people out to get him, people destined for hell. 

But was Thomas Stofiel really prepared for anything? Did he have any inkling that within three years, he would be more than 4,500 miles away in a Direct Provision centre alongside fellow asylum seekers in Tralee, Co Kerry? 

Lieutenent of investigations, Josh Capehart, Warm Springs Police Department.PICTURE LINDA LARSON

A picture of Thomas as a younger man. PICTURE SUPPLIED

A man of visions and strange premonitions

Well before he landed in Ireland, and before he went missing with his daughter in Oregon, Thomas had been a man of visions, of strange, unsettling premonitions of the world coming to an end. In February 2011, on one of his Facebook accounts, Thomas posted a string of messages about "gods planet" - "the planet that's coming right now is called Elenin". This was going to collide with the Earth and obliterate humankind, with the exception of those who were prepared for the onslaught. 

"Only bringing things that we need to survive," he wrote, one comment after another lodged under his own post, a stream of consciousness. "Just ordered three gas masks with those snow shoes". He said his daughter would be in a pack sled.

Other comments included: "Can't believe it's going to happen in my time we should be able to see the water from where we will be."; "You need to prepare yourself think about the caveman days."; "Cave will keep you from getting fried by gods rath when he washes his hands across the sun and burns the eveil away."

Marc-André Argentino, a researcher of online extremism at Concordia University in Canada, explains that Elenin was a comet that was passing close to Earth in 2011, entering pop culture in the Nineties via a paranormal page and evolving into an actual apocalyptic event, or the precursor to one. "It is a conspiracy that has come around in 2003, 2007, 2011, 2018 and in 2020 with QAnon," he says.

Ciaran O'Connor, a senior analyst with ISD Global in London, which tracks and examines extremist behaviours, notes that Elenin was cited in numerous doomsday/apocalyptic predictions - including by some Christian/evangelical preachers. NASA had declared as far back as late 2011 that Elenin had disintegrated, one senior NASA figure stating “This is an ex-comet.”

Did Thomas always hold these beliefs? Certainly not in his younger years, though people who knew him growing up described him as a quiet, intense young man, someone who seemed to be keeping a lot inside his small, wiry frame.

His schoolmate Aaron Cearley said: "I just knew him when we were younger, he seemed like he was a real conflicted, pretty angry personality. He just seemed to carry a chip on his shoulder wherever he went. I ended up meeting him when we were in middle school and we belonged to a boxing organisation. He would come here and there and have a work-out. That's when I first met him.

"He is a few years older than me, I was probably 13 and he was probably about 16, maybe 17. He always hung around a lot of us younger kids."

Marles Lazur is one of a small number of Facebook friends of Thomas. In late 2011 Thomas posted that he had his daughter back - "Im happy as hell never going without her again ... I could not get enough of parenthood I love it..." Underneath Marles wrote: "Congrats dude! I could tell you were really upset without her. Good for you. Now don't do anything dumb." 

Marles Lazur, who knew Tommy for much of his life and described him as "a sweetheart - he was just the sweetest"PICTURE SUPPLIED

Marles gives a little laugh when she remembers that comment.

"He was a sweetheart, he was just the sweetest," she says. "We were like family you know, kind of. But I didn't know about his background, whether he was in the [military] service or anything. When we associated with Tommy he came to our house all the time. He was pretty quiet, he didn't really talk a lot about his life, his family life, growing up, or being in the service, anything like that. When he had conversations it was in the now. We had a pool table, and his friends came over all the time, it was just all about now. We really didn't talk a lot about his past or anything."

Thomas was friends with Marles's son and he liked the family so much he stayed with them for a time after they had moved from Oregon to Montana. "He didn't let us know he was coming or anything, he just knocked on our door one day," she says.

It's a theme. People have many different views of Thomas, depending on when and how they met him and the intervals at which he popped in and out of their lives, but few seem to have gained a comprehensive picture. According to Aaron Cearley: "We had a few run-ins with him and he was drinking really heavily in his later twenties and just after a few drinks he'd want to start fighting people and it was not working out good for him. It seemed like real bad alcoholism."


He was acting fine with me. Just, you know, normal Tommy. He just gave me a big hug and he was excited that he ran into me 


Asked about Thomas's beliefs, or his religious ideology, Aaron says: "Well, he was into his negativity so it seemed like that his mind seemed to go in that direction, a lot of his anger and mistrust of people, it wouldn't surprise me if he was getting into something like that, doomsday prepping. He was a bit of a survivalist."

Aaron hadn't seen Thomas in years - "Not after that last time I saw him, I didn't really want much to do with it," he says. "It was not a good picture."

The last time Marles saw Thomas was just a few weeks before he "got into a little bit of trouble" in February 2017, when he disappeared into the woods.

"He was acting fine with me," she says. "Just, you know, normal Tommy. He just gave me a big hug and he was excited that he ran into me and I really liked that I was able to run into him and then we just stood in the parking lot of the Wells Fargo Bank and talked about what he was doing.

"Then a few weeks later we saw it on the news that they were looking for him, that he was missing and his daughter was missing and I don't know, they found his car, it was parked down in Warm Springs. And I said 'Oh my God, had he kidnapped his daughter from her mother?' We weren't sure what the story was there. We always knew that he had a real strong bond with his daughter... snagged her up and took off.

"That's probably when he went off the deep end. His daughter was everything to him, that's all he ever talked to me about, was his daughter. She was his life and that's all, he would always say I got to get a job and get situated so I can get my daughter back or whatever."

At the time of the incident in March 2017, Thomas's former partner, mother to his daughter, told police she had been very concerned about her well-being due to Thomas' mental state and that he had disappeared with her on many occasions. She told police that some five years previously, he had taken her on a visit and never returned her. Despite various contacts over the phone, the girl's mother had never been able to pinpoint where she was during that time and had also not reported this information to police. So, where had he been, and where was he headed?

Martin Elle can fill in some of these gaps. He is one of Thomas's oldest friends; or, as he puts it, he was a friend, having known and mentored him for more than 25 years, ever since Thomas joined the older man's Reserves Unit all those years ago. 

Martin Elle, one of Thomas's closest and long-serving friends, who tried to keep him on the straight and narrow over the yearsPICTURE SUPPLIED

According to Martin: "I taught Tom mountain climbing skills, repelling, spelunking and many other outdoor skills. Fortunately and unfortunately, he took it to the utmost level."

Martin is a retired sergeant and chief of firing battery in the 218th Field Artillery Regiment of the Oregon Army National Guard and he's almost unique in having a helicopter view of Thomas's life. He first met Tom through another soldier and helped him get a job. Both men were in the Reserves, and according to Martin, Tom was progressing well - until he wasn't.

"Then he threw it all away on drugs," Martin says. "Got caught smoking pot during training [and] was given the option for treatment but to do that he had to admit he had a problem, take a reduction in rank and in about six months he could get his rank and section chief position back. He refused, and l believe he was given an other-than-honourable discharge. Many around him pushed for him to do this. He couldn't admit that there was a problem."

Thomas and his daughter lived with Martin on a couple of occasions, totalling almost two years, although "it has always been Tom's MO to just up and leave and then get to a point that his actions brought him back to reality." All this, Martin says, was anchored around Thomas's sense of "perceived persecution", and a troubled childhood. 

Martin says he was told Thomas had been diagnosed with a chemical imbalance at a very young age. Martin suggests Thomas may have experienced some trauma in his childhood. He believes Tom's mental health difficulties accelerated with his use of methamphetamines around the turn of the century, for which he received treatment in 2006. "I'm sure that his self-medication played a big role in his mental stability," he says. "Alcohol was even worse with Tom. When drinking he went from happy to sad to wanting to fight everyone in the place. No drugs or alcohol was ever permitted in my house. When he was living here to the best of my knowledge he never broke that rule."

Martin clearly saw Tom as someone who was "a provider and hard worker". He says Thomas wasn't a drifter, but instead someone who travelled around various American states at the behest of the company he worked for, having spent four years qualifying as a high-end fabricator/welder. But here and there, problems arose. 


When Thomas's employers wanted him to move to California for work, he utterly rejected the proposal. By the time of the March 2017 incident, Martin was telling police that Thomas was very paranoid and while he had always kept his daughter safe, there had been more recent concerns about his thought processes and poor choices. It seems Thomas, along with his daughter and his younger brother Don - someone describe by Aaron Cearley as "much easier-going" than Thomas - had spent 10 months living in a remote camp in Arrowhead, Minnesota, before later moving amid plummeting tempuratures to an apartment in the same locality. According to the police report, that was the scene of a fight between Thomas and Don, and the trigger for Thomas to return to Oregon.

Thomas and his daughter, often with his brother in tow, had lived across many US states in the years prior to March 2017. There's a newspaper clipping from the Minnesotan newspaper the Ely Echo, from Saturday, August 15, 2015, featuring a picture of the trio, with the brothers bearded to differing degrees, Thomas with a fatherly arm around his daughter. 

The Stofiel brothers, Don (left) and Thomas (right), as featured in the Ely Echo in 2015.. PICTURE ELY ECHO 

In the photograph, Thomas is holding a bible, and what seems to be a roll of rope. At the time they were living in Granite Falls, Minnesota. Tom is quoted as saying: "I'm going into the Family Dollar Store. They want to hire me. We just got done with Church service. We're kind of making our rounds to all the churches." 

His daughter talks about playing with her dog in the park, and Don uses a term that would become synonymous with him and his brother. "This is a great town," he told the reporter. "Me and my brother and my niece came here and we're meeting the people who are just absolutely awesome people... My brother likes to call it Yahsome Yah... Yah for Yahweh..." 

"I see who they are". Thomas' paranoia about the freemasons becoming more prevalent


A messenger for Yahweh

Out on the road and in a tiny corner of the internet, Thomas Stofiel went into battle for Yahweh. In his guise as Truth Warrior for YAH!, Thomas posted 73 videos on Youtube, all between December 2, 2017 and March 3, 2018. He was travelling the highways, recording his scattergun thoughts and offering an insight into where he is on the anger spectrum at any one time. It veers from calm, sometimes almost resigned to a losing battle in his role as messenger for Yah, but is more often at the point of detonation - a fury that is both visceral and irrational. For Thomas, Yah is the true deity, the one who actively dictates when and where he goes, who directs almost all his actions. He repeatedly says he is following Yah's plan.

The videos may have been posted on dates just three months apart, but they clearly cover a longer period. He is all over.






His car is a ‘billboard for Yah’, daubed with slogans on three sides, including the line ‘Give up your demons’ scrawled across the back window. Whether in the driver's seat, at work, or walking around the street, he is always alone. 


YouTube video titled 'Wisdom of Solomons-Pt 4'VIDEO STOFIEL YOUTUBE

Thomas talking about travelling with his daughter and working as a travelling labourer.  VIDEO STOFIEL YOUTUBE

YouTube video titled 'To my satanists brother.... you will burn in hell'VIDEO YOUTUBE


The videos, most of which have only been viewed a handful of times, are unsettling to watch. In the first one he posted, he is still working out how to use his phone properly, but by the time of another clip, posted mid-December, he is in a fit of rage. The post is titled 'Reptilians will die'. 

"Yeah I'm pissed," he shouts, adding he was "tired of their crap" and complaining that he "couldn't even get four hours of work without being harassed". There are references to his legally-held firearms and how if he was a "nutjob" or "a crazy conspiracy theorist like the reptilian race would like people to believe", he would have used them. In another clip posted around the same time, an infuriated Thomas says: "It's been nothing but hell today."

Thomas sometimes describes his work as panhandling, and it seems in the towns he visited he effectively preached on corners. The days of his working as a highly-skilled welder and earning big money were now in the past. Thomas was covering huge distances, but often the only thing we see in the videos is the inside of his car. He speaks about having worked out freemason codes, of being about to spot satanists and of clocking silver-coloured vehicles which are, in his mind, linked to the Devil. Close to Christmas 2017 he posted a video denouncing those in "filthy rich churches", using homophobic language to lambast a female pastor. He criticises the police.

In some clips he reveals a little more of himself. "I just dust my feet off and roll on," he says at one point, adding that he's "always been in some sort of relationship with the creator", but that he had been living in "Satan's system" earlier in his life, only to have spent the past seven years "in his walk with Yah". That indicates a conversion of sorts in 2010, not long before the troubling Facebook messages of 2011. 

Thomas is becoming more agitated and angry in the final few posts on his YouTube. Here he is calling out the satanists, saying "the reptillian race will die".  AUDIO YOUTUBE

This chimes with Martin Elle's recollection. He describes Thomas as having been "radicalised".

"He belonged to catastrophe online chat groups," Martin says. "That put him down the path of destruction. When the Fukushima tsunami hit Japan in December of 2011, that was his jumping-off point. All the chatter he gleaned from online told him this was the beginning of the end. So he sold all his belongings, car, furniture, all household items and more. He then took [his daughter] out of school and literally headed for the hills or mountains near Prineville and lived off the land. His brother tagged along with him. They stayed there for months and in their sorties into town they met up with a guy and his family that adheres to a religious sect that had a following 50 years before the referendum (Martin Luther) and the split in the Catholic church."

It was, according to Martin, a type of fundamentalism. He gives the example of Thomas's extreme adherence to the Shabbat, on which you are expected - according to the doctrine he was following - to do little or nothing. That even included not building a fire when the temperatures outside were sub-zero. "I just can't understand the why," Martin says.

Thomas vigorously observed the Shabbat, but in one video clip he posted, he suggests the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust is wrong. In another video he rattles on about a "new world order" and says "if you all want me to destroy these fake jews, I would", trotting out anti-Semitic tropes. 


Tom was pretty fanatical about guns. I know of two of his guns. An AK-47 and a Remmington 700 sniper rifle with him when he did his bunko in 2017.


Thomas's ideology seems convoluted and contrary. He claims in another post that a mass shooting was fake. "I'm a cowboy, a nomad, a gypsy, whatever you want to call it," he says. His green eyes zip around in his head, and sometimes he is literally vibrating with anger.

Martin says Tom was a doomsday prepper - and had all the accoutrements.

"Tom was pretty fanatical about guns," Martin says. "I know of two of his guns. An AK-47 and a Remmington 700 sniper rifle with him when he did his bunko in 2017.

"When he was living here he got excited that he had cracked the code of the freemasons and that they were after him. Both paranoid and delusional." 

Martin says he made two mistakes around this time: first, mentioning to Tom that his great-grandfather had been a freemason, and then in trying to logically challenge Tom's beliefs. 

"That was the last day I saw him." 


Tom's Brother, Don Stofiel.

Trigger Point

"I tell everybody, seven years ago me and my daughter were running through a field of daisies, I had money coming out of everywhere," Thomas says in a YouTube clip in which he describes himself as "a journeyman ironworker". According to what police were told in March 2017, Thomas had recently been working for Labor Ready / People Ready of Portland, and as an experienced welder/fabricator had been making $20 an hour.

It was suggested that Thomas had earned more than $100,000 in one year in his work welding grain silos in the mid-west, ahead of his sudden decision to quit when the company asked him to move to California. By the time of posting this particular clip, that period was a memory. Thomas's ire is aimed in numerous directions: at the 'masons', the police, and even his own brother, Don. "The one person I want to see burn in hell is you, because you were behind me losing my daughter and you know it," Thomas says. 

For Martin Elle, the fallout from the March 2017 incident, and no longer being in direct custody of his daughter, was a "trigger point" for Thomas - something he feels was exacerbated by his personality. 

"First and foremost, Tom had a giant chip on his shoulders," Martin says. "He was very concentric in nature, where the world revolved around him." Martin wishes it had been different, and it seems he coaxed and cajoled his friend over the years to try and find a better path, but he says Thomas never hinted at evolving his attitude or his behaviour. "He could never put himself in the other guy's shoes."

According to police, Don is Thomas's only living relative, other than his daughter. The police report into the March 2017 missing persons incident includes information provided by Don at that time, and specifically about that physical fight between the brothers which left Don in hospital. It was alleged that Don had confronted Thomas about the constant moving around and the impact on her schooling. It seems both men were intoxicated; Don was later taken into custody on suspicion of assault, while Thomas fled with his daughter to Oregon in the middle of the night, leaving behind most of his property including a Jeep CJ 5 with a value of about $10,000. 

There was likely another factor in Thomas's sudden departure. The fight between the brothers had alerted the attention of the Oregon Department of Human Services, although Martin told police in March 2017 that there was no indication they were going to remove Thomas's daughter from his care. But did Thomas believe that?


I could see that he was getting ready to leave and abandon all his stuff - including a jeep worth at least $10,000 and a tow trailer worth $3,000


Martin was in contact with Thomas at the time. "I could see that he was getting ready to leave and abandon all his stuff - including a jeep worth at least $10,000 and a tow trailer worth $3,000. The jeep, he abandoned in Minnesota, and I sent one of my workers back with him to get it. At the least he could have sold it to help get back on his feet. I couldn't understand his thinking in this."

That Youtube clip in which Thomas says his brother will "burn in hell" is not the only time he takes verbal aim at Don, who he sometimes accuses of simply pretending to adhere to the scriptures. But Don also makes his own presence felt. Hardly anyone comments under Thomas's videos, because hardly anyone has seen them, but under one Don writes that he always supported his brother in caring for his daughter. And in a later clip, Don writes: "I told you don't do what your doing. Dam now you loos your van & go to jail . And looking at 2 years prison. 15.000 Bail 10% of that 1.500.00 to get you out what the heck am I to do now? this is crazy. you make bad video of me then hang up on me. now they got you in jail to where I can't do anything. when you get out call or text or WiFi spot get me from YouTube channel. ok I will have to get you home."

Thomas referring to his brother Don as someone falling below the standards set by Yah, stating the "satanists" have told him that "this matrix is all for show".  AUDIO YOUTUBE

And Thomas did go to jail. Records for the Clatsop County Corrections facility in Astoria in Oregon show he entered on Christmas Eve 2017, with a release date of February 18, 2018. The offence listed is Menacing 2, which can involve the production of a weapon. Martin thinks Thomas threatened someone, which likely led to the loss of his weapons. 


A March 3, 2018 clip posted by Thomas following his release from prison shows him in Salt Lake City, or so he says, briefly describing two months of incarceration, of losing everything. His usual volume has been turned down. He is tired.

Tom posted this clip from Salt Lake City.  VIDEO STOFIEL YOUTUBE

"I did preach to the people in jail for two months," he says, before suggesting he may backpack around the country, spreading the word, sleeping by the roadside, staying with the homeless and the drug addicts. "I don't do drugs, alcohol or cigarettes," he says, adding that he passes food to others who need it. "Yah blesses me with food all the time, I'm not lacking nothing. I may be backpacking, I may be homeless, I may have no money - at times - but Yah makes ways for it."

It's a change from the burning man of earlier YouTube clips. He says he's going to move through Colorado and on to Kansas, with a view to cycling around America. And then, after these clips were posted in March 2018, it's like Thomas Stofiel ceases to exist on the world wide web. There is a gap of many months, his movements unknown and unrecorded, before he arrived at the only future destination we know of - the south of Ireland.


I've put so many miles on my feet now they literally feel like they're gonna break, but I'm not stopping.



PART I: Running from the end of the world




If you are affected by any of the issues highlighted in this documentary, helplines are available, including, or by calling

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'The Lost American' is an Irish Examiner  two-part podcast and  immersive read, with research and reporting by Noel Baker and Mostafa Darwish

This podcast was produced and narrated by Noel Baker. Sound recorded by Jim Coughlan , Sound Engineer was JJ Vernon  and project editor was Deirdre O'Shaughnessy. The music in this documentary was provided by Casino Versus Japan, with special thanks to Erik Kowalski

This immersive read was designed by Jim Coughlan, Philip Williams and Tiernan King of the Irish Examiner Visual Media Department.


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