Man missing at SXSW is OK, was 'doing the Lord's work'

 Jason Ratcliff

An Ocean Springs man missing since Friday while in Austin, Texas, for the SXSW music festival has contacted friends and is OK.

Kyle Hopper, a friend who lives in Austin whom Jason Ratcliff was supposed to be staying with, said Ratcliff emailed him and then phoned him at work Wednesday to say he was OK.

Hopper said Ratcliff told him he was fine, that he had been staying at a homeless shelter and "doing the Lord's work and helping the homeless."

He also told Hopper he planned to take a bus home to Ocean Springs, but was going to return to Austin to continue working with the homeless.

Ratcliff, 27, traveled with acquaintances from the Coast who were also going to the festival. After enjoying a night of music together on Friday, Ratcliff met up with some other people at the Hotel Vegas music venue on Sixth Street. He had not been seen since Friday before telephoning Hopper on Wednesday.

"The last time I talked to Jason was (last) Thursday, and he told me he had met some people from Ocean Springs and he was going to Austin with them," Larry Ratliff, the missing man's father, told the Sun Herald on Tuesday. "I know he had several thousand dollars on him, because he had some money that he was supposed to use to buy a car."

Once he decided to make the almost 600-mile, one-way trip, Hopper was notified to see if it was OK for Jason Ratcliff to stay at his place.

"It was fine for Jason to stay with me," Hopper said. "I've known his brother, Jeff Ratcliff, for a long time. I had no problem with him staying with me."

Jason Ratcliff and his companions showed up at Hopper's Austin residence early Friday morning. They went to see some of the concerts associated with SXSW and ended up at the Hotel Vegas. Jason Ratcliff told his crew he would not be staying at Hopper's home on Friday night and that he would catch up with them the next day.

Hopper said he didn't think anything about Jason Ratcliff not being there until he had left his phone and his clothes behind.

"I knew he was out here to have a good time," Hopper said Tuesday. "I work nights, so I thought nothing about this until Sunday when I noticed his stuff was at my house. That just seemed really weird."

He said he reached out to Jeff Ratcliff to let him know that no one had seen his brother since Friday night.

Hopper said he had called the local jails to see if Ratcliff had been arrested. He later called the missing person's division of the Austin Police Department and filed a report.

Larry Ratcliff said the Austin police officials had been very helpful.

"I've talked with a detective in Austin several times, and she told me that she had swept the morgues and the jails and Jason was not at either one, so she said that's a good thing and for us to be hopeful," Larry Ratcliff said Tuesday.

On Tuesday afternoon, Hopper said he received a peculiar message on Facebook from someone claiming to be Jason Ratcliff.

"The message was not from Jason's Facebook account and it said, 'Hey. This is Jason. Email me your address' and it had an email address included," he said. "If he wanted my address, why didn't he just ask me (to reply) in the message?"

After some due diligence by Hopper, it was determined that the address in the message was the one on Jason Ratcliff's business card.

"His dad said he hardly uses that account so I gave the information to the detective handling the case," he said.