Missing autistic teen found in Utah more than 2 years after running away from her California home

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Suzanne Flint didn’t know that while cooking lunch she was losing her son.

But when it was time to eat the quesadillas she had made one day in September 2019, 17-year-old Connerjack Oswalt was gone, the Associated Press reported. Oswalt, who had previously been diagnosed with autism and mental health issues, had a history of running away and had done so earlier that year.

His mother spent the next two years looking for him. She posted flyers, scanned social media posts and scoured national databases for missing children, the AP reported. She checked the morgues. When a forest fire severely damaged his house in Clearlake, California, she fled to Idaho, hoping her son could return to his birth state.

“I never stopped looking for him. There hasn’t been a day that I haven’t been looking for it in some form or another,” she told the AP.

Her husband and Oswalt stepfather, Gerald Flint, was there with her as every promising lead turned to disappointment. They feared they would never see him again, according to the AP.

“We’ve had a lot of false hopes over the past two and a half years,” Gerald Flint told KSTU.

Then, earlier this month, the couple got another lead: a call from Utah sheriff’s deputies who believed the 19-year-old man they found sleeping and shivering in front of a gas station on April 9 was Oswalt, according to a Facebook post from the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. Their intuition was heightened when they found a birthmark on the man’s neck similar to what his mother described, CNN reported.

Gerald Flint quit his job and started driving about 240 miles to Summit County to see if they had finally found his son-in-law or if it was another dead end.

Summit County residents had been concerned about the man who appeared to be homeless and had been spotted in recent weeks pushing a shopping cart – some so much that they called law enforcement. Each time sheriff’s deputies checked on him, they found the man to be law-abiding and unreceptive to their offers of help.

The deputies sent him on his way.

Then, on April 9, a “really concerned” resident told the sheriff’s office that a young man was sleeping outside a local convenience store. When the deputies arrived, they discovered the man they had dealt with before. At the time, he appeared to have been homeless for a few weeks and was shaking and “obviously [having] a tough night,” Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez said. says KSTU.

The deputies persuaded him to sit in their cruiser to keep warm. Although he doesn’t give them his name, he lets them scan his fingerprint. They had a hit: “Connerjack Oswald” – spelled with a “d” – who had a warrant for his arrest Starting from February out of Nevada.

Instead of arresting him, the sheriff’s office kept digging, in part because ‘it was clear to the deputies that the man was communicating differently’, and they felt there was more to the story. , according to the sheriff’s office. Dispatchers began going through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s case database. After 16 pages of names and photos, they found one for Connerjack Oswalt, a teenager who had disappeared from California two and a half years earlier. Investigators tracked down and contacted the Flints once they “felt confident with the identification.”

After Gerald Flint arrived from Idaho Falls and inspected the man who was supposed to be his stepson, he pulled out his phone. With deputies by his side, Flint called his wife.

” Is the one ? ” she asked.

“A little older,” Gerald told him, “but yes.”

“My darling is alive,” she sobbed into the phone.

Social workers responded to help Oswalt after he was identified, USA Today reported. He is still receiving care at a treatment center in Utah, although the Flints are considering bringing him home to Idaho Falls eventually.

Investigators are still trying to figure out how he ended up in Utah and what happened between his disappearance and April 9.

“That remains the big question,” Summit County Sheriff’s Lt. Andrew Wright told USA Today. “Where has his journey taken him over the past two and a half years?”

For now, his mother is just happy to know where he is.

“We are just grateful that he is safe and alive and that we found our son,” she told KSTU. “It’s the most important thing for us.”

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