A teenager who disappeared from his family home in the USA nearly three years ago has been reunited with his family – after a remarkable police effort to find out who he was.
Connerjack Oswalt’s stunned parents had feared they would never see their autistic son, who was 17 when he disappeared, ever again.
But the missing youngster, who had been living at home in California, was found shivering at a petrol station around 750 miles away in Utah on Saturday, April 9.
Mystery still surrounds where he has been for the 31 months, but the family were left in ‘floods of tears’ after meeting him again.
The 19-year-old had originally disappeared from his family’s home in Clearlake before lunchtime one day in September 2019, when his mother remembered making quesadillas – only to discover her son had vanished.
Now the family of Connerjack, who has a number of mental health issues, have praised police for going ‘above and beyond’ to help him.
Sheriff’s deputies came across the teenager shivering while trying to sleep at a convenience store in Summit County, which is known for its ski areas, Sheriff Justin Martinez explained.
She said Connerjack appeared to have been living on the streets there for about two weeks.
The young man’s family had searched for him for years, handing out fliers, scanning social media and desperately chasing down fruitless leads.
They even moved back to the town of his birth, Idaho Falls, hoping he would eventually make it back there.
Stepfather Gerald Flint explained: ‘Any hints at something that remotely resembled him, we would follow up on it.
‘It’s been a real nightmare.’
His mother, Suzanne Flint, added: ‘I never stopped looking for him.
‘There wasn’t a day I wasn’t searching for him, in some form or fashion’.
The exact circumstances of his disappearance and whereabouts over the last two years are under investigation, police said.
Police say that when deputies found Mrs Flint’s son, they asked if he would like to come in their car and warm up.
He agreed, and eventually let officers take a fingerprint.
That led them to an outstanding warrant from February in Nevada.
But Sheriff Martinez explained: ‘The deputies just felt that there was something there, something beyond a criminal warrant.
‘There was a humanitarian effort that needed to be explored further.’
Police began shifting through documents, looking for reports of missing and endangered children.William and Kate lead royals at Easter Sunday service as Queen stays at home
Some 16 pages in, they found the 2019 missing person report from Clearlake, California. Though it had a slightly different name spelling from the Nevada warrant, the photos matched and they called Connerjack’s family.
When the Flints first got the call, they worried their son had been found dead.
But after his wife confirmed the identification through a birth mark, Gerald Flint left work, jumped in his car and drove four hours to Utah.
‘Everyone in the room was in tears’, he said.
‘They went above and beyond, put in hours of work.
‘They could have dismissed it, but they didn’t and that made all the difference in the world.’
Social workers who specialise in autism took over his care after the reunion with his family, Summit County Sheriff’s Lt. Andrew Wright said.
But the family hope to bring him back home soon.
Sheriff Martinez argued: ‘We didn’t treat him as a criminal. We treated as somebody that has something deeper that we needed to dig into.
‘That intuition is what really reunited this family.’
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