Friday, May 25, 2012

Couple Meet Obstacles in Search for Missing Son

This article is about friends of ours (Barney and the hubs were co-workers and they were personal friends)....we pray for them and Mark daily.  I have edited this article because of the length of it.   Hoping some of my 'friends' out there in genealogy blog-ville can help out.  It's a long article but please take the time to read it.  Hampden Township is in Pennsylvania.

Hampden Township couple meet obstacles in search for missing son with mental illness
Published: Friday, May 04, 2012, 6:00 AM Updated: Friday, May 04, 2012, 12:14 PM
By MATTHEW KEMENY, The Patriot-News The Patriot-News 

Kathy Goddard lost touch with her son Mark, 38, 10 years ago while he was living in California. Mark suffers from schizophrenia.  The once-athletic, mentally alert child they raised in a Los Angeles suburb before moving to the midstate in 1996 had been destroyed by mental illness. Several years after schizophrenia settled in, Mark Goddard dragged his feet around his parents’ Hampden Township home. His speech was slow and, at times, slurred. Medications left him with a bloated body and tremors so severe he couldn’t keep his arms from shaking. 

Barney Goddard cried during that visit. It was one of the last times the Goddards saw their son. 

Mark Christopher Goddard, 38, has been missing for nearly a decade. His family last saw him at his brother Jeff’s wedding in California in the summer of 2002. 

Since then, the family’s calls and letters have gone unanswered. Hampden Township police won’t investigate because it’s out of their jurisdiction. Police in Ontario, Calif. — where Mark Goddard went missing — said they can’t investigate due to medical privacy laws. Plus, they said the case was not a priority for the department based on the circumstances. 

Kathy Goddard is searching for her son Mark, who is diagnosed with schizophrenia. The family has not seen or heard from him in 10 years.

The case exemplifies the struggles families endure when a relative with mental illness goes missing. While all missing person searches pose challenges, trying to find someone with a disease such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder can be particularly difficult, said Sue Walther, executive director of the Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania. 

“I would think the biggest concern is the illness impacting the person’s decision-making process and thinking,” Walther said. “They’re not making the best decisions that they would if they were in a healthy place.” 

As of Dec. 31, 2010, there were more than 85,000 active missing person cases across the country that involve people with physical or mental disabilities, people who authorities believe may be in danger and people under 21, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Crime Information Center. Juveniles account for nearly half the total. 

The number of missing persons cases has decreased significantly since 1994, according to FBI statistics. 

Liz Adams has a similar story to the Goddards. 

When her schizophrenic brother, John Adams, went missing in the summer of 1993, the Seattle-area family searched tirelessly for him. When her parents became too old to continue the hunt, Adams took over. She tried numerous times to file missing person reports, but she was told her brother didn’t qualify as a missing person because no crime was suspected in his disappearance, nor was he a danger to himself or others. 

Adams disagreed with those assessments. The Goddards do, as well. 

But Liz Adams continued to search. Her work paid off in March 2011, when she was able to trace her brother’s body to an anonymous county-owned grave in Swatara Township. John Adams died ten years earlier at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center from injuries he suffered after being hit by a train in Juniata County. He was 47. 

The news wasn't what she was hoping for, but at least she was able to get closure. 

The Goddards hope for the same. Like many families with relatives missing for years, it’s the uncertainty that’s the hardest to handle. 

A while back, Liz Adams reached out to the Goddards and shared her story. The conversation comforted the couple as they continued to meet obstacles. 

“It’s a full-time job trying to find someone. You could do this eight hours a day,” said Kathy Goddard, a retired special education teacher at the Capital Area Intermediate Unit. “You have to hang in there. It’s not easy.” 

The Goddards plan to fly to Seattle in July after the birth of their first grandchild to their middle son, Jeff. They hope to go to California sometime after that to search again for Mark. 

When the Goddards moved to Pennsylvania more than 15 years ago, Mark Goddard stayed behind. He was in his early 20s then, had his own apartment and worked at a warehouse. 

That’s about when schizophrenia began to take a hold of him.  After developing an addiction to amphetamine, commonly known as the drug speed, Mark Goddard spent a lot of his time in hospitals, jail and halfway homes, his father said. 

Doctors gave him different diagnoses and put him on different drugs. He spent a year in a treatment facility near San Diego.

Mark Goddard would call his parents in the middle of the night and jabber on about nothing that made any sense. When he visited his parents, he stayed in his room and performed ninja chops. 

“It all just upset us. It was like demonic possession,” Barney Goddard said. “When I talked to him, I’d tell him that I loved him. I’m not sure if he always heard me.” 

The Goddards also sent Mark letters and cards, sometimes with checks inside to ensure he was still fine. But after 2002, the checks stopped getting cashed. Letters and cards were not returned. The phone numbers they had for their son stopped working.  In 2003, a card came back to the Goddards as return to sender. 

The Goddards have contacted the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s office, which had no record of Mark Goddard. 
Police in Fontana, Calif., also confirmed Mark Goddard is not in jail. 

This year, the Goddards reached out to the U.S. Social Security Administration, which sent Mark Goddard disability checks, and it forwarded a letter from them to his last known address. However, due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 — commonly known as HIPAA — it couldn’t release Mark Goddard’s address, Barney Goddard said.   A Social Security representative in Carlisle told the couple he could be fired for giving out any information. 

At this point, Barney Goddard said he feels like he’s hit a brick wall.  “I just want him to come back and be part of the family,” he said, fighting back tears. “Whatever the problem is, we’ll work it out.” 

Related topics: hampden township, mark christopher goddard