About a month and a half ago, 33-year-old Jason Reil walked out of his father’s Brunswick home and just disappeared. He has been gone ever since, despite an intense effort by his family and the Brunswick Police Department to find him.
Flyers are hanging all over southern Maine, with Reil’s picture and a description, plus telephone numbers to call if you have any information. On the one I saw, Reil’s mother, Diana Solorzano, had added a handwritten note with her telephone number. The family has also set up a Facebook page, Missing: Jason Reil.
Reil is sick. He’s delusional and has been diagnosed as schizophrenic. According to his family, he had stopped taking his medicine before he disappeared.
Somehow, some way, this man has vanished.
His family is stuck on a roller-coaster ride of peaks and valleys as hope crescendos and then drops suddenly to unimaginable depths.
Last week, Jason’s father, Doug Reil, thought the ordeal might be over. A caller said that he had picked up a hitchhiker who he thought was Jason and dropped him off near Windham. Doug was hopeful that it was the break that the family and the police had been looking for.
“My immediate conclusion was that he’s OK. He’s been seen,” Doug said.
The next day, I spoke to Doug again. He was shattered.
“It turns out it was someone else,” Doug said.
But worse yet, Doug told me that the police were planning to bring cadaver dogs to search the area around Jason’s apartment. In just 24 hours, hope was replaced with fear.
The good news is that the dogs didn’t find anything, but the bad news is that Jason is still missing.
Missing person cases like this one aren’t very common and they present a particular problem for police. According to Steve McCausland, a spokesman for the Maine State Police, there are a few cases like this every year.
“It’s frustrating when someone disappears,” McCausland said. “There’s a family with a huge hole in their lives. They want to know where their family member is. They want to know if he or she is alright.”
Making matters more difficult is that it’s not against the law to “disappear.” As long as the circumstances aren’t suspicious or there’s no evidence of a crime, it’s OK for an adult to leave their home, their family and their belongings.
McCausland said he believes the Brunswick Police Department, the lead agency on the case, is doing a really good job getting the word out, and that the family is being proactive.
“Their hearts are broken and they’re looking,” McCausland said.
On TV and in popular culture, there’s this sense that nobody can really escape the grid. That there are cameras watching, observant strangers with clues and detectives with superhuman powers of deduction and intuition.
But in real life, a troubled man off his medication can just slip away into an underworld of transience and homelessness. And despite hours and hours of hard work and investigation by the Brunswick Police, the right clues just haven’t turned up.
Along with other members of Jason’s family, Solorzano has visited shelters in Portland, talking to the people who work and stay there.
On Saturday, Feb. 25, the family is planning a rally for Jason at 10 a.m. in the parking lot of the Walmart in Scarborough. If anyone has any information about Jason, please call the Brunswick Police Department at 725-6620.
Doug is 6 feet tall, with brown hair and brown eyes. He has a dragon tattoo on his left arm. He also has scars above his eye brow and on his wrist.
I asked Jason’s mom what people could do to help: “I don’t know. All we can ask is that people keep an eye out for him.”
“I’m scared and sad, but I trust that the Lord is with him and that God will see us through this,” Solorzano said.
Jason Reil needs help. I don’t know where he is, but I hope someone does. His family is still looking. And they aren’t giving up.
David Farmer is a political and media consultant. He was formerly deputy chief of staff and communications director for Gov. John E. Baldacci and a longtime journalist. His clients include Maine Equal Justice Partners and EngageMaine. You can reach him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @dfarmer14.