BRUNSWICK, Maine — In the 13 months since his son disappeared, Doug Reil has developed several theories about what may have happened to Jason.
He might have been abducted, Doug Reil said Monday. Or he could have decided “to disconnect his life” and start another one somewhere else.
But the grim scenario Doug Reil returns to, over and over again, is that Jason, now 34 and diagnosed with schizophrenia, succumbed to the the voices that had consumed him since he stopped taking his anti-psychotic medication. He may have become more delusional, “And the voices in his head told him to go somewhere, and he killed himself and nobody’s ever been found,” Jason’s father said.
After more than a year of waiting and thinking about what happened the last time they spoke, Doug Reil will leave this week for South Carolina to stay with his brother for a while.
“I’ve been so depressed all year,” he said in his Mill Street apartment, surrounded by boxes and green plastic bags stuffed with clothing and belongings. “I just can’t handle this anymore. I want closure on this so bad. I want to know one way or the other.”
Jason Reil was reported missing Jan. 17, 2012, five days after, unmedicated and delusional, he told his father, “I’ve gotta go for a walk.”
Jason apparently walked out of his own apartment on Federal Street in Brunswick and left behind his cellphone, debit card, car and house keys – even his glasses.
He was seen the next day, Jan. 18, at Rite Aid on Maine Street buying a prescription, medication Doug Reil said was found in his medicine cabinet in his apartment — meaning that Jason did not take it with him.
In more than a year, not a single trace of Jason has been found. Neither his prescription card, debit card nor a card allowing him to access disability benefits have been used, according to Brunswick police Detective Rich Cutliffe. An intensive search by police and game wardens of the area around Jason’s apartment turned up nothing, and Cutliffe has investigated several phone calls in the past year from people saying they saw Jason at the Brunswick Walmart, the Hilton Garden Inn in Auburn, in downtown Brunswick and on Congress Street in Portland.
Cutliffe also viewed video footage from Walmart and Hannaford, and sent fingerprints to South Carolina, where an unidentified male body had been found.
Nothing has panned out.
“The detective will call and say somebody saw him in such-and-such place,” Doug Reil said. “On one hand, it’s a glimmer of hope — somebody’s seen him — but then it’s like a crushing blow because nothing happens.”
The month before Jason Reil disappeared last January was difficult for him, his father said. Christmas in general was a tough time, and in previous years he twice had attempted to kill himself. Most recently, in 2010, he “overtook his medication” and “lost two or three days,” Doug Reil said.
Like many with mental illness, Jason Reil hated the side effects of his medication almost as much as the illness itself. But he quickly became unstable when he stopped taking the anti-psychotics, his father said. Then the voices and delusions returned.
Just before he disappeared, Jason was convinced the federal government was conspiring to overcharge people for prescription drugs, and he felt it was his responsibility to do something about it.
Doug Reil said he and Jason checked in with each other every two days or so, and he believes Jason knew he could always go to his father, even if he wasn’t taking his medication.
“I told him, ‘My door’s always open,’ and he knew that.”
But as he continued to stay unmedicated, Jason said the voices grow louder, and “He really wouldn’t talk to me, because I really didn’t understand where he was coming from,” his father said.
“He’s happiest when he’s on that medication. You see him doodling, and life seems to be happy for him. But the voices in his head tell him, ‘You don’t need this [medication]’ and he listens to them. It’s frustrating. I can’t say, ‘Well, if you’re hearing voices, you know they’re voices, that’s not right, so why listen to them?’ But for him, the voices are guiding his decisions.”
But because Jason had told his psychiatrist and other professionals that they could not speak to his family, Doug Reil said, there wasn’t much he could do except watch his son deteriorate.
At 5:45 a.m. Jan. 12, Jason Reil woke his father, agitated, and immediately started talking about government conspiracies.
“He said, ‘We got ’em, Dad, but there’s one left,’” Doug Reil said. “He was itching to get going, and … said, ‘I’ve gotta go for a walk.’ I said, ‘Jason, promise me you’ll take your medications today and call your doctor and tell them what you told me.’ He said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do that.’ That was the last time I saw him.”
Thomas Kivler, director of the Division of Behavioral Health at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick and an independent licensed counselor, said Tuesday that Doug Reil’s story of his son’s experience sounds like “the classic cycle” of those coping with mental illness and addiction. Once medications make people feel better, they feel like they don’t need to take them, but once they stop using them, the symptoms return, Kivler said.
“Recovery is something [you have to do] every day — a boat preparing every day because there might be a storm,” he said.
Kivler said that, as in Doug Reil’s case, aside from navigating the complex and sometimes virtually impossible process of trying to get the person admitted to a psychiatric unit, family members sometimes have no options when trying to help an adult struggling with severe mental illness. Even maintaining a close relationship with a person under such circumstances requires “some savvy,” Kivler said, because someone who has psychosis is “disconnected with themselves, disconnected from you and totally obsessed with their delusions. I’m sure that dad thought, ‘This is as crazy as can be,’ but he kept that connection. He was on the right track with that … That dad did something very, very right.”
Doug Reil said he continues to hope one of the phone calls — or information on the Facebook page Missing Jason Reil — will lead him to his son. But he acknowledges that as time passes, the likelihood of that outcome is waning.
“If he’s passed, let me know,” he continued. “Somebody tell me he’s gone so I can put some closure on this and say, ‘OK, well at least he’s not suffering anymore.’”
Anyone with information about Jason Reil’s whereabouts is asked to call the Brunswick Police Department at 207-725-6620.