Wednesday, July 09, 2008

7/9/08 Project Jason Presents "A Mother's Day Miracle, Missing for 14 Years" Part V

A Mother's Day Miracle, Missing for 14 Years Part V (Conclusion)

Recently, Vicki was able to take time away from the reunification process with Mark to answer some additional questions we posed.

When you first laid eyes on Mark after all these years, what was your reaction/how did you feel? How about other involved family members?

When I first saw Mark, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I was so happy; my wish had come true after all of those years of worry. I gave him a big hug, told him I loved him and then I noticed I couldn't stop staring at him. And Mark seemed happy to see me. He had his cat with him, he was about 20 - 25 lbs underweight, weatherworn, appeared older than his age, he was a little hunched over and it was obvious he needed good nutrition. Right-away my motherly instinct kicked in. I wanted to feed him and comfort

His youngest brother was with me. He hadn't seen Mark since he was 6 years old. So, he didn't really know Mark. But Mark certainly remembered him and was amazed to see his little brother now grown.

About two weeks went by before Mark was ready to see other family members. His dad and Mark's brother (a year younger than Mark) came to the house to visit Mark. By then, Mark had gained several pounds. He had begun to have a softer appearance, he looked healthier and was no longer hunched over. His dad and brother thought he looked very good and they could hardly believe he was finally home as well.

His next visit will be to see his grandpa.

How is he doing? Does he say much about his experiences? Do you know how he
survived? What was day-to-day life for him like?

Mark is doing very well. Mark has only mentioned a few things regarding his
experiences. He mentioned sleeping near raccoons and alligators. I do believe he pan-handled some in order to survive. Overall, 2 families in Florida had taken him into their home. The first family took him in before a Missing Person Report had been filed, so I didn't find out about this family until later. I really believe both families saved him.

He was in very poor shape when they began to help him. According to the St.
Petersburg family, Mark had a routine. He had a favorite coffee shop he went to most days. He visited a store which had comics. He went to his P.O. Box each week during the past 2 years. As a homeless person, he slept in the woods and swamps.

Do you worry that he will leave again?

Everyday I worry I'll get up in the morning and he'll be gone. It's a terrible feeling, but I have to have faith it won't happen.

Tell us about his cat. What significance did the cat have in his journey and
as a companion?

The cat is a well-tempered, loving and beautiful black cat. The cat was Mark's companion for 10 - 11 years. There were times when Mark would keep the cat with him during the day on a leash. And the other times, the cat was kept in a comfortable-size cage. Mark speaks to the cat in a special voice and it's obvious they are very bonded to each other.

The cat had become sick and I believe this helped to encourage Mark to come home. I arranged for Mark to get the cat to a veterinarian and the cat was treated for a couple of problems. But, the cat has a tumor and the future is not very bright for her. Mark is in serious denial about this problem and I have been gently working with him to get him to understand the cat needs to go to the veterinarian again. I just don't know how Mark will handle any bad news. If anything happens to the cat, I'm concerned Mark may leave.

An additional note: Vicki told me today that the vet is certain the cat has an aggressive form of cancer. Test results are pending. This is a very serious concern, as it would be important to buy as much time as possible for Mark to gain trust with the family, and for Vicki to help get Mark prepared to lose his companion of so many years.

I understand that Mark is an artist. Is this one way for him to communicate
and express his feelings?

I do believe Mark expresses himself through art. He spends a lot of time drawing and writing. His art is unique and I am always amazed at his endless ability to create. And I am always amazed at what he creates.

Can you explain in layman’s terms what type of mental illness he has, how
that manifested itself in relationship to his disappearance? How is it being
treated now?

He was diagnosed with a mental illness just prior to his becoming a missing person. I had been trying to get him help, but he left in the middle of the night from the place that was trying to help him. One of the symptoms of his illness is paranoia, which creates a real problem. He doesn't want to take a pill of any kind, because he believes someone is trying to harm him. Another symptom he has causes him to want to keep on the move because he may believe something or someone is after him.

He's not receiving treatment yet. This is a very challenging area. First, he had to have time to trust our relationship. I am hopeful we will be able to move forward in this area soon.

What do you think prompted him to finally make that call and want to come
home? How did you feel when he told you?

Hopefully, I had planted a seed in his mind that he needed to come home. I sent a letter, with money for food, every week for 1 year and 11 months. I always said how much he was missed, and loved and asked him to consider coming home. I would tell him, all he had to do was simply call me and I would make the arrangements to get him and his cat home.

But it wasn't until his cat became ill - then I received the phone call saying he wanted to come home. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. It seemed too good to be true.

How did you cope during the years he was gone, especially in the timeframes
when you had no idea if he was dead or alive?

I coped in many different ways during Mark's disappearance. There were times I had to bury my feelings, otherwise, my feelings would be too painful. There were times when I went into denial. At times I thought he must be dead. Other times I would wonder if he was out there somewhere living a very normal life. And then for years, he would be the last thought I had for the night and the first thought I had when I awoke the next morning - worried if he had food to eat or a place to sleep. I never did find a perfect way to cope.

Was it amazing to you that a family would take in someone like Mark and then go
the extra mile to try to figure out his identity?

I am still amazed how a family would take a homeless man with a cat into their home and then treat him like a member of their family. And then to research and find out he was a missing person was the turning point.

How are things going with Mark today? I’m sure it’s quite an adjustment for
everyone. Talk about that.

Things are going okay with Mark today. We have some serious things coming up, such as getting Mark to agree to go to the doctor. Getting Mark's cat to a veterinarian will also be challenging. His youngest brother lives at home and it has taken a few weeks for him to adjust and really understand Mark's situation. Mark is physically healthier now and that is helpful because I believe he feels better. I believe we have all adjusted at this
point and I believe Mark is trusting his new environment.

We find that older cases were not handled as they are today. There were also
very few resources for help with a missing adult years back. When I first
met you, you had not spoken with anyone in 11 years who knew and understood
what you were going through, which I found amazing and sad at the same time.
Talk about this and changes you see in today’s resources.

For all of those years I felt very alone. I knew very little about the topic of missing persons or endangered (mentally ill) missing persons. And the fact I couldn't get a Missing Person Report filed only added anger to my sorrow. I had contacted various government agencies, only to end up going nowhere.

Finally, I decided to do another internet search late one night and Project Jason came up. I went to the web-site; sent an e-mail describing my situation and 30 minutes later I received a phone call from the Founder of Project Jason. That is when things began to change for the better for me and my son.

Today I believe there are some excellent resources available for those with a missing loved one. When my son became missing, there were no resources available to my knowledge. And thanks to organizations such as Project Jason, the public and law enforcement have become more educated on the seriousness of missing persons. Also, I think the media has improved somewhat. At least some cases of missing persons have appeared on national television.

What advise would you give to a family of a missing person, especially one
who has been waiting for the answers for a long time?

Today there is a channel of support available. It's there to be used. This will help the family to be proactive, organized and involved in the search of their missing loved one. Being proactive and involved will help with the feeling of hopefulness. But for me, the ultimate hope came from my faith in God.

Did you ever feel anger at Mark’s disappearance, or was it reasonable in
your mind because of the mental illness? What were the primary emotions you
dealt with, and how did you work that out?

I certainly felt anger about Mark's disappearance, but never angry at him. My anger was at law enforcement refusing to do their duty. I dealt with many emotions during Mark's disappearance; sadness, fear, denial, depression, and finally hope. Had I been able to get a Missing Person Report filed early on, and if I would have had access to valuable missing person resources, I would have been hopeful many years earlier.

What changes need to be made in our legal system which are reasonable
changes that would have possibly brought Mark home much sooner?

Improved outreach to homeless persons. An effort should be made to seek out mentally ill homeless persons, especially since they don't understand they are homeless and that they are a missing person. All missing persons cases are equally important and it should be mandated that all law enforcement nationwide file a Missing Person or Endangered Missing Person Report within 24 hours. Also, Law Enforcement should have a list of resources to give the person(s) who file the Missing Person Report.

If an Endangered Missing Person Report had been filed years earlier, my son may have come home in 2 years versus 14 years later.

Note: The giving of resources to families of missing person is mandated in the Campaign for the Missing proposed law. Law Enforcement must also take the case.

How can you explain your feelings now that he is back home in relationship
to the feelings when he was gone? Is the old pain something you can’t ever
forget? Is that overshadowed with joy or other positive feelings now?

My old feelings of anxiety, worry and fear have been replaced with anxiety, and worry mixed with hope that he will finally have a chance for an okay future. There are days I feel such a strong sense of relief he is home, I have to take some private time and just cry.

I won't ever be able to forget the old pain. My strong joyful feelings today aren't even able to erase the old pain. It's still very vivid and I do worry he could become a missing person again.

What comes next with your life now and Mark?

Getting help for Mark is a priority. Finding a way for him to utilize his artistic ability is something I hope will materialize for him.

No matter how long a person has been missing, there is always hope. Hope remains until the truth is revealed.

We at Project Jason are blessed and privileged to have been able to assist Vicki and play a part in her Mother’s Day Miracle.

We have high hopes for Mark’s recovery, and for miracles to take place for other families of the missing.

There is always hope.

Kelly Jolkowski, July 9, 2008


Project Jason would like to thank Vicki for sharing her story with all of us. We’d also like to thank Robert Lowery, now mayor of Florissant, MO, and Libba Phillips of Outpost for Hope. Each played a very important part in our Mother’s Day Miracle. They are true examples of heroes who exemplify Project Jason’s philosophy:

“All missing persons are loved by someone, and their families deserve to find the answers they seek in regards to the disappearance.”

We also cannot forget to thank the two families in FL who took Mark in, especially the family who cared so much that they didn’t give up on finding Mark’s true identity, and thus his home. I feel fairly certain that there are few who would do the same.

Even though it was a long time coming, “earth angels” were there to help guide a son back into his mother’s arms.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

7/8/08 Project Jason Presents "A Mother's Day Miracle, Missing for 14 Years" Part IV

A Mother's Day Miracle, Missing for 14 Years Part IV


Finally, after 14 years, Vicki had the miracle she longed for, and with perfect timing, too.

She wrote:

On a Monday morning, February 20, 2006, I received a very special phone call. As soon as I saw the area code on the caller ID and heard the voice, I knew I was about to get some very important news. I listened intently, hopeful of good news, but fearful of bad news. My missing son, Mark Hamilton, had been found by a family in St. Petersburg, Florida. He had been missing for 12 long years.

This exceptional family took Mark into their home, thinking they were helping a homeless person. After doing a search on the Internet, they discovered Mark was an Endangered Missing Person. They found this information at Project Jason and promptly sent an e-mail to Project Jason. The Founder of Project Jason made sure I was contacted as quickly as possible.

Due to Mark’s mental illness, he couldn’t fully understand he had a mother waiting for his return home. He stayed with the Florida family for several months, but then chose to leave. The family tried to convince him to stay, but Mark was too resistant. He became a homeless person once again.

The family continued to work with me in order to help Mark. A P.O. Box had been set up which then became the important link between my son and me.

Every week I sent Mark essentials plus a letter which always said he was missed and loved. The first letter was sent on August 9, 2006, and I continued to send letters each week for almost 2 years, until May 6, 2008. Occasionally I would send him a phone card. So, every 4 months or so, Mark would call to say “hello”.

By April 2008, I was becoming discouraged since Mark had not called in quite a few months. But finally on Tuesday, May 6, 2008, Mark called. Mark said he wanted to come home. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Again, he said he wanted to come home. Something had to be handled first; the cat he had kept with him for 10 years had become ill and needed medical attention. Plans were quickly made to get the cat to a Veterinarian.

I then made travel arrangements for Mark and his cat. And with the help of the Florida family, Mark and his cat got on a plane headed for St. Louis.

After waiting 14 long years, on Sunday, May 11, 2008, I was able to once again, hug my sweet son, Mark - and on Mother’s Day!

Miracles Do Happen.
Prayers Do Get Answered.
And Thank You, Project Jason.

Vicki Hamilton
Mother of Found Son, Mark Hamilton
June 3, 2008

Through tears I read Vicki’s letter, and having finished it, sat back and thought of Jason, my own son, missing for 7 years. When we founded Project Jason, we said that even if we only helped one family, it would be worth everything we had gone through, and it would be what Jason would want. To have played a part in such a miracle was a blessing indeed.

Vicki and Mark’s story is a testament to a mother’s love, a love that would not be conquered by obstacles that seemed insurmountable. It was a love that was patient, knowing that her time would come, and that all things are possible with the gift of hope.

For those of us who still wait, we are encouraged to rekindle that fire of hope in our hearts.

Our conclusion, Part V, is an exclusive interview with Vicki that took place after Mark had been home for awhile. It gives insight to Mark and Vicki’s new journey together and Mark’s odyssey. We’ll also share a photo of Mark taken after his recovery.

Please check back tomorrow for the conclusion of “A Mother's Day Miracle, Missing for 14 Years”.

Click here for the conclusion of our story

Monday, July 07, 2008

7/7/08 Project Jason Presents "A Mother's Day Miracle, Missing for 14 Years" Part III

A Mother's Day Miracle, Missing for 14 Years Part III

More than five months after the incident in CO, a breathtaking miracle occurs with the arrival of a simple email message.


Project Jason receives an email from a family in FL who believes missing Mark Hamilton is living with them. Their calls to local law enforcement about Mark had not been returned. They feel Mark’s mental state requires intervention. They found Mark’s information on our website and contacted us.

Project Jason enlists the aid of Libba Phillips from Outpost for Hope, an expert on missing mentally ill, who requests assistance from mental health crisis professionals in the area.

To our great joy, it was confirmed that the person staying with this family was indeed Mark Hamilton!

Vicki writes:

Hi -
It's amazing that another Good Samaritan took my son into their home. Here is where things are at so far: He has been with them for 2 months. He broke his ankle yesterday & when I called her, she was on her way to take Mark to the emergency room. So I am thinking this may slow Mark down, which is good.

She was getting concerned that it might not be safe to have Mark in their home any longer, so, hopefully, I have relieved her anxiety a bit by explaining his behavior.

The way I understand it, she did a Google search and got to your organization’s website. (Proof that your hard work does have rewards!)

I am waiting on a return call from an agency in St. Petersburg, FL and so is Libba. So, I probably won't have a plan in place until tomorrow.

Miracles and amazing things do happen.

Even though Mark was located, that in itself would not culminate in a fairy tale ending for Vicki. She continues to chase the shadows.


Hi –
Here is an update on Mark. My dad and I have discussed what to do and we both decided that it would be best if the family that has Mark would gradually introduce the idea of my visiting him. (And I have decided it is not realistic to think he will come back with me voluntarily and forcing him to go on a long trip is a rough idea.)

So I spoke with Tony, the director of the main mental health hospital in St. Louis. Mark has been there before. He completely agreed that this was the best approach. Tony was the person who explained to me that one of Mark’s mental illness symptoms causes him to be on the run. And then you add Mark’s paranoia, which makes it very risky to get him back home in a forced manner.

I will be talking to a psychologist tonight who should be able to give me suggestions for the family on how to put this approach into action. Basically, they are to work with Mark gradually toward him accepting a visit from me and his grandpa. We will work with Mark to gain some trust, and maybe by a second visit, he will be willing to come back with us. No guarantees, but I think we have a better chance at success this way.

Also, I told Tony about the work that you and Libba do and he was very interested and impressed. He took your web-site info and will be giving it to the social workers in the hospital. They do get “John and Jane Doe’s who admit themselves into the hospital and he hasn’t really had enough resources to check and see if they are missing people.

I hope we are on to something.

One day, the roller coaster ride takes a vicious and fast drop to the bottom, and the shadows move out of reach.


Hi –
I’ve had some disturbing news. Mark left the home of the FL family yesterday.

He was at their house alone and called them on their cell phone & said he was moving out at that moment & moving to a hotel. The daughter stated she urged & urged him to wait before moving out & at least wait until they got home. But when they got there, he was gone.

He did tell them where he would be staying. But when they checked it out, he was not in the registry. He told them he got a P O Box and plans to be at work on Monday. He even left CD’s and his favorite movies behind.

I’m really distraught by this even though I knew this could happen. They will be looking for him. There just doesn’t seem to be any great solution for getting him home and getting him help.


One month later, there is good news of hope for Vicki, and for the first time in 12 years, a mother hears her son’s voice.


Hi –
I have big news about Mark and couldn’t wait to tell you and Libba.

Rich and Richard with Operation PAR in St. Petersburg, FL, have found Mark. They had been speaking with him for about 30 minutes & convinced Mark he should talk to me. So, Richard called me and put Mark on the phone. He sounded so sweet, but I could tell he wasn’t connecting the dots to everything.

I asked him to come home (had to give it a shot), but he said he can’t because he has a cat. He is living in an empty building on the property of a Catholic Church. They have given him permission to live there by himself with the cat. He does have running water.

Richard stated they will keep meeting with him & hopefully will be successful in getting him into their facility for help.

I am speechless, my head is spinning, & it is still sinking in.
I am amazed once again.


Later that day:

Rich and Richard who work for Operation PAR went out looking for Mark. The family in FL had given me a list of the places Mark would typically go to within that area and I passed this info onto Richard. Mark actually bumped into them and then they realized it was the Mark they were looking for.

Mark even let them go to where he is staying!

When Richard called me, right away he asked if I wanted to talk to Mark. I thought he was joking and then he puts Mark on the phone. It was very surreal. I still can hardly believe it. It did sound exactly like him & he sounds exactly like my 19 yrs old on the phone. He sounded happy, but “child-like”.

Hopefully, Rich and Richard will eventually have luck in getting Mark medical help. This story just keeps on going and I have to be careful with getting overly hopeful.


I check in with Richard of Operation PAR weekly. He has not been successful in seeing Mark again, unfortunately. I have sent Mark gift certificates for food and don’t know if he is even remembering to go get them. I also sent Mark a phone card, along with my phone #, hoping he might call; but no call. It is really starting to bother me. I am praying he is still in the area.

I had an interesting day. On my way to church, I pulled over to talk to a young man who had a sign “Homeless, will work for food”. I wanted to know if he was missing person, but he wasn’t. He had just become homeless due to losing his job, so I gave him some money. He is living out of his car & he told me his plan for getting back on his feet. I was encouraged for him, but went back later to give him more help; he wasn’t there. I’ll go back again a few more times.

When I did go back, there was another man in the area with a sign that said, “disabled vet, need help”. Again, I pulled over, verified that he was not a missing person. Gave him some money & he explained he does have a place to live, gets a disability check, but expenses have gone up so much, he has to ask for help every so often.

There are so many people who need help and this should not be happening in this country.

Months later, a mother still has hope.


I have an update on Mark. The daughter of the family who found Mark ran into him. He right-away hugged her and said he had been to visit me. She offered him money, but he refused to take it. She then said she would send him a gift card for food to his P O Box & he said okay. She stated she will be getting more involved & thinks she can be more instrumental in helping Mark toward going home. I don’t know anything for certain, but I believe it is possible.


Here is an update on Mark: I hadn’t heard from him for a month or so, but then I receive a letter from him. It was very basic & he said he had been very busy. (I suppose in his mind he is very busy.) But then he finally called once again, last week. The building he was staying in is no longer available, so he is out there again.

But, at least, I am able to get money to him for food.

There was one thing different about this last phone call, which has caused me to be somewhat encouraged. When I told him it was time to come home, he stated he had been thinking about it. (Normally, he says he will take it into serious consideration, and he has been saying it with an odd tone.) So, I am hoping that the idea of coming home is
sinking in.


I received a call from the daughter of the family that found Mark. She said that Mark had really been on her mind, and she still believes they can do more to help. After she hung up, she and her mother went to the woods where Mark had been staying before they took him in, and guess what – they found him that very day. He seemed very happy and hugged them both. He said he was fine and was thinking about going home (again, seems like a standard line he uses now).

So, the daughter called back gave me the update and they said they would go to where he is staying more often and try to talk to him.

Mark sent me a Valentine’s Card, which really surprised me. He told me his cat said hello and the other notes in the card were about the cat.
I keep praying for help on answers to this dilemma. At least for now, the P.O. Box is my lifeline to Mark – he is now able to eat every day.

It is very hard to not go see him. And I’m really thinking on this one. He’s not been calling as frequently. The last time he called was about 2 months ago.

Unfortunately, the Church must have sold the building Mark was staying in. So now he has been living in the woods again; it’s been for about 3 months now. I’m not sure what would happen if I were to see him; I’m still concerned about that one. But I’m studying it.


Thanks for asking about Mark. I haven’t heard from him via phone. The last contact was the Valentine’s Day card he sent. Since he is living in the woods again, I am wondering if the location makes it harder for him to get to a phone. (Just guessing). This is a tough one. Everyday I think about how fortunate he is and I am that things have come this far. I still do get stumped on where to go next. I am going to call the family who found him and see if they have seen him lately.


Vicki testifies for the MO version of Project Jason’s Campaign for the Missing, which was named after Summer Shipp, mother of Brandy Shipp. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass. Volunteers are still working on it in MO. We believe that family members who become active and work toward positive changes in our cause do much better in terms of coping. Being active alleviates feelings of helplessness, which left unchecked may result in a loss of hope.

Hi –
It was a fantastic experience today.

We were the last Bill to be heard, but that was okay. It was interesting to hear about the other Bills and other witnesses. I believe there were 5 of us as witnesses. Each witness provided something a little different. And your suggestions to me were perfect. I thought I might be nervous, but it turned out to be fine.

My State Rep printed out a copy of the Bill for me, so I was able to read it as soon as I got there. And after meeting the Sponsor of the Bill, Rep Bryan Pratt, I’ll have to say I was impressed with him.

I talked to a few of the witnesses, including Brandy’s dad, and it was sad, but interesting to hear their unique stories.

I am very happy you encouraged me to do this. It was the right thing to do.


“I just received a Halloween card from Mark. The key to the situation continues to be the dependence he has on that P.O. Box. He can now eat regularly, and that makes me happy. I’m also able to send him things like socks, shirts, & other little things that will fit into the P.O. Box.

I have been thinking that perhaps the right thing to do is to tell the story of Mark being found on your website. I really think you should take some well-deserved credit for your organization. Plus, it is an amazing true story. I believe things will stay stable with Mark as long as he is dependent on me and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”

Well over a year had passed since Mark had been located in Florida, and still, he remained out of reach, passing in and out of the shadows. Although there were certainly ups and downs, as is normal in these cases, Vicki remained hopeful.

Click here for Part IV

Sunday, July 06, 2008

7/6/08 Project Jason Presents "A Mother's Day Miracle, Missing for 14 Years" Part II

A Mother's Day Miracle, Missing for 14 Years Part II

I sent the letter, and within days, Major Lowery had the case re-opened and Mark's information was added into the NCIC. Now Vicki could receive assistance from the various agencies that help with missing adult’s cases. There was great joy in St. Louis and in Omaha that day.

When I shared this story with the Project Jason Board of Directors, I admit to choking up. It was another moment when the bittersweet pain of my own missing son surfaced. The tears were of joy for Vicki and Mark, and the bittersweet was that these things had all taken place because of our own situation. We have the privilege and blessing of being to affect the lives of others in Jason’s name.

Vicki had one battle behind her, but now others would begin. Her battles would include educating anyone who would be in the position of locating Mark, so that they understood enough about his situation and mental illness so there would not have a replay of January, 2005. The other battles would be the ongoing work to get any media attention at all, and yet another would be to find a way, should Mark be located, to be able to get him into a treatment situation.

Vicki was now keenly aware of the situation in regards to the homeless. She wondered if Mark had food to eat and shelter everyday. The homeless may be an ignored segment of society, but not in Vicki’s eyes. She knew that her son just might be one of those people.

She wished “I would like to see each family adopt a homeless person and help them. They may simply be lost and need someone to help them get to their loved ones. They may not even understand that they are missing.”

Vicki and I exchanged thoughts about the lack of media coverage in these types of missing person’s cases. What she had to say was simple but true: “The media needs to be educated before it is able to educate the viewers.”

I asked Vicki to write a letter about Mark when I introduced his case online.

She wrote:

“Mark Hamilton is my son. He is 35 years old and has been missing for 11 years. He originally disappeared from St. Louis, MO. He has a mental health condition and this prevents him from understanding that he has a family and a home waiting for him. I had previously experienced resistance in getting a Missing Person Report filed. Because of the efforts of Project Jason, I now have an Endangered Missing Report filed, and I can now seek your help.

Every day I think about how Mark has missed most of the best years of his young adulthood. I think about him every time I eat, wondering if he was able to eat that day. I think about him when it rains and wonder if he is able to protect himself from the rain and storms. I think about him each night when I go to bed and imagine how horrible it must be to sleep in the woods, swamps or on the side of a building.

Mark was a very kind, sensitive boy growing up. He was an incredible artist, musician and was very athletic. I believed he would have a bright future. But then in his late teens to early twenties, he became mentally ill. I desperately tried to get him help, but while he was in a special program 11 years ago, he left in the middle of the night and has been wandering and homeless ever since.

A few sightings of him have been reported in the last couple of years throughout Florida; but by the time I received the information, he was long gone. At least I know that he was alive as of January 2005. He was, at that time, thought to have lived in the woods and swampy areas by himself, and was seen with a cat on a leash. His mental illness makes him paranoid of people.

I pray for his return and for the many other missing loved ones out there. I am still hopeful that I will be able to hug Mark and tell him how much he is loved once again.

Thank you in advance for any prayers for my son and/or action you might take to aid in his location.


1st part of timeline of events after police accept Mark’s case and Project Jason publicizes it:


Information and photos of Mark have been received and posted. Project Jason sends out a notice to other agencies and interested persons about Mark’s case.


Project Jason places Mark on their Come Home program and notifies numerous homeless shelters about his case.


Weeks after Mark was placed on our Come Home program, a person associated with a homeless shelter in CO claimed to have seen Mark.

I wrote a story about this incident:

Mark was placed on our Come Home program just weeks ago. Come Home is the 1st ever national missing person's locator program which seeks the missing among the homeless. As it was a near certainty that Mark was living a homeless lifestyle due to his illness, we placed him on the program. On August 16th, our Come Home participants, which consist of homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and related entities, were given notification of Mark's campaign, and asked to print and display his poster.

Last Friday, September 2nd, a homeless preacher named Bubba picked up another homeless man and gave him a ride to a town in Colorado named Pagosa Springs. Bubba owns a jeep, but little more. He goes to the soup kitchen in a nearby community on a daily basis to help with the meals. This particular soup kitchen is one of our Come Home participants.

The next time Bubba went to the soup kitchen, he spoke with a worker there, a woman named Kim. In their conversation, Bubba mentioned that he had given a ride to a homeless man. Kim interrupted Bubba, and went to get the Come Home poster she had posted. She showed it to Bubba, and asked if the man he spoke of was the same man as shown on the poster, Mark Hamilton. Bubba said a very astonished "yes".

The two of them were amazed. Kim called the law enforcement contact listed on the poster and let them know what had happened. The detective was also shocked at this odd and coincidental chain of events. He called Vicki, who was speechless. Could this be her Mark?

If you have been reading our stories, you have probably noticed that frequently, the families of missing loved ones describe the emotional ups and downs as like being on a roller coaster ride. Just the day to day emotions of this type of loss can be like a harrowing ride. When something like today's events occur, the ride intensifies dramatically.

Vicki knows that she needs to try to be "neutral" about this sighting. If you get your hopes up too high, and then you find out it is not your missing loved one, then you fall much harder. It is difficult to pick yourself back up and go on once again.

On Friday, Kim will have Bubba contact Vicki so that she can try to ascertain if it was indeed Mark, and if he gave any clues to where he might be headed. The unfortunate thing, as Vicki is well aware, is that it was a week ago when these events transpired. Mark might still be in the area, or he could be several states away. Even so, Vicki will not give up hope that she can and will find Mark.

Because of his illness, he may not truly understand what it means to be homeless and that his family is looking for him. He may feel compelled to keep moving. Mark has been reported to ride on freight trains and to hitch rides. He likes to be near the ocean and does not like cold weather. There have been reports of him being in NY, VI, FL, and CA. Vicki's gut instinct told her that Mark was going to CA, L.A. specifically, but she has nothing to substantiate this, other then those first thoughts and the reports from the past.

We hope that Bubba will come to the soup kitchen and call Vicki. She is very anxious to speak to him to get as much information as possible. Any tips or clues she gets from speaking to him will be shared with us and with law enforcement. Project Jason is not an investigative agency, but based upon the details, we can give suggestions and resources as needed.

We ask that you, our readers, our angels, and our seeking eyes, to help in any way that you can. We need to get Mark's poster out there, and ensure that as many law enforcement agencies, shelters, and soup kitchens in this area and in a path to L.A. see his information. Authorities need to understand that he is a mentally ill person, and even if he seems fine, effort should be made to see if he will go with them long enough for them to contact the detective in St Louis (the phone number is on the poster) and for him to agree to go in for an evaluation.

We hope that Bubba will be able to tell Vicki something definitive about Mark's future travels. It may be possible that he is not headed west. As we receive additional information, we will post it here.

It just seems as if there are too many "coincidences" in this story for something good NOT to occur. Vicki agrees.

So, please God, can you make this miracle happen for Vicki? It's been a very long time for her to be without Mark, and to go to bed each night hoping and wondering.

Unfortunately, “Bubba” was never located to question him.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

7/5/08 Project Jason Presents "A Mother's Day Miracle, Missing for 14 Years"

Project Jason is pleased to present an exclusive story of hope, "A Mother's Day Miracle, Missing for 14 Years". Each day, for 5 days, a new part will be posted here.

A Mother’s Day Miracle, Missing for 14 Years
Written by Kelly Jolkowski with Vicki Hamilton Loux

For 14 long years, Vicki Hamilton Loux had not seen the face of her beloved son, Mark Hamilton. Mark became mentally ill as a young man, and had fled the care center where he was staying.

For 11 of those 14 years, Vicki had never once spoken to someone who knew personally what it is like to have a missing loved one. Family members had a difficult time in dealing with Mark’s disappearance, even to the point of denial. Vicki was alone in her grief and nearly alone in her search. For her, the search was like grasping at a shadow, the shadow of her missing son. Each time she felt close, the shadows of what could be eluded her. His face remained as dark as the shadows, although her hope was a light that never faded.

In January of 2005, Vicki was given a glimmer of hope when authorities in Florida spoke to Mark. Sadly, they did not comprehend the seriousness of his need for help, and they let him go. Vicki was not even informed of this for three days…three days too late to be able to find him again.

Authorities in Missouri, where Mark disappeared from all those years ago, closed Mark's missing person case. Neither they, nor the Florida police, would reopen the case despite Vicki's efforts. They considered Mark “found”. His mental illness had no bearing whatsoever.

In mid-June 2005, Vicki did find someone, although it was not Mark. Vicki found Project Jason on the Internet, and sent me a brief email about her situation.

I remember that night well. I was sitting at the PC, catching up with emails and various tasks. The time stamp on the email was 12:21am. I read it minutes after it came in.

6/16/05, 12:21am:

Hello -

I have a mentally ill missing adult son. He has been missing for 11 years. The police in my area wouldn't even file a missing person report until last year & this was after I threatened to go to the media. He was found in another state, far from me, in 01/2005. They asked him a couple of questions, let him go & now he is missing again. They immediately took him out of the missing person police databank. And now no one will file a missing person report again. I need help. Will you please contact me?


This woman was still up. She pleaded for help in her email. I picked up the phone and called her right then and there. After 11 long years, Vicki finally had someone to talk to who truly understood what it is like to live with a missing son. There was relief in her voice, even with a major hurdle in front of us.

We did not have a reported missing person’s case.

Due to privacy issues regarding adults, agencies like ours must be able to verify that there exists an open missing person’s case with a law enforcement agency, otherwise we face possible legal issues with that missing adult. Our hands are tied without it.

As we were talking, Vicki explained the St. Louis connection to Mark’s disappearance. It is their hometown. Bells went off in my head. I knew an officer from St. Louis, Major Robert Lowery. (now retired)

I met him while at the National Conference: Identifying the Missing, held in Philadelphia earlier that same year. He struck me as being genuinely concerned about the missing. As we have another family we assist in St. Louis, I had made it a point to approach him about their case. He told me to contact him at any time if I needed assistance. I was now going to take him up on his offer. I told Vicki that I made no guarantees about what he could or would do for her, but that I would try.

6/17/05: Letter to Major Lowery from me:

Dear Major Lowery,

I met you in Philadelphia and asked you for your help with a family that my organization is assisting in East St Louis.

I am writing to you today to ask you to intervene on behalf of a missing mentally ill man, Mark Hamilton. His information is below, and photos attached. I understand that he was reported missing from St Louis at one point, but that authorities found him in FL, and let him go. Police then closed the case. Despite the mother's efforts and her pleas to both FL and St Louis PD, no one will open the case because of what appears to be prejudice in regards to an adult case. It doesn't sound as if anyone truly understands the part that Mark's mental illness plays in this. He is, and should be, considered endangered.

He has been missing for a total of 11 years, with the exception of the incident in FL, in which the police "found" him, but then let him go. His mother has exhausted every avenue to locate her son. Since the police will not file a report, she cannot get help from agencies such as ours. If only they would just take the report, and then add him in the NCIC. At that point, other agencies can step in and help the mother find her son so that she can help him to become functional again.

I am a realist. I can understand police not taking a report of a missing adult when they have left a goodbye note and it is clear they wish to be left alone, but this is an entirely different matter. I do not understand why he cannot be classified as missing when his illness clearly mandates proper treatment and care. Does this not make him endangered? All we want is to get him on the books and in the NCIC.

Another consideration is that if entered in the NCIC, that could help find him if he were to be deceased. We both know from our discussions at the conference that we need to take the necessary steps to "find" the Unidentified as well.

I want to help this mother, but my hands are tied unless the police will take a report. Can you help her with that, please?

Thank you.

Kelly Jolkowski, Mother of Missing Jason Jolkowski
President and Founder,Project Jason

Now would we wait and see if I was right about Major Lowery’s compassion toward missing person cases.

Jump to Part II
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