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


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