Tip brings hope to missing veteran’s family

Eighty-four-year-old Earl Cason has been missing since March 31
Thursday, April 8, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:25 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Drew Cason lives in Kansas City, but for the past week he’s taken up residence in Columbia while he and his sister, Phyllis Cason, search for their 84-year-old father, Earl Cason.

A call Tuesday morning from the Columbia police offered the family a ray of hope.

A tipster reported seeing a man who fit Earl Cason’s description walking along a Boonville road March 31, the day he went missing after an appointment at Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital.

Drew Cason, who is staying at his father’s apartment in Columbia, made the 40-minute drive to Boonville and spent the day putting up fliers, talking to locals and hoping someone knew something.

But, at the end of the day, no one knew a thing about Earl Cason and where he might be.

“We followed up on all the leads,” Drew Cason said. “Nothing.”

Cason veteran of World War II

Earl Cason is an army veteran of World War II who has been married to his wife, Frances, for 65 years. He suffers from Parkinson’s disease, high blood pressure, and according to his son, Alzheimer’s. For more than a decade, he has made weekly visits to the VA hospital in Columbia to have his nine daily medications sorted into a pill container.

When he didn’t return home from the hospital last Wednesday, his family notified police, who found the container — with the pills in it — in Cason’s locked 2003 Nissan Altima, which was still in the hospital parking lot. Also in the car were Cason’s personal belongings, wallet and identification.

Drew Cason is worried that, without his blood-pressure medication, his father is at risk of a stroke. Columbia police Sgt. Stephen Monticelli is also worried. He said Earl Cason was last seen at the hospital, in “good spirits,” at about 11 a.m. the day he was reported missing.

Police have checked security cameras and bus routes for signs of the missing man, Monticelli said, and have used a Missouri Highway Patrol helicopter in their search. The department has received a handful of calls from people who think they’ve seen him, but nothing has led them to the missing man.

“We’re still looking for anyone who has seen him or given him a ride,” Monticelli said.

Drew Cason described his father as a homebody who loved soap operas. Those TV shows are usually on his mind during his weekly hospital visit.

“If he’s not home by 11:30 or 12, he’ll stay and watch his soap operas until 3,” Drew Cason said.

Police: No signs of foul play

Monticelli said that there are no signs of foul play related to the disappearance and that police believe he may have wandered off.

Earlier this week,the Mid-Missouri Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association contacted the Cason family and told Drew and Phyllis about a program called Safe Return. The nationwide program gives identification tags to people with Alzheimer’s. The tags include a phone number that can be called when someone finds a person who may be lost due to disorientation and memory loss caused by the disease, said Janet Hart, a community development specialist with the association.

About 115 mid-Missourians are registered with Safe Return, Hart said. But since Cason’s disappearance, she said, the local chapter has received an influx of calls about the program.

While Cason wasn’t registered with Safe Return, Hart said the association now has his information and is hoping someone will call.

Search for missing father continues

In the meantime, Drew and Phyllis Cason are continuing to post fliers, check in with police, talk to local businesses and scour the area on foot and by car.

While recalling his father’s life, Drew Cason says his father’s love of fishing and their father-son trips stand out in his mind.

Once, Drew Cason fell asleep and his pole was pulled beneath the water and lost. His father quickly gave him one of his own fishing poles, which was promptly lost when he fell asleep again. The father took it in stride.

“I think that’s the last time I went fishing with him,” he said with a laugh.

The Mid-Missouri Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association is hosting a free Safe Return registration from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 15 at the association’s offices at 1121 Business Loop 70 E.

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