When Frances Cason visited the graves of her husband’s parents on Memorial Day, she hoped to find flowers placed at the site. When she didn’t, she knew her missing husband, Earl Cason, had not been there.
It has been more than three months since the 84-year-old World War II veteran disappeared after a visit to Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital. His family is grasping to a fleeting hope that someday he’ll be found. Frances Cason said she hoped the visit to the cemetery would at least give her reason to believe her husband of 65 years was still alive.
“We always thought he had never missed putting flowers on his mother’s and father’s graves on (Memorial Day),” she said. “When we went up there, there weren’t any. We knew he hadn’t been there.”
Earl Cason, who has Parkinson’s disease, high blood-pressure and Alzheimer’s disease, has been missing since March 31, when he did not return home after a routine visit to the hospital. His Nissan Altima was found in the parking lot with his medications, wallet and identification locked inside.
After their father’s disappearance, Phyllis Cason and Drew Cason, of Kansas City, joined the search by posting fliers, visiting nearby towns to talk with people who might have seen Earl Cason and pursuing tips received by the Columbia Police Department. The desire to find their father has not lessened as the months passed. Phyllis Cason said whenever she travels, she makes it a priority to look for any clues to his whereabouts. Last Wednesday, for instance, Phyllis Cason went to Rocheport with a friend and kept alert for signs that her father may have been in the area.
“While I’m down there I’ll be searching for anything that might be a hint to where he is,” Phyllis Cason said.
Even leisure time hasn’t stopped the search for Earl Cason. While driving to Texas for a recent vacation, Drew Cason, who Frances Cason and Phyllis Cason said is the most active in the search, also looked for signs that his father had made it into the area.”Any time I stop to get gas or at a truck stop I’ll look around for him,” Drew Cason said.
It has been several weeks since the police department has received any tips on Earl Cason, said Sgt. Stephen Monticelli. But the case remains open.
“These things don’t disappear until the person is located,” Monticelli said.
Having tracked leads to Boonville and Kansas City with no luck, Monticelli said the police have done everything they can think of to find Earl Cason.
“Any leads we get are followed up as we get them,” he said.
Missing person cases are relatively rare in Columbia, and it is even rarer for someone to stay missing for any length of time. In 2003, there were 35 missing persons reports in Columbia, and only three of those people are still missing, said Denise Shaw, crime analyst for the Columbia Police Department.
“The majority of those people are gone one day and back the next,” Shaw said.
Though he was not registered with the program at the time of his disappearance, Earl Cason is now entered into a database of Alzheimer’s patients called Safe Return, which is sponsored by the Mid-Missouri Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. People who are at risk of being lost can register with the program, said Penny Braun, the association’s executive director. Missing persons, as well as sightings, can be reported by calling 800-572-1122.
“I don’t think it is terribly common for (Alzheimer’s patients) to disappear,” Braun said. “But it is common for them to wander and get lost.”
The Cason family distributed missing person signs with a picture of Earl Cason to businesses throughout the area. Frances Cason said she hopes the businesses will leave the signs up until her husband is located.
“I’m just hoping someone has seen him, will send him home or let him know we’re looking for him,” she said.