EVERETT — Antonio Neill vanished on a night that never topped 40 degrees, in a white T-shirt and jeans.
He left everything he owned — two coats, pillows, blankets — at a friend’s place in the 2400 block of Cedar Street in the Riverside neighborhood. At the time, the longest he’d gone without calling or texting his mother was three days. Usually he called every day.
It has now been 16 months.
“I believe something viciously wrong happened to him,” said his mother, Jenny Neill.
She is trying to bring her son home. He would have celebrated his 24th birthday in March. Instead his mother is tacking up fliers in north Everett with pictures of Antonio. Days ago an electronic billboard bearing his face went up on 128th Street SW south of the city. It will stay up free of charge, until the sign’s owner finds someone to buy the space, Neill said.
Antonio grew up in the south Everett area. He graduated from Aces High School. The Herald snapped a photo of him flashing two peace signs in his cap and gown. He’d play the video game Rock Band with his mom — Antonio on the drums or guitar, Jenny on vocals.
In his late teens and early 20s, he struggled with drug and alcohol problems. He turned to heroin and meth, his mother said. He was in and out of drug treatment, and hosted his own bonfire group for recovering addicts. But he was kicked out of sober housing when he relapsed in September 2016, according to his family.
Antonio slept in his car or on couches. He failed to check in with a probation officer, and spent a month in jail just before he went missing.
On the day he got out, he showed up on the porch of his mother’s home at 8:30 a.m. near Mariner High School. They spent the whole day together. He had been having a hard time. His car had been stolen, along with his wallet and driver’s license. In the month he spent behind bars, his girlfriend broke up with him and his uncle died. But that day, his mother said, he seemed to be in good spirits.
“He’d just gotten a haircut,” Jenny Neill said. “He was feeling all fresh, doing stupid Snapchats on my phone.”
They ordered a new phone for him. He never came back to pick it up. A longtime acquaintance said he could stay at his place on Cedar Street. Antonio packed his belongings and headed over. His mother believes he relapsed that night. The friend told her that they’d gotten into a fight, and that Antonio left the house wearing jeans and a T-shirt.
He was last seen Dec. 12, 2016.
His mother made a missing person report two weeks later, when he didn’t show up for Christmas. Few tips have come in — possible sightings at a Grocery Outlet in south Everett on Christmas Eve 2016, and reports of a man who looked like Antonio in homeless camps. None have been verified. The case has been at a standstill for a year. Police have released no updates. Jenny Neill hopes the billboard, the posters and renewed media attention will create new leads.
“I want him home,” she said. “It’s all I think about.”
Antonio is described as 5-foot-6, about 125 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He has tattoos: a skull with the quote, “Turn your wounds into wisdom;” a diamond; a whimsical clock; and an eye.
Tips can be directed to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office at 425-388-3845.
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; email@example.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.