LYNNWOOD — Family, friends and police are looking for Sawyer West who went missing Oct. 16.
Carol Crane walked 10 miles along Highway 99 pulling a wagon with a banner of her son’s face, name and contact information for anyone who possibly saw him. She said trudging through the chilly and wet weather is about letting people know what he looks like and to share in the loneliness and pain she imagines her son is experiencing.
“I couldn’t think of a better way to get it out there,” she said.
West, 29, was last seen near Highway 99 and 220th Street Southwest. He was wearing a green hoodie, black windbreaker and a mask with an American flag pattern on it. He’s described as being 5 feet, 9 inches tall with a slight build and having light brown hair and bluish gray eyes.
Earlier that day he signed out of the group home he moved into just before the coronavirus pandemic struck the United States. He likes to walk and wander, and West wanted to paint his face like a clown and was looking for makeup at a nearby Halloween store, Crane said. He came back but signed out for the store again around 6:15 p.m.
This time, he didn’t return.
He has schizophrenia, a mental disorder that produces delusions, disordered thinking, hallucinations and behavior that impairs daily functioning, according to the Mayo Clinic. The disorder is estimated to affect between 0.25% and 0.64% of people in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. But it’s not the horror depicted in movies and television in which someone has multiple personalities, which is dissociative identity disorder.
“Right now, he’s not acting right,” Crane said. “He could be talking to himself, laughing really loud, or behavior that people could find really scary. But he’s not at all dangerous.”
But his family thinks West hasn’t been medicated since Oct. 16, which would be the longest he’s gone without prescription treatment since he was 17.
After his diagnosis, they’ve become his social network, advocates and sometimes caregivers.
“Most every day, he hangs out with me or one of my girls,” Crane said.
It’s a common experience for people with a family member who has a mental illness.
Since he’s been gone, Crane has received about 20 tips from people who think they saw him.
People have told her they saw West as far away as Portland, but the majority of reported sightings are between Everett and Seattle, Crane said. Despite the tips, none have produced a photo or video, even when her daughters and her rush to a location, including Alderwood mall in Lynnwood and the Fred Meyer in Everett.
She also received ransom threats via text messages claiming to have West and refusing to release him until she sends them money. She knew they were scams and reported them to police, but they were jarring for her and her family already feeling heightened anxiety.
Now, she wants to help undo the stigma people with schizophrenia and other mental illness experience.
“We hid it for so long in this family, we didn’t want to talk about it,” Crane said. “I want Sawyer home, but I also want people to understand it and what all families (who have someone with schizophrenia) go through.”
People can find support and information from the Snohomish County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness by contacting 425-339-3620 or firstname.lastname@example.org and visiting http://www.namisnohomishcounty.org.