Austin (KXAN) – Robert and Sandra Perez used to drive.
Every few days, they head from Conroe to Austin in search of their missing son, Timothy.
‘We’re going to homeless shelters and wherever they serve food – my son is not homeless – he doesn’t know that environment. But I hope his instinct kicks in and he goes to get something to eat,’ said his father Robert.
They drive for hours through central Texas talking to people and posting fliers.
“You know, we just need eyes in there—something, you know? Where did he go? He was here at Round Rock,” Robert added.
“We need help, because we don’t live here,” Timothy’s mother, Sandra, echoed.
Timothy, a 32-year-old musician in the Houston area, has been missing since March 5. His family said he was driving to Austin to visit his brother, but they never called.
“He’s really bad at directions. So, I’m sure he just turned around and just got lost,” said Sandra. “He is not familiar with the area. Thus, during the loss process, the gas ran out.”
‘where is he?’
The family filed a missing persons report with Austin Police.
They said an officer found his car without gas along Interstate 35 near Barmer in north Austin, but that there were no signs of Timothy.
“Where is he? This is the daily question. Where is he?” Sandra said. “He was having a hard time, but I don’t think that was his plan. Who plans to run out of gas and leave.”
Timothy’s parents said he had been experiencing some depression during the pandemic. Police told them he was last seen at St. William’s Catholic Church in Round Rock.
Round Rock Police said the church had lodged a welfare appeal for a man in the area and officers met him, but he did not identify himself and left. The department added that they learned a few days later that it was Timothy.
Round Rock police officials said they believe Timothy is missing voluntarily.
“We believe he is missing voluntarily based on our officers’ interaction with him – it was determined that he was not in danger, was not a danger to others, and did not commit a crime – and upon subsequent investigation,” Nicholas said. Olivier, media specialist for the Round Rock Police Department. We do not know his whereabouts or current status. Round Rock was one of the locations where it was spotted, but we have no indication that it is still in Round Rock.”
Olivier said there are many factors that go into missing persons investigations, including:
- Is the person a minor or an adult?
- Does the person have mental or physical disabilities that could put them at risk?
- Is the person suicidal or a threat to others?
- Did the person commit a crime?
He also provided a link from Wikiversity that explained that “a voluntarily missing person, or a person who intentionally disappears, is an individual who decides to leave, without informing family, loved ones or close associates of their whereabouts”.
Timothy’s family insisted that this was not the case with him.
“He’s in a place where he doesn’t know where he is,” Sandra said. “I just hope and pray that he is OK. This is my prayer, that he is OK. And we do not ignore the things we can look for.”
Olivier said these kinds of cases, where they decide someone is missing voluntarily, are rare.
He explained that they received information that Timothy’s cell phone may have been in Conroe after officers at the church called him.
His parents said they wanted the police to investigate his cell phone records.
Olivier said investigators have gone to great lengths to take advantage of all legally permitted resources.
Missing experts fear that the term “voluntarily missing” creates a dangerous loophole.
“In some cases, the term voluntarily missing can be very dangerous,” said Todd Matthew, former director of case management and communications at NamUs. “They may not know what’s happening to them. There are cases where people have overdosed or died completely from an accident, you know, struggling to find their way around, getting lost in the woods, or drowning. There are a lot of things that can happen to a vulnerable person.”
Matthews has worked with NamUs, the National System for Missing and Unknown Persons, for more than a decade and has helped draft laws mandating the use of the national database to resolve cases.
In Texas, a new law requires law enforcement agencies, justices of the peace, and medical examiners to use NamUs.
The law states that agencies must enter forensic details into the database no later than 60 days after obtaining a missing persons report.
The Round Rock Police were unable to confirm whether the reason they didn’t enter Timothy into the NamUs was because they considered him a missing person voluntarily.
A spokesperson said NamUs does not track or classify cases as “voluntarily missing,” adding that all missing person cases submitted to NamUs have been verified as missing with law enforcement prior to publication.
A call for help
Since the state law went into effect, there has been a nearly 80% increase in Texas cases entered into the database.
State Representative Lacey Hall worked closely with families to pass the law in the last hearing. It is already working on loopholes in the law and will look to introduce additional legislation in the next hearing.
She is aware of the Timothy case.
His family, not the police, entered details of him into the database last month.
“He’s never done this before, and I don’t see him doing that,” Robert said.
“This is out of his nature,” added Timothy’s mother.
The family is working with Texas EquuSearch and hiring a private investigator to help with the investigation.
If you see Timothy, call 512-844-7933 or EquuSearch at 281-309-9500.