Conner Jack Oswalt was found asleep by authorities outside a gas station in Summit Park, Utah, bringing an end to a missing person case that began when a then 16-year-old Oswalt didn’t return to his Clearlake, California home on September 28, 2019.
Oswalt, who has autism, reportedly disappeared without a trace with his white Calico cat. Oswalt’s mother, Suzanne Flint, and stepfather, Gerald Flint, had spent the past two and a half years scouring the internet and following leads to try and locate their missing son, but to no avail.
“I never stopped looking for him. There wasn’t a day I wasn’t searching for him, in some form or fashion,” Suzanne said.
Weeks before the authorities identified who Oswalt was, he had drawn the attention of the residents of Summit Park. According to Lt. Andrew Wright with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, deputies had made contact with Oswalt offering help after locals had called about a homeless man pushing a shopping cart around.
Oswalt reportedly never accepted help and refused to give his name to the authorities.
On April 9, deputies in Summit Park responded to a call of a man sleeping outside of a gas station convenience store. The young man informed the officers that he was cold and entered their patrol car to warm up. With no identification, he eventually allowed the officers to take his fingerprints, which turned up an arrest warrant in Nevada for assaulting a police officer. The warrant was issued in February and spelled Oswalt’s name incorrectly.
The Summit Park deputies believed there was more to the case and began to search the missing person database. Eventually, they found a poster for a missing teenager named Conner Jack Oswalt from Clearlake, California.
Lt. Wright said of the discovery of Oswalt’s past, “It boggles all of our minds.” He added, “It’s just a really miraculous discovery if you will.”
The Summit Park police force contacted Oswalt’s mother, who had relocated to Idaho Falls, Idaho, where Oswalt was born, in the hope he would find his way there, and she confirmed his identity through the confirmation of a birthmark.
Gerald Flint said of the efforts by the Summit Park force, “Everyone in the room was in tears. They went above and beyond, put hours of work,” adding “They could have dismissed it, but they didn’t and that made all the difference in the world.”
Oswalt’s case is not yet over. Police are investigating the exact circumstances of his disappearance and his whereabouts over the past two and a half years. A social worker knowledgeable about autism has been brought in to help handle the case.
According to Autism Speaks, wandering and running away is more common among individuals with autism. It has been noted that individuals with autism when approached by police are known to behave in a manner that can escalate the encounter.