An autistic man who walked away from a group home leaves clues that he is still alive.
Gordon Page Jr.
Weight: 175 lbs.
Defining Characteristics: Tan birthmark on the side of his torso; when crossing streets, he turns eyes, but will not turn head
Remarks: Last seen 5/91
Gordon Page, Jr. or “Gordie,” was born autistic, but his father, Gordon Sr., said it wasn’t until much later in his life that he was diagnosed:
“I guess maybe when he was real young, we thought something was wrong, but we didn’t know what. He didn’t walk like other kids and run like other kids. As he got older, you know, he’d just sit there and look around and didn’t even move.”
Gordon stole a truck and had an accident
However, according to Gordon Sr., Gordie showed a great propensity for memorization, especially when it came to baseball:
“I would say he probably had twenty five or thirty thousand baseball cards. He knew the names of every player, all the statistics of the cards, and he would just sit there and memorize them.”
Gordie’s mother, Linda, says Gordy didn’t realize he was slower than the other kids until he reached junior high:
“His peers started getting ahead of him. And when he needed to go into a special ed room, it bothered him. He had a hard time in 11th and 12th grade because he couldn’t keep up with everybody who was passing him by.”
Gordon’s father had to say goodbye
Gordie graduated from a Grand Rapids, Michigan high school in June of 1981. He was ready for his first job. His father helped him apply at a local grocery store:
“He said, ‘Dad, I got the job. I start Monday. Isn’t that great?’ And it made me feel so happy. And I dropped him off at work in the morning. And it made me feel proud as a father to see him working and to see him happy.
But soon, the store manager said that Gordie was having trouble talking to the customers.
His father’s coaching wasn’t enough. It just didn’t work out at the grocery store.
Linda and Gordon were worried about their son’s future. They asked a social worker to evaluate him. He was diagnosed as a schizophrenic. It was recommended that he start living in a group home. Gordon Sr. said they decided to give it a try:
“We went to visit a group home and the lady said he can’t stay there until he goes to see if he needs to be stabilized on medication in the hospital. So we did that. We finally agreed. And the doctor there put him on Ritalin and Valium. And Gordon wasn’t Gordon after that.”
Gordon Jr. disappeared from the group home
Eventually, Gordie was accepted by a well-regarded group home. There, his medication was adjusted and he started to feel better. In September of 1989, with Gordie in good hands, his parents felt they could finally relocate to Florida as they long planned. Gordie stayed behind in Michigan.
For several months, things went well. But one day while heavily medicated, Gordie stole a truck that was left running in the driveway of the home. According to Detective Chet Bush, Jr. of the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, Gordie was involved in a hit-and-run accident:
“We interviewed the lady who was the victim in the accident. She gave us a description which fit Gordon. Our officers then received another call, a call from one of our elementary schools that a person fitting Gordon Page’s description was at this elementary school wanting to teach a class. So we responded there and at that time, picked up Mr. Gordon Page.”
Gordie was sent to a county hospital. There, psychiatric social worker Bill Arnold evaluated him:
“He was brought in with a label of schizophrenia. People that are schizophrenic will, with medication, over a couple weeks, start to clear up in their thinking, and their behavior will come in line, and they start getting back more to normal. With Gordon, that didn’t work.”
After several months of intensive therapy, Bill realized that Gordie was not schizophrenic; he was autistic:
“Once we got him off all those medications and started treating him as possibly an autistic, and working on training and just giving him some respect, he was a totally different individual.”
The Pages found a different group home in Grand Rapids, one that specialized in autism.
On May 22, 1991, Gordon Sr. shared an emotional goodbye with his son:
“We kind of stood there and talked and we hugged and talked a little bit more and then we walked over to the van. And I said, ‘Everything’s going to work out.'”
As his father started to drive away, Gordie broke away from the orderlies and began pounding on the van:
“It’s very painful, now in retrospect. I wish I’d allowed him just to get in, crawl back, and just driven him home to Florida. But you don’t think of those things, and we didn’t know what we were going to be facing in the future.”
Four days after his father left, Gordie disappeared. An eyewitness reported seeing Gordie hitchhiking toward Interstate 96. A search of the area turned up no leads and Gordie has not been seen since. Linda Page says she and Gordon Sr. just want Gordie back:
“We’ll never stop looking for Gordie, because we love him. We’ve always been a close family. He would know that we want him back.”
Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season seven with Robert Stack and in season three with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.
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