St. Paul family still looking for missing teen
By Tad Vezner
Article Last Updated: 06/04/2008 09:00:51 AM CDT
It's a cold and cloudy spring morning in St. Paul, and Molly Kaiser has her door open.
Sitting on her living room couch, just past the entryway of her St. Clair Avenue home, she talks about how she still holds onto the hope her teenage son will walk through the door, any second.
"I just want to know where he is. Every day I pray, and say, 'Please God bring him home. Please, God, we love him so much,' " she said, repeatedly running her hands through her hair, trying to hold it together. "I just can't take it another day."
It's been two weeks. Two weeks since 17-year-old Joey Kaiser left on a bike with one pedal, in a frame of mind that shocked her, talking nonsense after being put on a new medication. Joey Kaiser had recently suffered from anxiety and depression and may possibly have a bipolar disorder, but has not officially been diagnosed, his mother said.
Since then, more than 100 of his classmates at Cretin-Derham Hall High School have assembled for a vigil, and hundreds of family members and friends have posted fliers across the city. On Grand Old Day, Kaiser's face stared out from every lamppost along Grand Avenue.
It began at 11 a.m., May 20, a Tuesday. He'd stayed home from school and seemed frantic.
"He was not in his right mind. I saw my beautiful son turn into someone I didn't even know," Molly Kaiser said. The boy had been on a new medication for two weeks. He entered an extreme state of excitement and agitation that Molly Kaiser struggled to comprehend.
He was also in the midst of studying for finals at school.
In a burst of energy, Joey stuffed something small into what appeared to be an empty backpack. The things he didn't take worry his mother more: his wallet, money, ID, phone. Molly Kaiser ran to the front door to lock it, but Joey fled out the back and mounted his bike.
The mother screamed, "Joey, come back, I have something to tell you," as he rode away. He had never come close to running away before.
"Within 10 seconds, I called 911," Kaiser said. For as long as police would let her, she rode with them and then tried to take her own car.
A neighbor, seeing the state she was in, stopped her, worried for her own safety.
"I was ballistically out of my mind at this point," Kaiser said.
Days passed. After a long and worrisome three, police found Joey's bike at the base of a path leading to the Mississippi River bluffs. The path a short distance from where St. Clair Avenue dead-ends into Mississippi River Boulevard is a few blocks away from his home, in the 2100 block of St. Clair Avenue.
"Obviously, that becomes a very concentrated area in the search," said Cmdr. Paul Iovino, who heads the juvenile and missing persons unit of the St. Paul Police Department.
Since then, dozens of city and county law enforcement officials have scoured the Mississippi and its edge, helped by dogs, a rappel team for the steeper cliffs and sonar-equipped boats. Another boat with a more sophisticated sonar array is on its way from Duluth.
Though Iovino said he's received a variety of tips about supposed sightings, none has panned out. The dogs had a few "hits" in the water near the base of the footpath, but nothing that could be confirmed.
Still, Iovino said he has hope: "The search is still very much alive.
"We have nothing to suggest that there's reason to suspect foul play or we shouldn't be optimistic. … We truly have not recovered anything, either at the house or anywhere else, to suggest he has fallen in harm's way."
Events such as this can pull a family together, or tear it apart. In this case, it appears to be the former Molly Kaiser's 15 brothers and sisters and 34 nieces and nephews have recruited an army of hundreds of volunteers to form the core of a two-county search.
"People are coming out of the woodwork for him," said Peg St. Clair, Molly's sister.
"I got a call from a homeless woman," Kaiser said. "She said there were a lot of homeless people searching for Joey, too.
"As a mother, I still haven't given up hope."
This evening a prayer service was held beside the bluff where Joey's bike was found. About 250 people attended.
During a similar service Friday at Cretin-Derham Hall High School, about 160 students showed up to pray for Joey, a junior known to be adept at art and interested in music.
"That demonstrates the support he has. He was very well-liked," Principal Richard Englar said. "They're concerned, hopeful, prayerful. It's one of those things, you just don't know. … We're scared to death, to tell you the truth."
Kaiser is white, 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs 200 pounds. He has brown hair and blue eyes and was last seen wearing a light gray sweatshirt with colorful, graffiti-like text, blue jeans and a black backpack. He may have a skateboard with him with the words "Steel Jesus" and "Joey loves Dani" in yellow graffiti. The family has offered a $5,000 reward for information "that results in locating and/or the safe return of Joey Kaiser."
Tax-deductible donations to "The Find Joey Kaiser Fund" can be sent to any Wells Fargo Bank; the account is managed by bank officer Robert Fischer at 651-205-5492.
Anyone with information on Kaiser is asked to call police at 651-266-5646 or 651-291-1111.
Tad Vezner can be reached at 651-228-5461.