Missing blind man found after 4 days by good Samaritan

Published: Sunday, March 17 2013 11:55 a.m. MDT

SOUTH SALT LAKE — Kathy Auger was on the phone with South Salt Lake police Sunday, trying to figure out the day's search plan for her missing son, when an officer told her to hang on a minute.

The officer said there had just been a possible sighting of her son, Benjamin Thomas Hyde, 35, and he would have to call her back.

"That was, I'd say, the longest 10 minutes, 15 minutes," Auger said.

When the officer called her back, he said the man found walking near 4100 South and 2600 West Sunday just before 11 a.m. was indeed her son.

"I just bawled. I just cried. I cried harder than when I cried being so fearful. My cries were just very fearful," Auger said.

Hyde, legally blind and suffering a mental illness, was missing for four days before an alert citizen aware of the search from media coverage spotted him.

A passer-by  - who asked police to keep him anonymous - spotted Hyde just before 11 a.m., said South Salt Lake police officer Gary Keller. The passer-by stopped his car, rolled down the window and called out to Ben by name.

Hyde responded.

The citizen then called police and stayed with Hyde until officers arrived.

Hyde, who was wearing a T-shirt, appeared to be in "good condition," but was being evaluated by medical personnel, Keller said.

"He is fine. He is just tired and beat," Auger said after speaking to her son.

Questions remained, however, about where Hyde has been for the past four days, or if anyone has provided him with food or shelter.

Hyde told his mother he had been sleeping in the gutters at night. But he also told her he had gone snowboarding, Auger said. She said those kinds of responses showed how confused he had become after going several days without medication.

"We'll call (his walking away) 'Spring Break,'" Auger said jokingly.

Although physically OK, Auger said her son would like be given a psychological checkup before returning to his home.

Hyde was last seen about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Valley Mental Health's residential facility near 1000 West and 3600 where he lives. Although he is legally blind, his mother said he does have peripheral vision. He just can't read things like signs or the writing on buses, she said.

In addition to his blindness, Hyde takes medication for an undisclosed mental illness.

Hyde is known to walk frequently, mainly along 3300 South between 800 West and Redwood Road. On the day he disappeared, he went to a check cashing business on 3300 South.

Hyde's family believes he may have met somebody during his walk who influenced him to do something outside his normal routine.

"We believe he was kind of coaxed away," Auger said.

Hyde's family traveled to Utah from their home in McCall, Idaho last week to assist in the search. Bruce and Kathy Auger had high praise for all the law enforcement agencies that helped search for their son, for the media and their coverage, and their passer-by who saw the media coverage and spotted Hyde.

She was also thankful that the weather was unseasonably warm during the time Hyde was missing. Auger said some of her biggest fears were that someone would try to take advantage of her son while he was wandering around town confused. She said he had never disappeared like this before.

The next step, the family said, was to find ways to insure a similar incident didn't happen again.

E-mail: preavy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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