In a city of nearly half a million people, Margaret Wener walks the streets each day, studying faces, posting fliers, searching relentlessly for her disabled son.
"My son is missing," she told a group of homeless campers sitting on a sidewalk in midtown Sacramento on Friday morning. She offered them breakfast sandwiches and printouts of Michael Fristoe's photo and description.
"I'm just worried sick," she said. "Have you seen him?"
It has been 11 days since Fristoe, 34, disappeared after Sacramento police dropped him off at a homeless shelter on Bannon Street following an argument with his mother.
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The shelter, the Union Gospel Mission near downtown, might as well have been a thousand miles away from the home where he lives with Wener in Tahoe Park, Wener said. Fristoe is unfamiliar with Sacramento's streets beyond the neighborhood where he grew up, and his disabilities make him vulnerable.
Fristoe was born with Williams Syndrome, a developmental disorder that left him mentally challenged. He also suffers from bipolar disorder. He left without a supply of medications, and never has been homeless.
Wener said she asked police to take her son to jail after he shoved her during an argument on the evening of April 9. Officers said they would instead take him to Union Gospel, where he could cool off, get a bed and eat a hot meal. "They told me he would be OK at the shelter overnight," his mother said. "Now he's gone."
On April 10, Fristoe called Wener and told her that he had been unable to get a bed at the shelter and had slept outdoors. It was the last time she heard his voice. His cellphone now goes directly to voicemail, and his family is growing increasingly desperate.
"Michael must be terrified," said Fristoe's sister Michelle, who walked alongside her mother during their search Friday. "He has never been alone before. I can't imagine him out here." She scanned the urban landscape around her. "I am looking for him all the time," she said. "All the time."
Wener, a division chief at the State Department of Public Health, said she is living a mother's worst nightmare. She has not been to work since Michael vanished. She has slept little. Worry etches her face. She, Michelle and friends have distributed hundreds of fliers across the city, from Del Paso Heights to Natomas to downtown and everywhere in between.
They have saturated social media with pleas for information, and have chased lead after lead. Someone thought they saw him on Capitol Mall. Walking down the Garden Highway. At a light rail station on Broadway.
So far, none of the tips have led to Michael.
"I wish I had a crystal ball so I could just go to him and scoop him up," Wener said.
On Friday, she carried a supply of Michael's medications with her as she canvassed midtown. "My plan is to get him his medications and then take him to a hospital," she said. "He's got to be really sick at this point."
Wener has not allowed herself to think about the possibility of Michael dying outdoors, cold and in an unfamiliar place, without family or friends. "I'm concentrating on finding him right now," she said.
As they have been doing every day since his disappearance, Wener and a group of friends on Friday split up in pairs and scoured the city, stopping and talking to anyone who might have seen Michael. They started at 30th and K streets, an area where many homeless men and women gather.
They first went into McDonald's and Del Taco restaurants, where they bought food to offer to people on the streets. Wener and the others carried stacks of fliers that read "MISSING!!!! HAVE YOU SEEN ME?" and included a photo of a smiling Michael Fristoe, blue eyed and with a goatee beard, along with a picture of the knit cap he wears regularly.
The cap is black with red flames, and he had it on the last time Wener saw him. The slightly built Fristoe also was wearing camouflage pants, a black hoodie and black and red Nike shoes. He was carrying a blue backpack.
Eleven days later, Wener said she has regrets about calling 911 after their dust-up on April 9.
She said the argument happened after Wener scolded her son, who in the past has struggled with addiction, for using marijuana at their home. "He shoved me against the wall, and I figured he needed to be someplace else that night," she said.
She said she told police that Michael had bipolar disorder and a learning disability and asked that he be taken to jail. She wanted to teach him a lesson about his behavior, but did not necessarily want to press charges against him. "They convinced me he would be safe at the shelter," she said. She agreed to let them take him to Union Gospel.
Wener said the next morning when Michael called, he told her he was making arrangements to meet with a case manager at Alta California Regional Center, which offers programs for people with disabilities and where he in the past had received services. But he apparently never made those arrangements, and seemingly vanished.
A day after she last spoke to him, she filed a missing person report with the police. By the time authorities notified the news media nearly a week later, Wener already had been papering the city with her son's images.
Sgt. Vance Chandler, spokesman for the Sacramento Police Department, said he was unfamiliar with the details of Fristoe's case. But if the officers who responded to the 911 call did not have "probable cause" to arrest Fristoe, or place him on an involuntary hold as an immediate threat to himself or others, they would have limited options for helping him, he said.
Offering him a ride to the shelter "seems like a compassionate response" under the circumstances, Chandler said. "It sounds to me like the officers were trying to help him by giving him a ride to a place that could offer him some services," he said.
Wener said her son had little or no money with him when he went missing. She can only hope that some kind soul is taking care of him. "But I'm getting very discouraged," she said, her voice quavering.
On Friday, as she walked along the K Street Mall, engaging everyone in sight and telling Michael's story, a stranger took Wener's hand. On a noisy stretch of downtown, as a light rail train roared by, they prayed together.
"Send your angels out to Michael," the woman said, closing her eyes. "Please keep him safe."
Wener bowed her head. "Amen," she said. Then she pushed on.
Have you seen Michael Fristoe? Call the police or his family at 916-281-6478 or 916-475-9225.