NASELLE - The return of missing Utah youth Elizabeth Smart last week gained national attention, but closer to home the whereabouts of Naselle resident Michael Jarvi still remain a mystery almost a year after his disappearance.
Jarvi, now 29, was last seen on Saturday, March 23, 2002, when he left his parents house in Naselle to meet a cousin in Astoria.
Twenty-five hours later Jarvi had still not made it to Astoria, which prompted his parents to file a missing person report with the Pacific County Sheriff's Office. Soon after this report was filed and subsequently circulated in Washington and Oregon, Jarvi's car was found the next day, March 24, over 250 miles away in Sutherlin, Ore., which is about a five hour drive from Naselle.
According to his father James Jarvi, he has no idea why his son's car was found in southern Oregon.
"He never disappeared like that and was always a good kid - no alcohol or drugs," said James.
Michael, who is also known as Mikko or Mickel, was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1995, and was having trouble adjusting to his newer combination of medications at the time of his disappearance.
"The weekend before he disappeared he wasn't sleeping much and wanted candy constantly," James said.
According to James, since Michael was diagnosed with schizophrenia, he has had several bouts over the years adjusting to medications which treat the illness, but usually these were marked by hyperactivity and sleeplessness. He said Michael had never been known to take unplanned trips or disappear for any length of time.
Michael lived with his parents at the time of his disappearance, was under a doctor's care and did not take his medications with him when he left.
According to James, the location where Michael's car was found in Sutherlin was a rather isolated spot on a dead end road near a mobile home park. He said some of Michael's belongings and his backpack were found about 1,000 feet from his car behind a shed in the mobile home park.
Hours after Michael's car was found, his picture was circulated in southern Oregon in the Sutherlin, Medford and Roseburg areas. As a result, there was a report of someone giving him a ride into Roseburg, but James said there was some conflicting information about the description of the person picked up, which led him to question whether it was Michael or not.
Michael was also reported being seen in the St. Johns area of Portland and also in St. Helens, as well as Tillamook and near Hood River - all soon after his disappearance.
Michael has relatives in Kuna, Idaho, which is about 20 miles from Boise, but he has not been seen there either according to James, who along with other family members posted flyers in Kuna soon after Michael disappeared.
There was also a report of a possible sighting on the Tiajuana, Mexico/San Diego, Calif. border early last July by an Oregon woman who was traveling in the area last year.
Just this last week, in response to Michael's case being featured on a national missing person web site (missingadults.org), James was notified that Michael had allegedly been seen in downtown Portland and also going to a soup kitchen in Ninth and Washington area in Portland.
James, his wife Kathy and other family members went to Portland over this last weekend to search for Michael, but did not find any clues.
"Was he really in Tiajuana; was he Roseburg?" said James. "We don't know, but we are just not going to give up. It gets frustrating. We were hoping he would be in Portland or just show up. Statistics show that schizophrenics are survivors and that is part of their disease. We are just hoping he is out there since we haven't heard anything yet, and not ever give up hope."
One thing which has concerned James since Michael's disappearance is that the area adjacent to where his car was found in Sutherlin is heavily wooded. James said he and his wife walked around the area the day Michael's car was found, but said the area has never been thoroughly searched.
James has been in touch with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office in regard to searching the area, and that it is his hope that the area can be searched this month.
Since Michael's car was found in Sutherlin, the case is also being investigated by the Sutherlin Police Department (SPD). According to SPD Sergeant Dennis Schlenker,
"we could go up there on our own, but it wouldn't do much good without search and rescue. They use the grid system on how to search. They will be looking for like a needle in a haystack. It is a heavily wooded area there."
According to Schlenker, he discussed the case six weeks with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, which would provide the search and rescue manpower and know-how. He said on Tuesday that he was not sure whether a search of the wooded area would take place this month or not.
James said he has also written letters to Gov. Locke and several Washington senators to see if they can help. He said these letters, as far as he knows, were turned over to Washington State Patrol detectives. To date, James said he has not had any response from the State Patrol, but was told they would work alongside the Pacific County Sheriff's Office on the case.
James said when Micheal was first diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1995 he was going to school in Portland at the ITT technical school. Prior to that, he was a normal, hard-working person.
"It has been a hard thing," said James. "When the 'meds' were working he was just a normal kid. When he was first diagnosed we went to a class and tried to learn more about it and why it happens. Of course nobody knows why it happens."
J ames is 6-foot 1-inch in height, weighs 170 pounds, has hazel eyes and blond hair. Identifying marks include a cleft chin and a shrunken right ear lobe.
Anyone with information about his whereabouts should call the Pacific County Sheriff's Office at 642-9397. The information also is posted on the National Missing Children's Organization web site at www.missingadults.org. The group can be contacted toll-free at (800) 543-5678.
A reward is being offered by friends and family of Michael Jarvi for information leading to his safe return.