Vanished without a trace
THE disappearance of 19-year-old Chismar Josephs (CJ) from his Stony Hill, St Andrew, community without a trace last week Monday (Christmas Day) has left his mother in anguish, not knowing what has become of her child.
It has now been eight days since Esteleta Cunningham last saw her son around 11:30 pm on Christmas Day, at a shop in the small Lacey District in Cavaliers, Stony Hill. What is even more worrying for the mother is that CJ suffers from the mental illness schizophrenia.
“I was up there the night when him walk away [from the shop], but because I know he loves parties and one was keeping up the road, I said that is probably where he is going. I never knew I wouldn’t see him after that night up to this day. I didn’t see him come home that night. I ask everybody if they saw him, I checked at the party. Nobody saw him,” the distraught mother told the Jamaica Observer on Monday.
Cunningham says that due to his condition CJ has wandered off before and will be gone for two/three days at a time — but never for this long.
She said that ending 2023 with her son missing and entering the new year still with no sign of him has been harrowing for her.
“It don’t feel good. It’s not a good year for me,” she said as her voice broke. “Mi nuh know weh him deh. Him never go away so long. The year didn’t end good for me and the new year didn’t start good for me. Yes, I’m alive and I have some of my children with me but I don’t know what happened to CJ… I just dont know.”
The distressed 42-year-old mother of seven is holding out hope that her son will return home in time to celebrate his 20th birthday on January 5.
“I am just hoping and praying for the best,” she said, though noting she is fearful as to what could have happened to him.
“Where him coulda gone? He was doing alright because I try to ensure he is on his medication,” she said, nothing that CJ was medicated at the time of his disappearance.
Cunningham, who is a caregiver, said her son has not had the easiest life growing up, having lost sight in his left eye when he was six years old after a little boy caused a nail to enter his eye and cause damage. CJ also lost his father when he was nine, then he dropped out of school when he was 14 years old, which his mother claims was due to a misunderstanding. He was attending Oberlin High School at the time. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 15 years old.
Cunningham said that around the time CJ was diagnosed she knew something was wrong as “him just start to move different”. She said she took him to University Hospital of the West Indies where his illness was identified. She said he has also been admitted at Bellevue Hospital from time to time, noting that he has been “on and off” in his behaviour.
She, however, believes that before her son went missing he was coping, only recalling two incidents when he reacted violently towards her in the initial stages of his illness. She had reprimanded him and he had attempted to hit her. At another time he succeeded in hitting her in the eye. But Cunningham insists that her son is not usually violent in nature and that he doesn’t try to hurt anyone in his community.
CJ, who is unemployed, would often spend his days at home or walking up the road to the district and then returning home. Sometimes he would go further and end up in Half-Way-Tree. His mother says, however, that she would often caution him about venturing too far away from home.
People would normally see him roaming and report sightings to his mother, but on the day he went missing nobody spotted him after that fateful night.
Cunningham says she reported him missing to the police on Thursday who told her that she has to play her part too in finding him.
“I guess my part is to drive around and look but I don’t know where to start from. I’m just wondering which direction he could’ve turned, which part him go,” she said with bewilderment, noting that family members and friends have gone out to Half-Way-Tree and downtown Kingston looking for him, but they came up empty-handed.
“I’m planning to see if I can go today but I don’t know where to go — and then me alone can’t look for him. I don’t know which direction to turn; that’s why I would like this story to be put out there so that if anybody sees him they can inform us or the police,” she said.
Cunningham, who has children ranging from ages three to 23 years old, said CJ’s siblings are concerned about him, with his six-year-old brother surmising that “them kidnap CJ”.
The mother and other family members are pleading with the public to contact (876) 217-8671 or the nearest police station if they have any information about CJ’s whereabouts.