WATERBURY, CONNECTICUT -- A mentally ill man reported missing in Connecticut six years ago is back home thanks to a Southampton Town police officer, who spotted the 60-year-old roaming the East End and used Web sleuthing to crack the case, relatives and authorities said Thursday.
The missing man, Euripides Cruz, was reunited with his family July 10 after Officer Sherakhan Parker spotted him walking down Montauk Highway, bought him lunch and, acting "on a hunch," searched Cruz's name on the Internet, Southampton police said.
The search showed Cruz disappeared from Waterbury, Connecticut, July 8, 2008. Local cops called Waterbury police along with Cruz's relatives, who drove to Long Island and picked him up, police said.
"I'm just so glad that he's back, that he's OK," said his niece, Veronica Cruz, 37, of Waterbury. "We'll take him in any condition."
Cruz is schizophrenic and a former heroin user, Veronica Cruz said. His family believes he traveled to New York in part because of voices that he heard in his head, she said.
Euripides' brother, Efrain Cruz, 63, also of Waterbury, said Euripides probably initially traveled from Connecticut to Brooklyn, where he lived about 16 years ago.
Efrain Cruz said he first learned Euripides was missing when he went to his Waterbury apartment in 2008, only to find he'd moved out. The family then filed a missing-person report with the Waterbury police. In the first few years Euripides was gone, his family knew he was in Brooklyn because they would occasionally get medical bills from Kings County Hospital Center, Efrain said.
When the bills stopped coming, Veronica said, they thought maybe Euripides had died.
"You worry a lot," Efrain said. "You wonder where he's living, where he's sleeping."
Parker, the Southampton officer, first saw Cruz in Southampton July 10, then later that day in Quogue Village, police said.
Quogue Village Police Officer Theodore Richert stayed with Cruz at village police headquarters while Parker researched Cruz online, eventually learning he was a missing person, police said.
After being notified, Efrain's wife, Blanca Cruz, drove to Quogue and brought Euripides back home, she said.
Waterbury police did not return a call seeking comment.
Both Sgt. Susan Ralph, the Southampton Police public information officer, and Lt. Christopher Isola, of the Quogue Village police, praised Parker for good police work.
"He didn't do this for any recognition," Ralph said. "He did it because this is what police work is about. It's about helping people."
Ralph said it appears Cruz had been going from town to town on Long Island for much of the time he was missing.
"We think he was just homeless and just moving around on Long Island," she said.
Parker said he was glad to help Cruz return home to his family.
"I'm just thankful that . . . I was afforded the time and resources to assist human life in this instance and that I was blessed to be put in this position to facilitate this awesome reunion," Parker said. "This is an event that I will never forget."
With Gary Dymski