The family of James Wood continues to fear for his safety after the vulnerable 26-year-old West Kelowna man went missing on Nov. 8.
His sister, Aleesha Wood, said her brother suffered ‘unimaginable’ harm by a predator the last time he went missing, and she fears he could be being held against his will again.
The family is offering a $1,000 reward for information and up to $5,000 for his safe return to a hospital, police or family.
Aleesha, a Williams Lake resident, said her brother James suffers from mental illness and has been in an even more deteriorated mental state since his previous disappearance.
His sister reports he was diagnosed as being in a state of ‘agitated catatonia’ prior to his disappearance, which has serious potential medical side effects and makes surviving outside in frigid temperatures even more dangerous.
In August James returned home to their mom, his primary caregiver, after being missing for three days and reported he had suffered an assault. His sister said the details of the assault are too painful for her brother to share, however, he was taken to hospital for his injuries.
“I feel helpless and I’m outraged at the horrific realization of the types of predators that roam those streets preying on the mentally ill,” she said.
As a result of this experience, she said her brother will likely be more difficult to approach and with colder temperatures, she is even more concerned for his well-being. She said James is unable to care for himself or respond normally, and because he was in a ‘state of catatonia’ prior to this disappearance he had been under an issue to apprehend.
She said James’ misunderstanding of what the order meant for him is likely what caused her brother to flee, as he fears the police and mental institutions.
She wants people to be on the lookout for James between Kelowna and Williams Lake in case he tries to make his way to her in Williams Lake, noting he may appear disoriented and may be in need of medical assistance but will likely be reluctant to accept any help.
James went missing the afternoon of Nov. 8 from the 2000 block of Peters Road in West Kelowna.
RCMP has also appealed for the public’s help in finding James, who is described as a Caucasian male, 27 years old, five feet and eight inches or 173 cm tall, with brown hair and green eyes. He was last seen wearing pyjama pants and a button-up t-shirt.
Aleesha was working at her job north of Williams Lake at Gibraltar Mine when she learned of her brother’s disappearance and made the appeal on social media in order to try and help get him home safely.
“It was hard juggling 14 hours and trying to keep messaging leads and tips, sadly that’s trickled to near nothing,” she told Black Press Media.
The devastating floods in the province have added to her concerns, as she worries he is going to be lost in the increased numbers of homeless people who have been relocated to Kamloops and Kelowna.
Aleesha believes her brother suffers from schizophrenia or some other serious mental illness needing medication. After struggling for years to get her brother diagnosed, she said her family felt like they were finally close to getting him into the care he needs with the current order, which would have allowed her brother to be taken to a care facility for observation and potential diagnosis and treatment.
Aleesha headed down to Kelowna on Nov. 24 to begin looking for her brother while she was between shifts.
Her latest post updating the situation and the reward described her search and breaking down in tears as she continued her search, pleading:
“Please, he is loved. He is someone’s brother. Someone’s son. And we want him home.”
The Kelowna RCMP said the investigation is active and ongoing and they continue to receive daily reports and tips but James Wood remains missing.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include the offer of a reward and the family’s ongoing search.