FRONTENAC, MO - A happy ending in the search for a disabled Frontenac man who disappeared and was last seen with his full-time caregiver. The man—who uses a wheelchair—was found safe Tuesday and the caretaker was taken into custody.
Authorities said 21-year-old Hayden Clarke and his 43-year-old female caregiver were both found inside the minivan that is used to transport Hayden to various locations.
The two were discovered in O’Fallon Park in north St. Louis, near Adelaide and West Florissant. Clarke was in his customized wheelchair.
“I was taken against my will,” Clarke said.
An intense search started for Clarke after he did not return home with his caregiver when he was supposed to Monday afternoon.
In fact, Frontenac police filed an endangered person advisory because of concerns over Clarke’s whereabouts. Clarke has Muscular Dystrophy and can only move a few fingers on his right hand to control his wheelchair’s joystick.
St. Louis police said a citizen spotted the 2016 Honda Odyssey that Clarke and his caregiver were in about 9:15 a.m. in O’Fallon Park.
The information about the minivan had been released by police during the search.
St. Louis police responded and found the pair. Clarke was not hurt and the caregiver was taken into custody without incident.
Authorities said the caregiver, identified as Teresa Bronner, was arrested on a charge of first-degree tampering connected with the minivan. Frontenac police said they are pursuing additional charges against Bronner for kidnapping, felonious restraint, and motor vehicle theft.
Hayden Clarke and his father said Bronner used the family’s credit card to buy gasoline for people at a reduced rate in exchange for cash. They said she then used that money to buy drugs.
His father said his credit card showed those sales happened at a gas station on North Broadway. Video obtained from workers apparently shows Bronner at the gas pumps. Clarke said it was a wild and scary night. He said he repeatedly asked Bronner to take him home.
Clarke's father said Bronner passed background checks before she was hired.
At this point, police haven't confirmed if Bronner was buying gasoline in exchange for drugs, but they're still investigating.
Clarke said he’s grateful to police and wants the caregiver to face justice.
“Really shaken up and scared. I’m just glad to be home and I wanted to thank the police department, the good Samaritans for helping them find me safe and returning me home,” he said.
Meanwhile, Clarke said he'll continue to pursue his Master's degree in computer science.