When Lusia Dion received a call from a Waterloo Regional Police officer this week telling her Edgar Latulip had been found after nearly 30 years, she was shocked and thrilled to hear the news.
The Ottawa woman does not know Latulip or any of his family members. But she has been very aware of his case because she runs the website MissingAdults.ca and a Facebook page highlighting cases of missing adults in Ontario.
"The reaction is always of tremendous joy because it's always so good to hear that the person has been located alive and well — and as you know, sometimes that isn't the case," Dion told CBC News in an interview. "So whenever there is a safe recovery, I think it's time to feel really, really happy, not only for the individual but for the family, as well."
But it also makes her think about the families who will hear Latulip's story and have their hopes of finding their loves ones renewed — and possibly dashed.
"You can't help but feel a tinge of sadness that not every family is getting this good news," she said.
Latulip went missing Sept. 2, 1986
Latulip was 21 years old when he walked away from a Kitchener, Ont., group home on Sept. 2, 1986. He left without his medication. His missing-persons case file said he was considered to be developmentally delayed and had the mental capacity of a 12-year-old. Media reports said in the weeks before he left the city he had tried to commit suicide.
It is believed he went to St. Catharines, where he fell and hit his head, the injury causing him to lose his memory and forget his own name, said Const. Phillip Gavin, of the Niagara Regional Police.
Latulip took on a new identity and lived under that name in the city about 120 kilometres away from his hometown. There were some unconfirmed sightings of Latulip over the years in the Niagara Region and Hamilton.
But there were no new leads — until last month.
On Jan. 7, Latulip spoke with a social worker and told her he thought his name was different than the one he had been using for the past 29 years — he remembered being called Edgar Latulip.
The social worker looked up his case, then called police.
Missing adults hard to find
Dion has been running her missing-persons website since 2007 and later added the Facebook page.
"Edgar's story is nothing short of amazing," she posted in a series of announcements on Facebook after Latulip was found.
Even though she does not know Latulip or his family, the posts felt personal to her.
"In my experience, what I've seen, it's so hard to predict what you need to do to resolve a long-term missing-person case," she said.
'It was not a case that I had expected I would ever receive an answer about.' - Lusia Dion, MissingAdults.ca
She said families often lead dual lives — one in which they hold out hope their loved one will be found safe, and one in which they resign themselves to the idea they may never see the person again.
She has spoken to many people who have asked her to post the cases of missing family members on her sites. She's even been a shoulder to cry on at times.
Stories like Latulip's bring hope to other families, she said. But families also have to temper any excitement.
When adults go missing, she said, it can be harder to locate them — sometimes they don't want to be found.
Never expected an answer
When the Waterloo Regional Police investigator called Dion to have Latulip's information removed from her sites, she said her first reaction was shock.
"It was not a case that I had expected I would ever receive an answer about," Dion said.
She notes how bizarre this missing-persons case was.
"I know of some other cases where a long-term disappearance has been resolved and the person has been located safe," Dion said. "I can't think of a case where the person has solved their own disappearance or where there has been a significant memory loss for three decades."