SAN DIEGO, CA (WWBT) - A California Air Force Veteran has been reunited with his brother's family Saturday, nearly 10 years after he was reported missing in Yuma, Arizona.
According to NBC San Diego, Thomas "Randy" Gatewood, 79, went missing from his Arizona home in 2007. The man had been diagnosed with dementia.
"It's almost unbelievable," Randy's brother, Gene, told NBC San Diego. "I hate to say it, but I thought he was probably deceased. That's the story I've been telling family and friends for some time."
The television station reports Randy was found in a skilled nursing facility in Lemon Grove, California, where Gene and his family met Randy in an emotional reunion.
"When I came here a couple of weeks ago I didn't know what to expect, whether you were going to recognize me," Gene told his brother at the reunion. "I told the kids, I asked if you knew, and you said yes, you're my little brother Gene Gatewood. And we both broke down a little bit."
Gene's daughter attended an Identify the Missing Day event where officials updated their missing person's report and a swap test was done for DNA to match against a national database.
NBC San Diego said the checks revealed Randy had been hospitalized in September 2011 after being abandoned by their caregiver in a motel with no food or money.
Their search ended with Randy being found at the Lemon Grove address after nearly 10 years.
"I was absolutely flabbergasted," Gene said to the television station. "My God, he's alive and well and being cared for. [It was the] opposite of what I thought."
Gene and their family still has a lot of questions for his brother and is still trying to figure out how the man went missing the first place.
"My plan is to take him on outings," Gene said to NBC San Diego. "Go see our school, go see the house we lived in as kids, go to the beach and see ocean and water, because he'd been in the desert for many years and here for the past five."
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