Mother missing since April found with help of an Eyewitness News viewer

Kristin Thorne Image
Friday, July 7, 2023
Missing woman reunited with family thanks to Eyewitness News viewer
Making a difference! A local family has been reunited with their missing loved one after a 7 On Your Side Investigates report into the woman's disappearance.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A local family has been reunited with their missing loved one thanks to an Eyewitness News viewer who saw our 7 On Your Side Investigates report into the woman's disappearance.

The missing woman's son said that after someone saw Wednesday's report, they called the police on Thursday after spotting her at the McDonald's on 28th Street.

Police brought Deborah Stewart, 60, to the hospital where she was reunited with her son Carlton Wood and is currently being evaluated.

It all unfolded months after Stewart went missing back on April 18. NYPD officers had taken her to the hospital for psychiatric issues.

Before she was found, Stewart's daughter Nicole Stewart told Eyewitness News investigative reporter Kristin Thorne she called the police on her mother because Stewart was refusing to return to her independent living facility in Queens and became physical with family members.

A local family tells Kristin Thorne with 7 On Your Side Investigates they've been running in circles with the NYPD in their search for their missing loved one.

Stewart's family said Stewart suffers from serious mental health issues and on April 18 showed up at Stewart's mother's apartment in Washington Heights, saying she wanted to live with her mother.

Gloria Hatwood said she told her daughter she wasn't able to take care of her and that Stewart needed to return to her home in Queens.

Nicole Stewart said she flagged down two NYPD officers when Stewart started getting physical with family members out on a sidewalk. She said the officers put Stewart in handcuffs after Stewart got physical with the officers.

Nicole Stewart said the officers informed her they were taking her mother to the hospital.

Nicole Stewart said she informed officers of Stewart's mental health issues.

The NYPD told Eyewitness News Deborah Stewart was taken to New York-Presbyterian for evaluation.

Deborah Stewart has been missing from her family since April 18 after being in the custody of the NYPD and at the hospital. If you see her, call 911.

Carlton Wood, Deborah Stewart's son, said when he called New York-Presbyterian the next day they told him his mother was no longer at the hospital.

"They said, 'Oh she was here. She was released on the 19th,'" Wood recounted to Eyewitness News.

New York-Presbyterian said due to patient privacy laws it was not able to confirm to Eyewitness News whether Stewart was ever at the hospital. However, a spokesperson said the hospital was working with the NYPD directly on Stewart's case.

"I'm worried to death," Hatwood said. "I'm devastated because I know how dangerous New York is now."

Wood said his mother did not have her wallet, her clothes, or any of her psychiatric medications. Stewart doesn't own a cell phone and doesn't have any friends.

"We are her lifeline pretty much," Wood said. "There's no one else. Logically, it doesn't make sense for her to be missing this long. Something has to be wrong."

Wood said when he went to file a missing persons report with the 33rd precinct - the precinct in which the incident occurred between the two NYPD officers and Stewart - officers told him he had to file the report at the precinct in Queens where Stewart lived.

Wood said he went to his mother's independent living facility in Queens, called police, waited for them to arrive to file a missing persons report, and he said when they arrived officers told him he had to file the report in the 33rd precinct.

"My mother is missing," Wood said. "Why do I have to go through all this?"

Wood said June 12 - nearly two months after his mother's disappearance - a detective in the NYPD Missing Persons Squad informed him his mother was sent from the hospital to a shelter.

"He was like, 'You know what?'" Wood said, recounting what he said the detective told him. "'I remember hearing your mother's name last week. The hospital called and said that she left at 2 in the morning and they put her in a Lyft to a shelter.'"

Wood said he asked the detective what shelter his mother was sent to, but the detective didn't know.

"He says, I'm going to call you back and let you know what shelter she was sent to," Wood said. "He never called me back."

Then, two weeks later, on June 27, Wood called the Missing Persons Squad again for an update and he said a different detective told him on April 20 Stewart had been at a shelter on East 32nd Street, but the shelter said she didn't return for breakfast the next day.

The New York City Department of Social Services would not confirm with Eyewitness News whether Stewart was ever at the shelter because of privacy restrictions.

Wood had also tried to get the aided report from the NYPD that the two NYPD officers who took his mother to the hospital are required to file.

According to Section 221-13 of the NYPD Patrol Guide, after officers take an emotionally disturbed person (EDP) to the hospital, they are required to wait with the person until he or she is seen by a psychiatrist.

According to the NYPD Patrol Guide, officers taking care of an EDP are required to stay with the person at the hospital until the person is seen by a psychiatrist.

"Inform psychiatrist of circumstances which brought EDP into police custody," the code states.

Officers are then required to file an aided report, which must include the name of the treating psychiatrist.

When Wood went to the 33rd precinct to get the aided report, he said officers told him he needed power of attorney for his mother.

"I said, my mother is missing. I can't get power of attorney," he said.

Eyewitness News asked the NYPD several times if officers filed an aided report on Stewart's case. The department did not respond.

The NYPD said it takes all missing persons cases seriously.

"I'm asking, God, please bring her back," Hatwood said.

Fortunately, thanks to 7 On Your Side Investigates' report, Stewart was found and brought to the hospital safely.

Carlton Wood said police told him that they stayed at the hospital with his mother until he arrived because of the previous media attention.

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