Summit County Sheriff Connerjack Oswalt
A California teenager with autism was reunited with his family over two years after he went missing.
Connerjack Oswalt, now 19, was found in Utah on April 9 after authorities responded to a call from a concerned community member about a "young man sleeping" outside a store in Jeremy Ranch, according to a statement from the Summit County Sheriff's Office.
Police said that Oswalt, who appeared to be experiencing homelessness, had been spotted several times over the previous weeks, but that each time deputies responded, he "refused any help." As he was not violating any laws, deputies chose not to take further action.
Although he had declined assistance in the past, on the morning of April 9 police found him "cold" and "shivering," and were able to convince him to warm up in their patrol car, according to Fox affiliate KSTU.
Authorities then began "began digging to find out who the man was," they said. What they found ended up being a "heartwarming and emotional story."
Oswalt was reported missing by his family in September 2019 after disappearing from his home in Clearlake, California, according to CNN.
"I never stopped looking for him. There wasn't a day I wasn't searching for him, in some form or fashion," his mom, Suzanne Flint, told the Associated Press.
"Any hints at something that remotely resembled him, we would follow up on it," added stepfather Gerald Flint of the toll the search took on them. "It's been a real nightmare."
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The Summit County Sheriff's Office said in their statement that when they began communicating with Oswalt, "it was clear to deputies that the man communicated differently."
When he was inside their patrol vehicle, Oswalt agreed to a finger scan, which turned up a previous warrant from Nevada, according to KSTU.
However, police instinctively felt like there was "more to the story," Sheriff Justin Martinez told the outlet.
After finding a flier for Oswalt in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children database, authorities felt confident enough to reach out to his family, KSTU reported.
His mother helped confirm his identity through a birthmark on his neck, per CNN.
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The moment the discovery became real was emotional for Oswalt's family, who were "losing hope" of ever seeing the boy again, police said in their statement.
After getting in contact with authorities in Utah, the teen's stepfather left work to make the four-hour drive from Idaho Falls, where the family had moved since the teen's disappearance, according to the AP.
In a phone call between Oswalt's stepfather and mother, which was recorded in footage obtained by CNN, she can be heard asking, "Is it him?"
"A little bit older, but yeah," the boy's stepfather responds, prompting his wife to reply, "My sweetheart's alive."
That day, "there wasn't a dry eye in the room," Sheriff Martinez told KSTU.
Although there are still many questions about what happened since Oswalt's disappearance, for now, knowing he's safe is enough.
"We're just grateful," his mother told KSTU. "He's alive and we have our son back."
The family hopes to bring Oswalt, who is currently receiving care, home soon, per CNN.