MODESTO (CBS13) – A horrifying and heartbreaking discovery: A Modesto couple was watching a CBS13 report this week of a man arrested for making creepy comments about kidnapping children, and then realized the man under arrest was their own son they reported missing.
The couple said their son, Matthew Brauer, has been battling mental illness. Now, they are opening up and sharing their painful journey trying to help him.READ MORE: Mayor Steinberg Releases Master Plan To House Homeless
Karen and Doug Hea had not seen their son in a year.
“He’s still our child and we still love him immensely,” Karen Hea said.
Dixon police arrested Brauer and CBS13 reported the arrest after he was caught on camera allegedly making creepy comments to an 8-year-old girl.
Doug Hea heard his name on the television.
“Honestly, the first words were like ‘Oh shaving cream,’ out of my mouth, real loud, and I yelled to her because she was in the other room, ‘Come here now, Matt’s on, he’s on TV.’”
For the Heas’, it was a relief to see their son alive, but heartbreaking to see how he’s living.
Karen Hea messaged the 8-year-old’s mother and apologized for her son’s actions.
“No one wants to see their child living like this, acting like this,” Karen Hea said.
The Heas’ tried everything to help Brauer through his mental illness diagnosis after he became an adult. He is now 29-years-old.
“Matt’s diagnosis is, he’s been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar,” Karen Hea said. “So he hears voices, he sees shadows.”
He wasn’t always like this.READ MORE: Keep Tahoe Blue: Team Of Divers Collect 8,000 Pounds Of Trash In 25 Days
Karen Hea showed photos of her son from more than a decade ago. One photo shows Brauer as a teenager smiling wide at his high school graduation. Another photo shows him the day his braces came off.
The pictures are proof of better times.
His mother says it’s like she’s lost a son.
“It’s almost like a grief, like a death, but it’s not,” said Karen Hea. “It’s hard to explain.”
Brauer has been held at Stanislaus County Behavioral Health for treatment at least three times.
The Heas’ say he started to refuse medication two years ago.
They say court-ordered treatment programs will not work on him.
“I just feel helpless about it,” Doug Hea said.
Now with their missing son found in Dixon and this new arrest, they still feel a loss.
“He’s there somewhere,” Karen Hea said.
Their son was released from jail in Solano County on Wednesday, and he has a court hearing next week.MORE NEWS: Tree Trimmers In Short Supply As People Prepare For Fires
The Heas’ say once again they have no idea where he’s gone and they don’t expect him to make his next court appearance.