COLUMBIA, Mo. (June 2, 2010) — Family and friends of Eddie Acosta say they have no idea why he wouldn’t have called them after leaving the University Hospital in Columbia, where he had been taken Friday by ambulance due to stroke-like symptoms. However, they’ve sure he would never have wanted to miss last weekend’s annual Freedom Rally in Buckhorn and are seriously concerned that he’s not been seen since late Friday night.
According to family friend Julia Morgan, organized search parties are combing Columbia-area fields, checking motels, calling cab companies and shelters, and trying to find out where Acosta went after leaving the Columbia hospital.
Acosta, 46, is Hispanic with brown eyes and black hair. He’s 5-feet 6-inches and weighs 150 pounds, according to a police missing person report.
Morgan said Acosta was taken from his work to General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital on Friday with medical symptoms.
“I guess they ran an MRI on him, the MRI results came back with a possible stroke. There was nobody at Fort Leonard Wood’s hospital able to handle it, so Pulaski County Ambulance took him up to Columbia and they turned him over to the hospital with his belongings,” Morgan said.
Sometime after 9:18 p.m. Friday, Acosta left University Hospital after being discharged, but he had no one to pick him up and take him back to Pulaski County that night.
It’s not yet clear what happened next, or why a man considered so seriously ill that he had to be transported by ambulance to Columbia left the hospital with no arrangements in place to get back to Pulaski County or spend the night in Columbia.
“He said he would walk over to the VA Hospital or to a hotel because he knew nobody would be able to get him until Saturday,” Morgan said. “The VA Hospital and the University Hospital are basically separated by nothing but a tunnel … He was supposed to call and let someone know where he was and he never let anyone know.”
Morgan said Acosta may have been unable to call.
“He said his cell phone battery was dying and he would go to a motel and make a call … 9:30 to 10 p.m. was the last communication anyone had with him,” Morgan said. “This is so out of character for him; he went to the Freedom Rally every year for many years.”
When Morgan and another friend, Ted Basford, didn’t hear from Acosta, they drove up to Columbia anyway and went to the Veterans Administration hospital.
“He didn’t get admitted to the VA, he was just hoping he could stay there until someone could pick him up,” Morgan said.
However, it’s not clear that Acosta ever made it to the Veterans Administration hospital or returned to the University Hospital.
“When I got to University Hospital, I walked the halls, searched the cafeteria, checked the waiting rooms, and even had him paged overhead,” Morgan said.
After checking with various local hotels, Morgan said she and Basford became concerned.
“I then went back to the VA Hospital and spoke with a guard who had been working since 7 am that morning,” Morgan said. “Ted and I circled the parking lots one more time before heading towards downtown. While downtown at Hardee’s, we asked if any of the employees had seen Eddie; again, no luck ... Ted and I went to go get him, but he never made contact with anyone once his phone died.”
The University of Missouri Police Department said the case has been turned over to Columbia city police; little information was immediately available from the city police.
A city police website in Columbia lists Acosta as a missing person and said he was reported missing on Sunday.
“He advised an acquaintance that he would stay overnight at the VA Hospital and await a ride home on Saturday morning,” according to the police website. “When the friend arrived, Acosta was not at the VA Hospital and there was no record of him being there. Friends and family have not been able to locate Acosta and are concerned about him.”
For unknown reasons, Acosta’s disappearance wasn’t immediately entered into the National Crime Information Center missing persons list.
Pulaski County Sheriff J.B. King said his department was asked by family members on Wednesday, five days after Acosta’s disappearance, to search Acosta’s home in Pulaski County.
“When we found out today he had never been entered into NCIC anywhere, we called (a relative) to find out what was happening,” King said. “It makes no sense for the NCIC to say that if he goes missing in Columbia he has to be entered by his hometown police department.”
King said he’ll be in contact with NCIC officials and other law enforcement agencies to find out why Acosta’s name wasn’t entered into NCIC records.
“We located his vehicles, we searched his home, which is probably above and beyond what we should have done,” King said. “There was nothing that the officers observed that raised any suspicions or concerns.”
King said there’s no reason to believe Acosta is still in Pulaski County.
“At this point, we don’t really have anywhere to go or anything more to go on,” King said.
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