Kayannette Gabrielle found after 11 years

Kayannette Eleaya Gabrielle is one of my “few details are available” cases on Charley. That link won’t be working for much longer, though, because I just learned that Kayannette, who disappeared in 2006, has been found alive and was reunited with her children.

She was apparently suffering from severe memory loss and couldn’t recall her identity — mental illness maybe? — and ended up living on the streets of Santa Barbara, 100 or so miles north of where she was last seen. This article explains how she was found:

Around four years ago, Gabrielle ended up in Santa Barbara and often slept outside the main library. She was known in the community as Mary Roberts.

During a stay at the Rescue Mission, Gabrielle befriended Jill Wallerstedt, the director of homeless guest services.

Wallerstedt said Gabrielle suffered from severe memory loss, possibly from a head injury and couldn’t remember her name or Social Security number. Gabrielle often talked about three children, but never mentioned that they belonged to her.

[…]

Gabrielle was cited for sleeping in public and trespassing, but those tickets brought her to the attention of the Restorative Court Program, which also seeks to rehabilitate area homeless and get them off of the streets.

Mureen Brown is a restorative police court liason for the police department and works closely with Hove.

Gabrielle’s complex case was flagged again and the woman was routed through the restorative court system, and connected with a shelter and other services. Brown continued to work tirelessly to help Gabrielle recall her past and solve her identity.

“We work with a lot of vulnerable people out on the streets. Many of them have sad stories and sad situations. We know they all come from a mom, a dad, a brother,” Brown said. “They have somebody they were once tethered to.”

On March 4, 2016, Brown secured a bed for Gabrielle at the homeless shelter PATH Santa Barbara where she stayed and received services for a year.

Two weeks ago, Gabrielle told a staff member that she remembered her name and some personal information. Brown and Hove pulled up Gabrielle’s old drivers license on the computer and searched the missing person database.

“Sure enough, she showed up immediately,” Brown said. “In the six years I’ve been doing this, this is the highlight of my entire time working with the police department. “This is a story about an entire community keeping this woman safe, taking care of her, not giving up hope and at the end of it we have a miracle. It doesn’t happen that often.

This is awesome. And it goes to show that just because a person has been missing a long time, doesn’t mean they’re dead. As my friend Annie likes to say, if you look for a body you might miss a person.

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7 thoughts on “Kayannette Gabrielle found after 11 years

  1. diamondlil16 March 6, 2017 / 12:39 am

    Wonderful news! This should give other families the incentive to keep getting their missing loved ones fliers sent to homeless shelters. While it was Ms. Gabrielle herself that helped solve her own disappearance by finally remembering her real name, I hope more of these shelter workers keep looking online to reunite others in this situation.

  2. marsyao March 6, 2017 / 9:11 am

    Suffering from severe memory loss, but then she suddenly remembered her name and some personal information ? Well, congratulation to her family, but I do feel there is more storied We have yet to know

    • Mia March 6, 2017 / 12:40 pm

      I kind of thought the same thing. It almost sounds like she decided she was ready to share that information rather than suddenly recalling it.

      • Kat March 6, 2017 / 2:04 pm

        I hate that I’m jaded but…….Benjamin Kyle. I mean, she could have been if a fuge (sp?) state, but I’m not sure, with that “sudden” stuff. May have been misreported. At any rate, glad she is home with family and all.

  3. So Cal Fan March 6, 2017 / 10:10 pm

    Being “found” was an unintended side effect of needing to “remember” her name so she could get benefits she was eligible for. She needs mental help.

    • Meaghan March 6, 2017 / 10:14 pm

      I don’t know if she was truthful about the amnesia or not, but she probably does need mental help. I hope she gets it now.

  4. terromangerro March 7, 2017 / 4:52 am

    This is difficult to explain, but as a person who suffers from some degree of anxiety, I could see how she truly was unable to recall her identity for so long and then do so suddenly later.

    I’ve only suffered mere fractions of this, but anxiety can be so debilitating that it literally shuts the brain down in order to protect itself. It is literally paralyzing…you can’t function, you can’t interact properly, and in an attempt to protect yourself, you can completely shut out the world that is causing you the anxiety to begin with.

    Yes, it is a mental issue rather than amnesia caused by a traumatic injury. But the result can be similar. I’m wondering if her ability to recall her identity came about after she was finally in an environment that was very caring, helpful, etc. This might have helped her anxiety level to drop enough that her mental barrier (kind of like putting your hands over your ears and singing “I can’t hear you la de da” when somebody is saying something you don’t want to acknowledge, it’s a simple description but it does make the proper point as a defense mechanism) came down enough for her to comfortably think about her past, without fear. Just a theory, but one that could be correct.

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