Originally created 05/17/99

Driver follows instinct, finds missing man



Gayla DeBose heard a voice telling her to turn her car around and help.

And J.D. Edwards is lucky she did.

Driving over 13th Street bridge Sunday afternoon, Ms. DeBose passed the 89-year-old Edwards, sitting under a small tree and looking confused.

"We made eye contact as I passed, and I just immediately thought, `Something's not right. That man needs help,"' she said.

So with her three children in her van, Ms. DeBose turned around and went back to help Mr. Edwards, an Alzheimer's disease patient who had wandered from a relative's home early Sunday morning.

"I asked him if he needed help and he said `Yeah, I believe so,"' she said. "He said he was trying to get to Macon and pointed across the bridge.

"I could tell he wasn't drunk, but he was confused."

So she called 911 from her cellular telephone, and police -- who had been searching for Mr. Edwards for more than four hours -- were on the scene in less than a minute.

Staying with a relative for the weekend, Mr. Edwards wandered from the Pearl Avenue home at about 8 a.m. and had been seen by fishermen near Lake Olmstead and Julian Smith Casino in Augusta, said Richmond County sheriff's Investigator Scott Peebles. Police were surprised he ended up in North Augusta.

"I didn't do anything outside of my job as being part of humanity," she said. "I could tell he was in danger."

Ms. DeBose said she feels for Alzheimer's patients and wants to work with them someday. The 39-year-old mother of three is working toward a music education degree at Augusta State University and has read that music helps people stricken with the disease.

Investigator Peebles praised Ms. DeBose for her instincts to help the man. These situations often end in tragedy for Alzheimer's patients, he said.

Moses Jenkins, 64, an Army veteran, drowned in Bennock Mill Pond in February after he wandered from Eleva Hankerson's personal care home. On Jan. 3, Henry Dorsey, 53, had left the same home on Mike Padgett Highway and was found dead of exposure a short time later.

Meghan Gourley covers crime for The Augusta Chronicle. She can be reached at (706) 823-3227 or mgourley@augustachronicle.com.