Two travelers meet at an old mill near Interstate 5 in Grants Pass, Oregon. They share a cigarette among abandoned train cars and talk about the weather.
One of the men is just traveling through the region; later, he’ll see a missing persons poster and call the number on it.
The other man is Noah DeWitt, the person on that poster.
DeWitt is a 2012 University of Oregon graduate who disappeared from a Eugene house on Feb. 14. This sighting on Feb. 18 was one of two sightings friends and family believe was probably him. They don’t know where he’s going, and they don’t know why he disappeared.
All they have are guesses.
“Some switch flipped in his mind”
DeWitt was a dedicated, efficient student: He graduated in a little over four years with a double major in journalism and international studies. It was after he graduated that he “stalled,” according to DeWitt’s sister, Rachael.
DeWitt had new ideas all the time for projects. He loved making music and art and being creative, but he couldn’t focus enough to move toward finishing those projects. He didn’t move himself toward anything, his sister said.
DeWitt wanted to help the world in the best way he could, but he was confused about how that translated into a career, according to Rachael.
“The bar he set for himself prevented him from moving forward,” she said.
This went on for the next two and a half years. DeWitt took a part-time job at the New Frontier Market, a grocery store focused on raw and non-GMO foods, and continued working on his projects.
DeWitt’s mother Joan Zivi talked to him about once a week, and she said his mood began to go “up and down.”
“He’s normally an extremely positive, happy person,” Zivi said. “And then some days he sounded down and a little depressed.”
That’s the same way the witness in Grant’s Pass described the man he thought was DeWitt, according to DeWitt’s close friend and college roommate, Tyler Pell. Pell spoke with the witness himself.
The last time Zivi talked to DeWitt, she was helping him get on her health insurance plan.
He was very paranoid after having witnessed a bus crash in Dorena. No one was harmed in either instance, but they both shook DeWitt.
“Whatever happened that caused him to hit the road, I think some switch flipped in his mind and some event happened that sort of changed his approach,” DeWitt’s sister said.
She insists that he didn’t intend to leave.
Detective Mel Thompson from EPD declined an interview with the Emerald, but Rachael has been in steady contact with Thompson and she said he expected DeWitt to be less elusive, that he would show up within a week or so.
Rachael DeWitt said that at this point, Detective Thompson is thinking what they’re all thinking: That Noah is choosing not to be found right now.
“He’s eluded us,” Rachael said.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article stated that Noah DeWitt’s mother, Joan Zivi, said his lack of success in his field affected his personality. Zivi did not say this.