Dressed in beige pants and a white shirt, Leo “Chuck” Freda left his Miami assisted living facility Nov. 29 to pet a neighbor’s dog and never returned, said his brother Phil Freda.
“He goes out to pet the dog and poof, he disappears,” said Phil Freda, of his brother who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia more than 30 years ago.
Staffers at Central Palace Residential at 4491 SW Eighth St. began looking for the man about 10 minutes after he left, but couldn’t find him, said his brother.
“Someone doesn’t just vanish,” he said.
The assisted living facility, which has 55 beds, has a history of residents leaving, according documents from the Agency for Health Care Administration. In November, an AHCA investigator found “deficiencies” with the home after learning that three residents left the facility and the administrator did not probably record the disappearances as the agency requires.
It is not clear, if the agency fined the Central Palace or followed up. Questions to AHCA Thursday were not answered.
Elena Perez, who has been the administrator at Central Palace for four years, said Freda’s disappearance was the first such episode this year. She said the facilities’ gates are required to remain open and unlocked at all times.
“We are an assisted living facility, which means we create a home-life environment,” she said. “If we locked the gates, we could be fined.”
Perez said Freda’s absence was first noticed around 3 p.m., when he usually watched TV.
“We check on him often because he’s very disoriented,” Perez said. An immediate search party was sent out to blanket the neighborhood on foot and by car. A woman who lives near the facility told them she had seen Freda looking at her cats on her front porch, but he immediately walked away when she approached him.
Phil Freda said that while he knows the facility is not a high-security place, he would expect that the workers would keep an eye on the patients.
“I am sure they are freaking out that they lost a patient,” he said.
Phil Freda said he has no idea how his brother, who has disappeared from facilities before, has eluded police for six days. Phil Freda said that if his brother is hungry he will go into any restaurant or grocery store and start eating things off the shelf.
“He has no control,” he said. “Without his meds he can become very aggressive.”
Perez agrees, saying Freda’s behavior is so erratic that he if were wandering the streets, he would have done something by now to result in a call to police. “Our best guess is that he’s in a hospital somewhere but isn’t able to identify himself,” she said.
Phil Freda said his brother, who was a straight “A” student through high school “snapped” after he graduated.
“He began doing a lot of odd things,” said his brother, who added that Chuck Freda was moved from home to home because he would do things for attention, including running around naked and pulling the fire alarm in the middle of the night.
He moved into Central Palace a few years ago and lived “the lazy life.” When he left that day he had no money or identification. His aunt usually wrote his name in the collar of all of his shirts.
Miami Police Spokeswoman Kenia Reyes said Friday that police don’t suspect foul play and have launched a search for the missing man.
“They tell us he has left before,” she said.
Anyone with information is asked to call 305-603-6304.