On September 4, 2021, Cathy was confused about where she was and repeatedly walked into the wrong house in Tonkawa, Oklahoma. The homeowners called the authorities, and the police department arrived on the scene. Officers questioned her as she sat inside of her white Dodge Charger.
“She thought she was in Muskogee. She kept saying Okmulgee, Muskogee, and that is two hours away,” Chief Nicholas Payne with the Tonkawa Police Department said, reports News Nation.
Chief Payne told News Nation that Cathy was convinced she was being watched by cameras and heard voices. The authorities questioned Cathy for almost two hours and called in a mental health specialist to evaluate her. Even though she was confused, the mental health specialist and the authorities agreed she was mentally well enough to continue driving, and they released her.
“She knew her name. She could produce credentials saying who she is. She had an itinerary for where she’s going: ‘I’m going to my friend’s house in Muskogee,’ (and) she thought she was here,” Chief Payne said, reports News Nation. “You can’t take away someone’s freedom because they got lost.”
One week later, Cathy's Dodge Charger was found on the side of I-35 at mile marker 179 with her wallet, cash ID, and cell phone inside.
According to News Nation, the family of Cathy James wants to know why the police allowed her to keep driving. Cathy was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and they feel she was having a mental episode.
“They knew she was not in her right mind; they knew,” her niece Britany Beal said, reports News Nation. “I’ve gotten calls from the hospital saying that they’ve picked her up, they’ve got her there. But never, she just leaves her car somewhere with her wallet inside of it. and her money. I would have picked her up; I always do."
The interaction with Cathy James was caught on the police body cams. In one of the videos, an officer is seen making several attempts to get in touch with Cathy's contacts.
In one text message exchange, an officer wrote, “Hey, are you Cathy James’ sister?” James’ sister replied, “I’m her sister. And I’m not gonna handle it because I’m 68-year-old, and I done handled it too long,” reports News Nation.
60-year-old Cathy Ann James was last seen on September 5, 2021, in Blackwell, Oklahoma on surveillance video loitering outside a local gas station, Casey's, for hours. The footage showed Cathy between 12:30 am and 4:30 am, reports KOCO. Blackwell is a town just north of Tonkawa. Cathy walked out of sight of the video cameras and vanished into the night.
“Unfortunately, we don’t know where she’s at now. But everything that we did that day is the proper protocol set in place; everything we did that day is meant to keep this from happening,” Chief Payne said, reports News Nation.
Cathy Ann James was 5'4" and weighed 195 pounds when she vanished.
She was wearing an orange Nike shirt with black sweatpants.
If you have any information, please contact the OSBI at 405-848-6724 or 1-800-522-8017.