A man who had been declared missing since 2004 was found safely in September, according to a statement released by Capt. Jeffrey Paul speaking on behalf of Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi.
But it is possible that Timothy Carney was never missing at all.
According to Carney's family, the then-25-year-old was last seen on September 28, 2004 by his roommate, Roy Anthony, at their Butler Ridge apartment. Tri-Boro Patch that Carney allegedly called his employer to say he would be late for work and was not heard from after that. His car was found abandoned on the side of the road at the border of Elizabeth and Newark.
"Mr. Carney was reported missing on September 28, 2004. He was subsequently located on September 23, 2011 and as a result was cleared from the missing person’s database," Paul said Tuesday. "Mr. Carney was found alive and well but did not wish to disclose his whereabouts."
Carney's parents, Phyllis and Ed, spent years looking for their son and, with help from The Kristen Foundation, a national organization dedicated to bringing home missing persons, on several occasions paid for billboards to be placed on Route 23 advertising that Carney was missing and a phone number anyone who saw him should call.
Paul said Carney's parents were notified in September that he was located and that the missing person's case, which was filed jointly by the Morris County Prosecutor's Office Missing Persons Unit and the , has since been closed.
A call to Carney's parents was not immediately returned Tuesday.
Joan Petruski, who founded The Kristen Foundation in 1998 after her own daughter went missing in 1997, said she and Carney's family members still believe that the Gospel Outreach, a religious organization led by Jim Lethbridge, could have influenced Carney to not make contact with his family for such a long time and could still be influencing him today.
"We know where he is and his family knows where he is but we don't really know what's in his mind right now," she said. "Hopefully, he'll stay put where he is."
Carney's mother told Tri-Boro Patch last March that her son and his roommate were both members of the Gospel Outreach and that the leaders of the organization became controlling, at one point insisting they accompany Carney to a hospital to visit his sick aunt because they believed he was lying about where he was going.
Petruski said Carney's family believes he is currently living in Chicago but that they are "as perplexed as anybody else" as to why he did not contact them for so long. While it seems as though Carney may have willingly not made contact with his family members, Petruski said she and his family are not discouraged that they put forth effort to search for him for so many years. Instead, they are just glad he is safe.
"We'd rather have him alive and well than any other circumstances," she said. "The family is happy about that and I don't think they hold anything (against him) other than they're happy he's alive and they'll work from there."