Walmart worker, KTVZ help find missing La Pine man

Redmond store worker saw man matching online photo

REDMOND, Ore. - An 81-year-old La Pine man reported missing in Redmond when he drove off from his wife's doctor appointment was found in good condition Monday night, thanks to citizen tips, including a Walmart worker who had just read a KTVZ.COM report and recognized the man from his photo, police said.

Robert S. Hoblitzell had accompanied his wife to the doctor's visit on SW 17th Street. He last was seen around 3 p.m. Monday, walking his dog, a Jack Russell-type multi-breed, in the area, said Sgt. Curtis Chambers.

The couple's van, a 2008 Hyundai Entourage, was missing from the parking lot, Chambers said, adding that it was believed Hoblitzell drove the vehicle from the lot and left the area for an unknown destination or reason.

The sergeant had said Hoblitzell reportedly has dementia and is not familiar with the Redmond area. The van was believed to have about one-quarter to one-half tank of gas.

The man was reported missing to police around 5:15 p.m., Chambers said, and while search efforts were under way, a Deschutes County sheriff's deputy confirmed around 8 p.m. that he had not made it back to his La Pine home.

Police then turned to the public and media for help in finding Hoblitzell, while a statewide "attempt to locate" alert was sent to all Oregon law enforcement agencies, advising them to be on the lookout for the missing man and his van, Chambers said.

Walmart employee Susan Newton said she had read the just-posted KTVZ.COM news story on her phone during a break. Around 9:30 p.m., when she went to clock out for the night, a store greeter told her of a confused man at the door who was making some odd statements.

When she saw Hoblitzell, "he was sitting at the McDonald's -- really disoriented, confused," Newton said, adding that some "nice people" who were with him were talking about taking him to the hospital.

Newton said she recognized the man as Hoblitzell from the KTVZ.COM article she'd seen on her Facebook page. She told a co-manager, who at first didn't think it was the same man, but after looking at the photo said, "No, that is the same guy."

A few minutes earlier, Chambers said, someone else called dispatch to report Hoblitzell's van was in the Walmart parking lot. He noted that officers had checked the lot earlier, and it was not there. Several others also called police after the news report, to say they believed they had seen him and/or his van.

After Hoblitzell was found and police were called to Walmart, an officer took him to St. Charles-Redmond for an evaluation and his family was called to come pick him up.

Chambers thanked KTVZ and those who called police to report information about Hoblitzell and his van.

"Through the combined efforts of the police, media and the public, a family was reunited," he wrote.

As for Newton, she said, "I'm sure glad I have (KTVZ) on my Facebook."

comments powered by Disqus