Seven weeks after Teleka Patrick went missing, investigators are still searching for clues as to the whereabouts of the promising young Michigan doctor.
What they do know, Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard C. Fuller said during a news conference Wednesday, is that Patrick, 30, has disappeared for short stretches of time in the past, checking into a hotel or motel, but was never reported missing.
Additionally, the first-year student in Western Michigan University’s residency program had planned to visit relatives in Chicago before her disappearance, Fuller said during the nearly 45-minute conference, which was live-streamed. She also planned to visit family in Florida over the holidays.
And contrary to media and social reports about her mental health, Fuller said, “There’s no diagnosis associated with a mental illness. That’s why we’re cautious. Some of the behavior appears erratic.”
Indeed, Marvin Sapp, a gospel singer and pastor, had obtained a personal-protection order against Patrick in September, police confirmed. Fuller says that Sapp is not a suspect and has been cooperative in the investigation.
Still, Patrick has never lost touch with family or friends for this length of time, Fuller told reporters.
“Some of this pattern started out in California [she left Loma Linda University in California this spring],” Fuller said. “There was an incident that occurred months earlier before she moved to Kalamazoo. We do not know if she used an alias, but some friends and associates did know of her whereabouts.”
One thing is for certain, Fuller said: “We do not know where Teleka Patrick is at this time.”
Patrick has been missing since Dec. 5, when her car was discovered in a ditch along Interstate Highway 94 in northern Indiana, about 100 miles from the Kalamazoo hospital where she worked as a resident. Her wallet, cash and identification were in the car. Investigators say that she had tried to check into a Kalamazoo hotel earlier that day.
The last time anyone saw her was when she finished her shift around 7 p.m. at Borgess Medical Center. She received a ride home from a male co-worker to the downtown Radisson Hotel. After that, she was seen on the hotel’s surveillance footage, donning a black hoodie and black slacks while attempting to check into a room. She was unable to, however, and had to leave because she lacked identification and credit cards.
“Indications were that she walked into the lobby and didn’t immediately go to the counter,” Fuller said during the news conference. “The staff wasn’t sure what this person wanted. They could see that she was looking around. They said that she came up to the counter and didn’t really indicate that she wanted a room, but acted like she wanted a room. So when they were talking to her, they found she didn’t have enough money, she didn’t have any identification to get in. That's when they said, ‘We can help you go back and get these things.’
“She did talk about going back to Borgess,” he continued, “and that was pretty much the extent of it. But the one [staff] member at the desk asked her if she was OK because she was standing there and not asking for a room and not saying what she needed. She was just standing there.”
Just after 8 p.m., the hotel’s shuttle service returned her to the medical center so that she could go to her car, a gold 1997 Lexus ES 300, police say.
Around 10 p.m. the car was found in a ditch off I-94 in Portage, Ind., after Indiana state police were called about a vehicle driving erratically, reports say. Inside the car, police found Patrick’s wallet, which contained about $100 and ID, but the car keys were missing.
The next day, Borgess reported her missing after she failed to show up for her shift. Now, nearly seven weeks later, investigators are still searching for clues as to her whereabouts. At one point the Kalamazoo Sheriff's Office stopped answering questions about the case, Fuller said.
“From the beginning we have received a lot of phone calls with questions from the media and very little help in actually locating this person tipwise,” Fuller said. “So it got to a point where we felt that we were not receiving the information we needed and we didn’t want to put speculation out there. People wanted to talk about the different social media that was out there, and we wanted to make sure the investigation was focused on the missing person.”
The family has hired a private investigator, who is working with police, Fuller said. Patrick had moved to Kalamazoo just six months ago to begin a four-year residency program in psychiatry at Western.
“We are confident that to our knowledge this person is not in some hospital, is not someplace where we can reach out and identify,” Fuller said. “We are asking for more help in reaching out for this missing person.”