Crying Shame

Carl Gholson was a gifted sax player. He was also a paranoid schizophrenic. He became another victim of Phoenix’s scorching heat

"They wouldn't give me the time of day," she says. "I started calling everywhere I could think of. I was really, really worried."

Echo House staffers also apparently declined to say much to Glendale police.

Officer Eric Rouse went to the home on the evening of July 21, in response to a missing-persons report filed by supervisors there earlier that day. In fact, Carl Gholson was dead by then, though no one at Echo House could have known that yet.

Gholson died in the front yard of this downtown Phoenix apartment complex.
Peter Scanlon
Gholson died in the front yard of this downtown Phoenix apartment complex.

Rouse interviewed staffer David Garcia, who told him that Carl had left on the morning of July 16 and hadn't been seen since.

According to Rouse's police report, Garcia told him "that the home has a 72-hour policy, and if the person does not return, then they file a police report."

The officer didn't note that Carl had been incommunicado for five days before Echo House had reported his disappearance.

Garcia wouldn't tell Officer Rouse what kind of medications Carl was supposed to take or why he was supposed to take them, other than "it was for mental reasons."

But the officer spotted the word "schizophrenia" on a work sheet and asked Garcia about it. "He said his superiors informed him that he was not supposed to release this information," Rouse recalled in his report.

In response to a question, Garcia said Carl often frequented a McDonald's somewhere in downtown Phoenix. Interestingly, he didn't mention The Other Room, Carl's prime hangout for the previous four years.

From Rouse's police report: "I asked [Garcia] if Carl took his medication with him [on July 16], and he stated no. I asked him if Carl could be suicidal or harm others or himself, and he stated that it was possible for Carl to be suicidal if he did not take his medication."

Two days later, on Saturday, July 23, another Glendale officer learned that Carl Gholson had died on July 18. That officer wrote in her report that Phoenix detective Lumley had called Echo House to notify staffers and get the names and phone numbers of Carl's next of kin.

Lumley's report says Paul Hutchinson of Echo House told him during that call that Carl's habit was to leave about 9 a.m. every day and return about 4 in the afternoon.

Carl had departed at the usual time on Friday the 15th, Hutchinson said, but didn't return until the next morning. He had pulled up with a woman in a taxi cab and asked staffers to provide $20 for the fare, which they did. Carl had wanted the woman to stay with him in his room, but staffers asked her to leave.

According to Hutchinson, Carl also soon left and "he was not seen again" at the home.

Hutchinson said it was the first time since Carl had moved into Echo House in August 2003 that he had vanished for any length of time. That fact alone surely should have been cause for immediate action by the home's staffers.

Jill Faver, director of communications for ValueOptions, says in an e-mail that her firm is "committed to working hand in hand with law enforcement. In the case of a potential missing person, upon first learning from one of our provider agencies that a client may be missing, our clinical team would cooperate with any official group investigating the situation."

But Detective Lumley's report states that he left messages with Carl's ValueOptions case manager during his postmortem investigation, but never got a return call.

Two state agencies, the Arizona departments of Health Services (DHS) and Economic Security (DES) oversee Echo House. DHS also is supposed to provide oversight of ValueOptions and its current $1.3-billion, three-year contract.

Representatives of DHS and DES had little to say about Carl Gholson's death.

DHS spokesman Mike Murphy says that "thanks to the world of HIPAA, we cannot even acknowledge that this man was a client of ValueOptions."

(Murphy is referring to a federal law designed in part to guarantee the privacy of health information. Naysayers suggest that HIPAA also has been used to keep the public from learning about possible misdeeds.)

Elizabeth Barker, a spokeswoman for the DES, did not return calls requesting comment for this story.

Darlene Coon speculates that Carl had wanted to borrow the $20 from her to repay group home staffers for the cab fare. She's also convinced that Carl's new female friend took him to a crack house shortly before his death.

Coon says she finally learned of Carl's death about 10 days after the fact, when an Echo House staffer dropped by her bar to inform her. Dwayne Gholson says no one told him for eight days, which still frustrates him.

"I saw Carl a few weeks before he passed," he says, "and he was on base, chain-smoking like he always did, bouncing around from this subject to that subject. I thought everything was cool with him. We hugged before he split."

Gholson drove to Echo House in early August to sort through his brother's possessions. There were small boxes of clothes, a Bible, two computers and an electronic organ.

But Carl's saxophone was nowhere to be found.

Gholson says staffers told him that Carl didn't own a sax when he died.

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