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Mark Stodghill, Duluth News Tribune, Published January 06 2011

Missing Duluth man with memory disorder found safe in Oklahoma

Gary and Amy Tridgell received the telephone call they were hoping to get at 2:30 a.m. today when a Duluth police officer notified them that their 26-year-old son Scott had been found safe in Oklahoma.

Scott Tridgell, who suffers from a rare form of memory lapse, left his family’s Lakeside home on Dec. 13 with only the clothes on his back. He left a note saying he was heading to a job interview and his family hasn’t heard from him since.

According to Duluth police, Tridgell walked into the Presbyterian Hospital in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, but was not able to tell hospital staff who he was. The University of Oklahoma Police Department was contacted by the hospital staff.

University police investigated and eventually were able to identify Tridgell and that he was a missing person from Duluth.

Gary and Amy Tridgell were on the road to Oklahoma City by 4:30 a.m. today. Gary was reached on his cell phone as his wife drove on Interstate 35 near Kansas City at 2:15 this afternoon. He estimated that they were within four or five hours of being reunited with their son, who remained in Presbyterian Hospital.

The father said the Duluth police officer who called and woke him and his wife "was very happy and said: 'We've got some good news.' "

Natalie Fix, spokeswoman with the OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City, said at 2:45 p.m. Wednesday that Tridgell was in good condition. Data privacy laws precluded her from releasing any other information.

The father said the family was able to relay the good news to another son Brian, 21, who is serving with the Peace Corps in Micronesia and to their daughter, Ashley, 23, who was out of town.

Duluth Deputy Police Chief Mike Tusken said police were concerned because there hadn’t been any bank activity from Scott Tridgell since Dec. 23 as police tracked him from Texas to California and finally Oklahoma.

“For us it was an arduous task to continue to monitor his whereabouts and it took a lot of time and effort,” Tusken said. But he said it was heartwarming news for officers who too often have to deliver bad news to families. “This one turned out to be really good,” Tusken said.

Tridgell had a similar episode three years ago and was missing for 20 days before being found. Neither doctors nor his family say they fully understand why the behavior occurs. Nothing was missing from his room, other than his cell phone and the clothes he was wearing. He left his cell phone charger behind. His father said there were no problems at home.

The 2002 Duluth East graduate was captured on a Dec. 14 video surveillance camera at an automated teller machine in Post, Texas. He was wearing a white dress shirt and tie, as his family said he would dress for a job interview.

Tridgell has an accounting degree from the University of St. Thomas. He worked on computers and did odd jobs in his neighborhood while looking for full-time work. He was not prescribed any medication, his family said.

Some experts say Tridgell’s behavior mirrored symptoms of a “fugue state,” when an individual loses autobiographical memory of themselves and their loved ones. They will impulsively travel and individuals who notice them will think they are OK. The victims don’t realize they are confused, and the behavior is usually temporary.

Tridgell was living in Edina, Minn., in 2007 when he drove his pickup away from his apartment on the morning of Oct. 10. He didn’t remember what happened during the 23 days between then and Nov. 2 when he was found parked at a rest stop in Menomonie, Wis.