Authorities Baffled Over Missing Family
Floyd Braun called his mother-in-law in Orange County Saturday to tell her that he and his wife would be late returning from the desert. “We’re lost,” he told her. “Be sure to write this down: We’re lost at a place called Convoy.”
No one has heard since from Braun, 41, a computer programming analyst for Rockwell International, his wife, Linda, and their three children. They didn’t return to baby-sit for Braun’s brother-in-law Saturday evening. They didn’t make it for Easter dinner Sunday.
And on Tuesday, police were still puzzling over the displaced furniture, knocked-over lamps and half-packed suitcases strewn about the Brauns’ home in Placentia, a home that is ordinarily headquarters for the neighborhood Scout troops and the swim teams Braun coaches.
“We really haven’t gotten anywhere with it so far,” Placentia Police Lt. Daryll Thomann said. “We have no crime per se. We have a family that’s missing, and we’re very concerned for their welfare.”
Braun, hired in February as a part-time quality assurance consultant for Rockwell in Anaheim, showed up for work on Wednesday and was due in again on Friday. He never showed up.
But members of his family said they spoke with Braun and his wife on Thursday and Friday and made plans for the couple to baby-sit with Linda’s nieces and nephews Saturday afternoon. Braun had an appointment earlier Saturday at his church, and the couple promised to come over for a family Easter dinner on Sunday to visit Braun’s mother before she went home to North Dakota.
But Braun telephoned at 2 p.m. Saturday to say he was near Palm Springs and would be a few hours late. “He said, ‘We’re just lost,’ and he said, ‘Here, I’ll let Linda tell you,’ ” said his sister-in-law, Karen Braun. “And she got on the phone and said, ‘We’re just lost.’ ”
“Convoy” was the name of the town Linda’s mother wrote down. But police detectives, scanning a map of the Palm Springs area, concluded they probably were near the tiny desert community of Amboy, population about 40, several miles off Interstate 40 out of Barstow. There is no town in California named Convoy.
When the Brauns still hadn’t returned on Sunday, family members went to their house on the northern edge of Placentia. Soon, they called the police.
Several pieces of furniture were out of place. Lamps were turned over. A few items of furniture and pictures were broken, and they were “apparently broken on purpose for some reason,” Lt. Thomann said. The baby’s diapers were packed near the front door. Cosmetics, toiletries and some clothing were stuffed into suitcases and left behind.
Yet nothing of value was missing, and there was no evidence of foul play.
“It looked like they just sort of started to pack everything and then decided not to move anything,” Karen Braun said. “It’s just weird.”
Betty Othmer, Braun’s sister, said: “This is just so out of character, and it’s so totally unexpected that I simply don’t know. I can’t figure it out. On holidays, we always try to get together. It was very out of character for them just not to appear.”
Family members said Braun recently converted from the Lutheran Church to Catholicism. He had been scheduled to meet Saturday with a priest from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Placentia.
While Braun occasionally took a few days off with Linda and his children--Eric, 14, Michelle, 10, and Scott, 3 months--to get away from work and community activities, he never would have departed for a long time without telling the rest of the family, Othmer said.
Golden Avenue School Principal Jay Hoffman said Michelle, a fifth-grader, is seldom absent. “The girl was very reliable, an excellent student, and the family was very involved with their children,” he said.
A neighbor, Tom Garrity Jr., said he saw Braun last Wednesday, but no one in the neighborhood saw the family leave.
“As far as I know, there isn’t any type of motivation for them to just get up and leave like that,” said Garrity, 21. “If they did plan on going somewhere, they would have told somebody. Whenever someone on the street goes on a trip, they’ll ask someone else to take out the trash and pick up the newspapers.”
Said another neighbor, who asked not to be identified: “They’ve gone on a trip and they’re coming home soon as far as we’re concerned.”
Police have put out a statewide alert for the family’s four-door, medium blue Mercury Marquis with a light blue top, license number 1FZP326.
But San Bernardino Sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Spalnaker said there has been no trace of them in Amboy, or anywhere else. “Amboy is a little town,” he said. “If anything out of the ordinary happens out there, people know about it. And they tell us.”
Times staff writer Andy Rose contributed to this story.