A Rockwell International computer consultant had come to work unshaven and “rumpled” during the week before he went with his wife and three children to the Mojave Desert for what may have been some spiritual purpose, authorities said Wednesday.
“His fellow employees at work indicated that his physical appearance during the last week or so appeared to be below his normal standard,” Placentia Police Lt. Daryll Thomann said of Floyd Braun, 41, who was last heard from Saturday afternoon when he called his mother-in-law to say the family was “lost” somewhere near Palm Springs.
“It was in the way of not shaving, hair not combed, his general appearance, clothing rumpled, not pressed and ironed properly,” Thomann said.
As law enforcement officials and relatives grew increasingly concerned about the family’s mysterious disappearance, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department officers said Wednesday that they have been alerted that Braun might have been taking his wife and children into the desert for a religious experience.
“They (Placentia police) sent us a Teletype to let us know that he might be in the area. They didn’t say that a crime had been committed, they didn’t say that we ought to be searching for him, it said only that the father felt he was coming into the desert to meet God,” said San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Spalnaker.
Braun, who had not shown up at his part-time consulting job at Rockwell in Anaheim since last Wednesday, was scheduled to meet with a priest on Saturday to complete his conversion to Catholicism. Later in the day, he and his wife, Linda, were to baby-sit with her brother’s children. But the couple called Linda’s mother Saturday afternoon to say they would be late.
“We’re lost,” Braun reportedly told her. “Be sure to write this down: We’re lost at a place called Convoy.” Because Braun had earlier mentioned that he was in the Palm Springs area, police concluded that the couple and their children, ages 14, 10 and 3 months, were probably at the tiny desert community of Amboy, near Twentynine Palms.
When the family failed to show up for the baby-sitting appointment and Easter dinner the following day, relatives searched their house in Placentia and found it in disarray. Lamps and tables were knocked over. A bag of clothing and makeup was half-packed. A half-empty baby bottle sat on the coffee table.
“The longer it takes, the more concerned I am,” Jim Braun, Floyd’s brother, said.
“It doesn’t make sense that he would just up and leave for another life or life style and leave everything behind because he certainly is leaving behind a lot of stuff,” Braun said. “That says that the only other reason you can kind of approach is that something either happened that they were forced into, or something that they sort of forced themselves into.”
Braun theorizes that his brother may have allowed into the house a stranger who kidnaped the family, or that he simply felt he needed to get away for a while.
Asked if it was possible that his brother may have forced his family into going away with him, Braun said: “If he did that, I would expect that there’s a lot more severe problems that are going to surface than him just leaving. If they didn’t want to go, that says he was probably in a position where you wouldn’t know what would happen. In this day and age, I’ve seen things happen that you just can’t explain.”
But Braun said he talked to his brother on Thursday “and there was no indication of anything wrong, other than he was very tired from putting in a lot of hours (at work).”
Thomann refused to speculate, other than to say that police have no evidence that any crime has been committed. While police throughout Southern California and parts of Nevada and Arizona have been notified to look for the Brauns’ car (a blue, four-door Mercury Marquis, license number 1FZP326), it is impossible to launch a search without knowing where to start, Thomann said.
Writings Found in House
Meanwhile, Braun said he has told police about some things written by his brother that he found in the house. “They were just normal-type things about his discussions with the children, the good and the bad things of what to do and how to choose,” he said. “But he referred to them in the biblical sense, rather than the terms I would choose. You can teach right and wrong without having to refer to passages in the Bible.”
Braun said he had also called in a minister from his own church to look at some pages of the Bible that had been left open in his brother’s house, one from the book of John, one from Numbers.
“There’s nothing unusual in any of those things that would help explain anything,” he said. Moreover, it would have been normal to have the Bible open around the house because Floyd Braun and his family read from it as a family at least twice a day, he said.