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'Missing' Houston man Rudy Farias says his mother brainwashed him

Rudy Farias is seen on a missing person's flyer from the Texas Center for the Missing. He was found alive in Houston in late June.
Texas Center for the Missing
/
Screenshot by NPR
Rudy Farias is seen on a missing person's flyer from the Texas Center for the Missing. He was found alive in Houston in late June.

Earlier this month, Texas authorities announced that they had located Rudy Farias, a man who had been reported missing eight years ago, outside a Houston church.

The shocking story made national headlines, particularly because the 23-year-old Farias was found alive after so much time — and in the same city where he vanished nearly a decade earlier.

But in the days since Farias's reappearance, new details have painted a murkier picture of what transpired since he was reported missing in 2015.

Investigators now say Farias was actually living with his mother during that time, and she lied to police about her son's whereabouts.

And Farias has spoken to the press, claiming that his mother was controlling and that she coerced him into keeping up the lie that he was missing.

Farias' mother lied about his disappearance, police say

On March 7, 2015, Farias' mother, Janie Santana, filed a missing person's report for her son. He had taken the family's two dogs for a walk, but they came home without him, Houston Public Media reported.

After interviewing Farias and Santana in recent days, police now believe Farias returned home one day later, but that Santana kept up the lie that her son was gone.

"The mother, Janie, continued to deceive police by remaining adamant that Rudy was still missing," Houston Police Lt. Christopher Zamora said during a press conference last Thursday.

"She alleged her nephew was the person her friends and family were seeing coming and going, however we disputed that," he added.

Though his case remained open, Farias, who was 17 at the time, apparently went on living with his mother.

Zamora added that during the eight-year period when he was allegedly missing, Farias had multiple encounters with the Houston Police, but he or his mother gave officers a fake name and birthdate.

Relatives accused Santana of hiding Farias away from his family, Houston Public Media reported, and Santana was also banned from GoFundMe this month over the fundraiser she set up for her son in 2015.

"It just felt like brainwashing"

According to Farias, his mother psychologically manipulated him into staying in the family home and keeping up the ruse that he was missing.

"I had free will to leave," he told Houston local TV news station KTRK. "It just felt like brainwashing, honestly, [she] just kept confusing me."

For example, he said, Santana told him he would be arrested if he left home. "She locked me in there, pretty much, mentally."

Farias said that, following the deaths of his half-brother and father, his mother was the only close family he had left. He told KTRK that he had rarely left home in the last eight years except to go to work with his mother.

Although he said Santana pushed certain boundaries, such as forcing him to sleep in her bed, he said she didn't sexually assault him.

Now, he said he's hoping to put the ordeal behind him and start fresh.

"I want to have a family, a job, a car, a house," Farias told the TV station. "I just want to live my life"

Prosecutors have declined to file charges against Farias or his mother so far

The Harris County District Attorney's Office has so far declined to press charges against Santana for lying about her son's disappearance or against Farias for giving police a false identity, Zamora said.

That could change, police noted, as the investigation is ongoing.

Police also said there was no evidence to show that any sexual abuse or kidnapping had occurred, and they noted that Farias was an adult when he was reported missing.

Authorities said they had also connected Farias with victim services resources to help him recover.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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