Robin Putnam finished his junior year at the California College of the Arts in Oakland in May.
The 25-year-old worked at a coffee shop in Berkeley for the summer until escalating anxiety attacks, stress and concerns about money became too much for him. He quit the job and planned to return to his parents’ home in Rico, Colorado for a while.
Robin boarded an Amtrak train in Emeryville, California on July 7. His parents were waiting for him at the station in Grand Junction, Colorado the next day.
But Robin never made it to Colorado.
His parents would later learn that he got off the train around 3 a.m. on July 8 in Salt Lake City. He left behind his laptop and his wallet, apparently only taking a small backpack with him.
That was seven weeks ago. His family hasn’t heard from him since.
Robin’s parents, Cindy and Doug Putnam, have spent much of that time in Utah, plastering downtown Salt Lake City with missing person fliers and chasing down reports of possible sightings in surrounding cities.
Calls to Robin’s cell phone go straight to voicemail, so his parents do not know if he has it with him, and there has been no activity on his debit or credit cards.
“We don’t know why he got off the train in the middle of the night,” Cindy Putnam told HLN Friday.
She called Robin’s disappearance “bizarre” and said it was completely out of character for him not to have made contact with his family. She also noted some observations made by possible witnesses that have left his parents deeply concerned.
Many people in the Salt Lake City area have reported a similar sight: a young homeless man, extremely hungry-looking, yet very polite and noticeably reluctant to accept handouts of food or money. A few, however, have also said he seemed to be mumbling to himself, a possibility that frightens and disturbs Cindy.
Then there was the “psychotic break,” as his landlady in Oakland described it. A few days before he got on the train, Robin woke from a nightmare in the middle of the night, panicked and unable to discern dream from reality.
A woman who spoke to Robin on the Amtrak train told his parents that he said he had not been sleeping or eating much lately. It was unclear if that was a result of the anxiety attacks or some conscious decision not to eat or sleep.
Salt Lake City police have classified Robin as missing and endangered due to concerns about his possible mental state.
“It’s not just some 25-year-old blowing his parents off,” Cindy Putnam said. “He’s definitely not thinking right.”
The most recent sighting that Robin’s parents feel certain was him was on August 6 in Sandy, Utah. A woman leaving a business dinner at a restaurant there told Putnam she saw a man fitting Robin’s description standing by a dumpster.
She and her co-workers offered him food and money and he was very hesitant to take it. They gave him a few shirts, which he folded neatly.
“I don’t know any other homeless kid who would do that,” Putnam said.
The following day, one of them saw a missing person flier in downtown Salt Lake City and recognized Robin’s photo.
Last Wednesday, a woman reported seeing Robin at a grocery store in Salt Lake City. She said a man fitting his description came up to her and asked to borrow 72 cents. The Putnams reviewed hours of surveillance video from the store and did not see him.
“The word is out and people are looking,” Cindy Putnam said.
In a journal he left behind on the train, Robin had written about how excited he was to return to his parents’ home, to go hiking with them and have a beer with his father. Those entries came after several blank pages, however. Before the blank pages, Robin had drawn a picture of a train station with an “exit” sign.
Prior to his disappearance, Robin mentioned to his mother that he felt like he was on a “spiritual journey.” She said Friday he could be having some sort of “psycho-spiritual crisis.”
She pointed to an entry in his journal where he had written a quote he particularly liked: “I will receive what I put out into the universe.”
“If anybody would actually try to live that, it would be my kid,” she said.
The Putnams’ search for their son is growing increasingly dire not just because of the amount of time he has been missing but also because they are running out of money. They are both self-employed and have had to let some business matters slide as they make the seven-hour drive back and forth from Colorado and stay in hotels in Utah.
Cindy Putnam urged anyone who believes they see Robin to take a photo of him and ask him his name, and, if possible, to keep him from leaving while they call for help.
Salt Lake City police have asked anyone with information regarding Robin Putnam’s whereabouts to call 801-799-3000 or text tips to CRIMES (274637) beginning with the keyword “TIPSLCPD.”
For the latest crime and justice news, watch Nancy Grace weeknights at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET on HLN.