Rice University Student Tells Police He Wanted to Come West and Disappear

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday August 15, 2008 - 11:56:00 AM

Matthew Wilson, the missing Rice University student who was found by UC police on the UC Berkeley campus Wednesday, was transported to a local hospital for medical assessment after being interviewed by a homicide detective from the Berkeley Police Department later that night. 

UC Berkeley police located Wilson in Dwinelle Hall on the UC campus and are investigating him for theft of university property, according to authorities. 

They then handed him over to Berkeley police for psychological evaluation.  

Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, spokesperson for the Berkeley Police Department (BPD), said in a statement that Matthew had told the homicide detective that he had been “living on the streets” in recent months. 

Kusmiss did not release the nature of Wilson’s medical assessment, saying that it was protected by confidentiality. 

Wilson told the detective during the two-hour interview at the Ron Tsukamoto Public Safety Building that he “wanted to come west and disappear,” police said. 

It took Wilson approximately a week to drive to Berkeley and he “lived in his car off and on until it was towed” by Berkeley police June 10. 

He spent quite a bit of time on the UC Berkeley campus, police said, and slept near some of the buildings in recent months. 

He told the detective that the UC student community had been a “good source of food” and that he did not make any social connections or friends while in Berkeley. 

Kusmiss said in her statement that “as a result of talking with Wilson, BPD would characterize him as having faced, and continues to face personal challenges. He can best speak to what those are.” 

Kusmiss added that the Berkeley Police Department’s participation in the case had essentially come to an end since Wilson was not a suspect in a city crime. 

“BPD (and UCPD) are surprised that we had not had contact with Wilson prior to last night,” Kusmiss said. 

“Wilson blended well into the student/Berkeley community.” 

Wilson, a computer science junior at Rice, was last seen by his roommate in his off-campus apartment building in Houston Dec. 14. His disappearance caught the attention of national media and prompted several non-profit groups to search for him. Wilson’s 2004 silver Dodge Neon was found parked on the street in a West Berkeley neighborhood in June.  

In the car, police discovered clothes, food and identity-change literature on which they found Wilson’s fingerprints.  

Authorities did not rule out the possibility that Wilson, 21, might have left home on his own accord.  

Wilson’s mother flew to the Bay Area recently to conduct a search for him in collaboration with a Pleasanton-based search and recovery group. Although sightings were reported in People’s Park and a few other places in Berkeley, police were not able to locate him.  

Officer Mitch Celaya, spokesperson for the UC Police Department, told the Daily Planet that university police officers had come across Wilson after business hours in a classroom at Dwinelle.  

“We identified him as the missing Texas student and contacted Berkeley police to let them know we had located him,” Celaya said. “We allowed them to interrogate him. They want to hold him for psychological evaluation. As soon as the evaluation is complete we will bring him back and continue our investigation.”  

Celaya said Wilson had been found just before 7 p.m. in the classroom with a laptop hooked to a video utility box.  

“We have a criminal case against him for possession of stolen university utilities,” he said.  

According to a press release from the Berkeley Police Department, Wilson was dressed in a black T-shirt, black jeans and black athletic shoes when he was found. 

He had short hair and no beard and was wearing wire-framed glasses.  

Rice University and Wilson’s family have been notified, police said.