A local teacher is now incredibly relieved after her son who had gone missing three weeks ago was located.
Evan Ochoa, 23, who suffers from severe schizophrenia, was last seen on Oct. 22 at his home in Oxnard before being located on Sunday, his mother confirmed to KTLA.
According to family members, he left abruptly and without any access to money, taking only a skateboard and a backpack with him.
After experiencing periods of homelessness and checking into a drug rehabilitation facility, Evan began to develop “peculiar tendencies,” which included repeating bizarre phrases, talking to himself, and explaining “outlandish” ideas he had, according to his mother, Valarie Ulrich.
Evan eventually landed in jail in 2020 for threatening a former friend’s father, Ulrich told KTLA.
“He spent the next year in jail as the courts tried to get him sane enough to stand trial,” she said. “COVID issues didn’t help. The court was trying to send him to a state hospital for help with his obvious mental health issue, but there was no room, and randomly the courts sent him home after a year and said he was just fine to stand trial.”
After being released, Evan was placed under the care of a psychiatrist and diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.
Despite dealing with symptoms of his mental illness, this was a time of relative stability for him and his family.
“Even though he heard voices and had crazy ideas of what was real, he could still hold a conversation and interact appropriately with the outside world,” Ulrich said. “He would come home, and we would work on getting him not only sober, but [also] on track with his medications.”
Ulrich, who has taught English at Channel Islands High School in Oxnard for 17 years, said that after briefly beating his drug addiction, Evan took it upon himself to get a job.
However, his new occupation disrupted his daily routine, and he stopped taking his psychiatric medication completely.
Evan eventually landed back in jail, and when he was released in Jan. 2023, returned home “totally out of touch with reality.”
“We tried seeking conservatorship, but the laws were such that he didn’t meet the criteria,” Ulrich said. “Even though this kid was totally incapable of making sound decisions.”
Throughout most of 2023, Evan never left the house, Ulrich said, stricken by anxiety. Then, during a manic episode, he called 911 to turn himself in for his bench warrant for failure to appear in court for his sentencing in relation to the 2020 threats against his former friend’s father.
He was eventually sentenced to time served and placed on parole. He came home with a demeanor his family had not seen before; he was depressed, distant, quiet and, most notably, more “still” than ever.
And just when Ulrich began to brace for another manic period, Evan did the opposite. He became “secretive,” according to his mother, before disappearing on that fateful October day.
She shared a photo with KTLA taken just one week before Evan’s disappearance which features her smiling alongside her boys.
“I actually had all my boys, my sons, stepson, nephew and ‘bonus son,’ all together in one space,” she said. “It was the happiest moment I’ve had in a few years.”
In the weeks following Evan’s disappearance, Ulrich and her family would report him missing to the Ventura and Oxnard police departments and continue to canvas the area looking for him, enlisting the help of Evan’s friends and other community members.
Evan was located in East Ventura on Sunday, Valarie Ulrich confirmed. A resident had messaged her after seeing the story online and eventually contacted the Oxnard Police Department, she told KTLA.
According to Ulrich, Evan was found “skinny and dirty” but alert, and his family is incredibly relieved that they finally know where he is.