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'It Really Would Be A Miracle': Family 'Hopeful' After Possible Sighting Of Son Who Went Missing Near Golden Gate Bridge In 2010
“The best thing in the world would just be to hear him say, ‘Hi mom’ and just to know he’s okay,” Jackson Miller’s mother, Gina Funaro told Oxygen.com this week.
A California man, who vanished as a teen more than a decade ago, was possibly sighted attempting to hitch a ride from a retail parking lot in the suburbs of Sacramento in March.
Jackson Miller has been missing since May 17, 2010, when his Honda was found abandoned near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. No suicide note or keys were found in the vehicle. His family said he was suffering from anxiety and depression, and wasn’t taking his medication when he disappeared.
“There was some certainty that Jackson did not jump from the bridge, but it is still unknown,” the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on April 12.
Miller was living in Cupertino at the time and his disappearance came a month before his 20th birthday.
For more than 10 years, Miller’s family have agonized over his disappearance.
“We’ve been sad and incomplete since Jackson left,” his mother, Gina Funaro, told Oxygen.com. “There’s always been a slim, sliver of hope [he’s alive]. “We both always held out hope that he was out there but honestly we flip-flopped back and forth because of the amount of time and just not being able to imagine why in the world he wouldn’t call us if he was out there. That’s just a huge mystery for us.”
Now, it seems Miller may have been spotted at a Target in Woodland, California late last month, according to authorities.
On March 26, a woman told detectives she was smoking in the store’s parking lot when a stranger approached her and asked for a cigarette and a ride to Sacramento. When she turned him down, however, the man requested she call him an Uber. The individual later said he was a “missing person” and identified himself as “Jackson,” according to Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office.
Surveillance images captured the man in question entering the Target wearing shorts. He later exited wearing black pajama pants with green shamrocks and a dark green sweater. A blue face mask partially obscured his face.
An area business owner later contacted detectives, claiming a man possibly matching Jackson Miller's description had entered her store looking for a ride to Los Angeles. The man left after “no one offered to help,” according to Santa Rosa County detectives.
Authorities, who planned to review surveillance footage from the second possible separate sighting of Miller, haven't yet publicly disclosed if the tip was viable.
Detectives also interviewed an Uber driver and reviewed trip logs from the ride-sharing company in the area and at the time of the incident, which ultimately turned up no leads.
“The Sheriff’s Office is aware of the missing person case of Jackson Miller,” Russell Davis, a public information officer for the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office told Oxygen.com in a statement. “Detectives are currently in communication with the Woodland Police Department. At this time, this is still an ongoing investigation and detectives are currently using all leads to locate Mr. Miller.”
Funaro said she was overjoyed to learn of her son’s possible sighting, but noted she was trying to remain “cautiously optimistic.”
“The best thing in the world would just be to hear him say, ‘Hi mom’ and just to know he’s okay,” the San Jose landscape designer added.
Miller’s father, too, said he’s “hopeful” the recent possible sighting was authentic.
“We just really want to verify he’s still alive and healthy,” Paul Miller told Oxygen.com. “We can’t understand why he would never contact us because we were close. That’s the biggest mystery.”
The 62-year-old marketing executive characterized the sighting as one of the biggest breaks in the case in years.
“We’ve had different leads over the years but this was the first one where somebody identified themselves as Jackson as a missing person,” Paul Miller added.
The National Center For Missing And Exploited Children has since conducted a forensic cross-analysis of the Target surveillance images captured last month with earlier images of Jackson Miller. The results, however, came back “inconclusive," John Bischoff, vice president of the Missing Children Division, told Oxygen.com on Thursday.
The mask worn by the man seen in the surveillance footage made it difficult to positively identify him, Miller’s parents explained. They, however, stressed the person in question shares some physical traits with their missing son, particularly pointing to the man's hairline.
“[I was] a little bit frustrated we couldn’t even see his eyes straight on,” Funaro said. “He has very distinctive eyes. The more and more I look at it, when I compare it to other pictures of him with his hair shaved like that and at that angle, it looks so much like him.”
Jackson Miller would be 30 years old if alive today.
His parents described him as a “very intelligent,” “strong-willed” “gentle,” and “private” person. He excelled in sports as a teenager, specifically swimming, as well as track and field, soccer, and wrestling, they said.
Miller also suffered from anxiety and feelings of insecurity, his parents said. Shortly before his disappearance, the 19-year-old had stopped taking his prescribed medication, resulting in sleepless nights and increasingly “paranoid” and erratic behavior.
“[He went] off the rails,” his mother recalled.
To this day, however, Jackson Miller’s parents are confident their son didn't plunge to his death at the Golden Gate Bridge nearly 11 years ago.
“They checked all their surveillance — nobody jumped that day,” Paul Miller said.
Miller’s father said officials told them CCTV cameras later captured his son boarding a bus.
“They can actually see the car he drove in, he then walked to a nearby bus stop, a bus came up, and he was gone out of the view of the video,” Paul Miller said.
Days later, further “credible” sightings of an individual matching Miller's description began to surface elsewhere in San Francisco, his said.
“At least, it wasn’t 100% that he jumped,” Paul Miller stated. “And it looked like he was still in the area for a few days and who knows what happened after that.”
However, the case went dormant for years, leaving the Miller’s in a painful limbo.
“It’s been very difficult,” Paul Miller described. “It’s unresolved but I’d rather have hope than to know 100% that he’s gone.”
Jackson Miller’s grandmother, who is suffering from congestive heart failure, was recently transferred into hospice care in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, his parents said. His family is now praying he’ll resurface in time to say goodbye.
“She wishes that he would call her,” Funaro said. “She doesn’t want to die without hearing his voice again. They were very close. She was special to him. A call from him would really be very important to her...She’s not ready to go yet.”
It’s a reunion their family has “visualized” a “million times,” Funaro said.
“It really would be a miracle,” Funaro said. “If he were safe, healthy, it would just be our dream come true.”
Anyone with information related to Miller’s whereabouts are urged to contact the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office at 408-808-4500.