Robin Putnam is everywhere and nowhere.
A flier at the entrance to the Utah State Fair shows a slight 25-year-old with shaggy blond hair that covers his ears. His blue eyes stare out from a photo posted at a busy intersection in downtown Salt Lake City. And on a Sandy area flier, his face is smooth and he's not wearing glasses.
But he could have a beard now, and he might be wearing glasses if you see him.
Have you seen him?
"Somebody is bound to see him," his mother says. "At some point, he's got to surface."
"He just left" • On July 8, Putnam boarded a train from Emeryville, Calif., bound for Grand Junction, Colo. His parents would be waiting for him there to take him back home to Telluride. But when the train arrived, Putnam's wallet, laptop and journal were on board, but not the man.
Police and Putnam's parents, Doug and Cindy, believe he stepped off the train during a 3 a.m. stop in Salt Lake City and never got back on it.
Why? They can't say for sure. Robin Putnam suffers from severe anxiety, his family says. He had not been eating or sleeping well before leaving California. He had been having nightmares, and "when he got up from [a nightmare], he couldn't distinguish between the dream state and the waking state," his father, Doug, said.
Putnam had recently finished his junior year at the California College of the Arts. His mother said he was distraught about failing to get a summer internship and worried about mounting student loans.
Adil Mouftakir, the owner of the Berkeley coffee shop where Putnam had worked for about a month this summer, said Putnam showed no signs of trouble before suddenly quitting.
"He just got nervous and walked out of his job on a busy shift," Mouftakir said. "He came in the next day and he wanted his job back. Then he walked out for the second time. He just left."
On the run • For the Salt Lake City Police Department, the Putnam case is one of about five missing-persons reports detectives get each week. "Ninety-five percent of those are resolved within three weeks," Sgt. Shawn Josephson said.
But nine weeks after Robin Putnam went missing, his family is still searching.
Missing adult cases provide inherent difficulties for police, Josephson said.
"Some of them want to be missing," he said, "and so it's real difficult to find somebody. They basically come back and let us find them when they want to." But because of Putnam's mental health concerns, he is considered an "endangered adult."
"We're not sure how much of a mental health issue may be playing a part or if it's a decision he's made," Josephson said. "But we continue to work this case the best we can and hope the public can provide us some assistance."
Since July, Doug and Cindy Putnam have largely put their businesses on hold, living out of suitcases and Salt Lake hotel rooms. Their search has taken them to homeless shelters, parks, abandoned buildings, bars, libraries and underpasses as they follow up on every tip, text message and phone call they have received. They have plastered the valley with fliers and taken out near-daily advertisements in newspapers.
But in recent weeks, it seems, the number of tips have declined, and without new leads to follow, the Putnams have returned home to Telluride without their son.
"My husband and I are both a mess," Cindy Putnam said this week. "We're just worried all day long, every day. We go to work and try to concentrate, and it's almost impossible."
The mother said she needs to run every day she's not in Salt Lake City. The running makes her hungry, so she'll have to eat. It makes her tired, so she'll have to sleep.
Otherwise, she says, who knows?
"That's my son" • In their nine-week search, the Putnams had come across more than one false sighting of their missing son. "So many people want to help and want to find him," Cindy Putnam said. "They want it to be him."
But Mo's Neighborhood grill on West Temple had a good security camera, and as the hopeful parents looked last week at the footage they were sure it was him, too. They left and followed up on other tips. When they returned to the business later in the day to have another look, an employee with better knowledge of the security system was there to help. The image became clearer.
"It just wasn't Robin," Cindy Putnam said.
Cindy Putnam's heart jumps when tipsters provide a detail that leads her to believe her son may be in the area. But with each tip that doesn't pan out there is frustration.
At a drum circle in Liberty Park, a vendor said he'd seen a man who matched her son's description. While many of the regulars there ignored vendors' wares, Cindy Putnam said, this man seemed interested in the crafts, as Robin, an artist, might have been.
At a State Street business, a dirty man with blond hair browsed items before asking to use a bathroom. The shop owner said the man cleaned himself, then tidied up the bathroom before leaving.
"That's my son," Cindy Putnam said.
A man on a TRAX train said he sat across from someone he thought was Putnam. Both men got off the train at 9400 South on a Sunday afternoon. Cindy Putnam said the tipster said the other man walked toward Jordan Commons, so the shops and restaurants there have now been blanketed with fliers.
Cindy Putnam has spent hours at that stop in the afternoon, hoping to see her son.
She asks anyone who sees Robin to take a photo and send it to her.
"Until we see a picture, we don't know for sure that he's in Salt Lake City," she said. "We can only assume he is because he has no ID and no money. Where can he go?"
The Search for Robin Putnam
Anyone knowing anything about Robin Putnam's whereabouts is asked to call801-799-3000. Anonymous tips can be sent by text message to CRIMES (274637). Police ask that texters start the message with TIPSLCPD and reference case #12-119999. The Putnams also ask tips and photos of Robin be sent via text message to 970-729-1653.