Blog Post

Good Samaritan Helps Abandoned Woman

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer An abandoned elderly woman suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and known only as “Jane Doe” for the last 15 years has been reunited with her family, thanks to the efforts of a good samaritan who refused to give up until he found where the woman belonged. According to a report by the Associated Press, the woman, now known as Elba Leonor Diaz Soccarras, who turns 75 on March 28, was found wandering around a mall in New Jersey in 1994. She was well-dressed and carrying an empty purse but was disoriented and unable to speak. Police were unable to identify her and were forced to commit her to a New Jersey psychiatric hospital. Her case file landed on the desk of Lt. Eduardo Ojeda of the New Jersey Department of Human Services police six years ago and he tried everything to determine the woman’s  identity. "It was always on my mind, it really kind of bothered me," Ojeda said. "As someone said: 'You don't find peace until you find all the pieces.'" Last summer, when the psychiatric hospital called to say her institutionalizion was up for periodic review, Ojeda decided to launch a public appeal. He was soon flooded with tips. People said they frequently saw her wandering around the the town of Woodbridge and ordered a cheeseburger and cup of coffee at a fast food restaurant nearly every day. Her hair was always nicely fixed. Those who knew the woman said she was a humble, hardworking, churchgoing woman who fell prey to what is now an advanced case of Alzheimer's. Ojeda also learned that the woman had lived in Brooklyn for years, supporting her only daughter with various factory jobs. Tips eventually led him to the woman’s daughter, who still lives in Brooklyn, and whose birth certificate revealed Soccarras' full name and nationality – Colombian. The daughter, who remains unnamed, was shocked when she received the phone call about her mother. The two hadn’t spoken since they had a falling out years ago and she assumed her mother had since returned to Colombia. With help from the Colombian consulate in New York, investigators were able to ascertain that  Soccarras emigrated legally in 1969 from the town of Villanueva, where she grew up with six siblings in the La Guajira region of Colombia. With her identity and legal immigration status established, she has now been approved for Supplemental Security Income assistance and Medicaid and is awaiting transfer to a nursing home, according to New Jersey's Department of Human Services. No one knows how Soccarras ended up in New Jersey or came to be abandoned at the mall. Ojeda, 52, said he has always been haunted by the case. "Every person, no matter what, has the right to die with the dignity of a first and last name," he said. © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace.