No charges for missing Rice student

August 20, 2008 4:23:43 AM PDT
Prosecutors in northern California have decided not to seek criminal charges against a college student from Oklahoma who was discovered unharmed after disappearing nine months ago. University of California-Berkeley campus police arrested Matthew Wilson after finding him in a classroom after school hours with a laptop they believed was stolen. Wilson was taken into custody but was transferred to a San Francisco Bay-area mental hospital and placed on suicide watch.

The only evidence that could have been used to charge Wilson were a pair of scissors he had with him that apparently were university property, Norbert Chu, senior deputy district attorney for Alameda County, Calif., said Tuesday. Officials were unable to determine that the laptop was stolen, Chu said.

"Him being here as a runaway ... is not a crime," Chu said, adding that Wilson's actions were "more a cry for help than an act of criminal behavior."

"It's better that his family come and take him home than for him to languish for a couple of days over something that was very minor," he said.

Wilson was enrolled at Rice University in Houston but was last seen Dec. 15 before he was to take his finals.

Rice University and his family offered a combined $20,000 reward for information on his whereabouts. Crime Stoppers of Houston pitched in another $5,000 for information that would've led to felony charges.

Wilson's mother could not be reached by phone for comment on Tuesday, but Bridget Melson, a psychotherapist who has been working on the case, said Cathy Wilson had traveled to California to meet her son.

"Cathy is just dying to see her son," Melson said. "She is just beside herself with excitement."

Melson said it's not known if Matthew Wilson will choose to go home to southeast Oklahoma with her or to stay where he is.

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