By Juan A. Lozano
The case of a Texas man who was reported missing as a teenager in 2015 and found alive last week at a church took an unexpected turn Thursday when police revealed it all was a hoax — the man was only gone for a day, but he and his mother maintained the ruse for eight years by using false names.
Prosecutors did not file any charges against Janie Santana and her son, Rudolph “Rudy” Farias IV, but the investigation is continuing, Houston police detectives said. They gave few other details about where they believe the case could lead.
Santana’s family said they suspected Farias was not missing and blamed Santana for keeping him away from them all these years.
“We’re upset that (authorities) are not going to do anything,” Pauline Sanchez Rodriguez, Farias’ aunt, said as she and other family members stood outside Houston police headquarters.
Santana did not return a telephone call seeking comment Thursday.
The announcement came a week after police said they found Farias after receiving a call about a person lying on the ground in front of a southeast Houston church.
Authorities had not previously said where Farias spent the past eight years since he was reported missing as a 17-year-old who took his two dogs for a walk near his family’s home in northeast Houston and never came back. Now 25, he was hospitalized after police found him last week, and detectives interviewed him and his mother on Wednesday.
Investigators concluded Farias returned home the day after he was reported missing but “the mother, Janie, continued to deceive police by remaining adamant that Rudy was still missing,” Lt. Christopher Zamora said during a news conference.
During the past eight years, Farias and his mother had various interactions with officers, police said.
“During these contacts, fictitious names and date of births were given — misleading the officers — and Rudy would remain missing,” Zamora said.
After Farias was reported missing, Houston police and Texas Equusearch, a civilian search and recovery team, looked for him without success, although his dogs were later found.
In the years following, there were several possible sightings of Farias, according to a private investigator hired by Santana a few months after he went missing. They included one sighting in 2018 that police responded to, but the investigation remained open as a missing person case.
Rodriguez said her late mother, Rosa Sosa Rodriguez, had been living with Santana and kept telling relatives that Farias was living in the house with them.
“My mom would always tell me, ‘Rudy is here ... He’s there. He’s in that room,’” Rodriguez said. “And Janie said, 'No she’s lying, she’s losing it.'”
Zamora said Santana claimed the person friends and family were seeing was not Farias but her nephew, but "we disputed that.”
Rodriguez and other family members also accused Santana of not presenting an accurate picture of herself to people and of not caring about family members.
Court records show Santana has used at least three different names and was accused of mistreating her mother while they lived together. During a 2020 dispute over her mother’s guardianship, Santana’s sisters accused her of forcing their mother to live in a home that had “animal urine and feces throughout” and causing her to have “significant bed sores” because she “did not have a bed and slept on the couch.”
In a 2011 affidavit filed in a court case in which Santana’s marriage was declared “null and void” because a judge concluded she was married to another man at the time, Rodriguez said her sister “has always been a pathological liar. She lies about everything.”
Rodriguez said she and other family members have yet to speak with Farias and they remain worried about him.
“I just want him safe,” said Sylvia Sanchez Lopez, another aunt of Farias.
But Zamora, with the police department’s Missing Persons Unit, said Farias was safe and he had decided to stay “with his mother by choice.”
Police Chief Troy Finner said when Farias was reported missing, he was 17 years old, which is considered an adult in Texas. Now in his twenties, Farias is “a grown man,” he said.
After police announced that Farias had been found, Santana released a statement saying, he “is receiving the care he needs to overcome his trauma, but at this time, he is nonverbal and not able to communicate with us.” She also asked for privacy.
Finner declined Thursday to answer questions about the mental health of Farias or his mother and would not say what might have motivated their actions. He said police are “right at the beginning” of their investigation into what happened.
Police also said patrol officers responded to a burglary call Wednesday night at the family's home and that it is now part of their investigation.