6/19/21 update: According to a post on the Facebook page dedicated to searching for Andy Neiman, a body found in the Hudson River on Wednesday was identified today as Andy.
At 3:30 a.m. on May 21, Andy Neiman was deeply distressed. He pleaded with his sister Emily Asher Abramson to take him to Poughkeepsie’s MidHudson Regional Hospital. They arrived an hour later and Neiman was promised a bed in the psychiatric unit by 4 p.m. that afternoon. At 9 p.m., Andy was still waiting in the emergency room. At that point, he walked out of the hospital and hasn’t been seen since.
At 9:30 p.m. that Friday night, the Town of Poughkeepsie Police called Emily and her husband Simon Abramson at their High Falls home to tell them that Andy was gone. He was wearing blue/green hospital scrubs and slippers. He took no money, glasses, shoes, phone or ID.
Emily and Simon were told a patrol car would be on the lookout for Andy. The next day, they alerted every other police force they could think of: the town and city of Poughkeepsie, New York State Troopers, the Dutchess and Ulster County sheriffs. A Town of Poughkeepsie detective, Brad Cookinham, was assigned that Tuesday and scent-sniffing dogs were deployed later that week.
In the meantime, Andy Neiman’s friends, family and strangers rallied. Over 1900 people have joined the Find Andy Facebook group and peppered it with prayers, good wishes and hopeful offers. Volunteers handed out and posted flyers all over Poughkeepsie and several nearby towns. Four hundred and fifty people, including Broadway performers, raised more than $40,000 on GoFundMe to hire private investigators.
Who is the 48-year-old man from St. Louis who has aroused so much compassion? The flyers describe him as 5’10,” 165 lbs., with brown hair and brown eyes. Andy Neiman is a songwriter, a playwright and performer, “a thespian with a Shakespearean bent,” says his younger sister Emily. His talent and charm are evident on his YouTube channel. The doting father of an eight-year-old daughter, Andy is a spiritual man whose hobbies are baking pies and mixing cocktails. He has struggled with bipolar disorder since 1995. His brother and sometime collaborator, New York City-based David Neiman, says the psychotropic medication Seroquel stabilized Andy for 13 years, until it lost its efficacy. Higher doses didn’t help.
The Neiman siblings are close. David says Andy told him he suffered from physical pain after a vasectomy two years ago. He began describing his life as a torture chamber and the rigors of the pandemic made things even harder. Last May, he wrote a suicide note. About nine weeks ago, he overdosed, saying he wanted the old Andy to die so that a new Andy could be born. His siblings undertook a cross-country odyssey to get him help. They took him to Tucson, AZ, Austin, TX, Lancaster, PA and more, searching for in-patient treatment. They thought the Pennsylvania facility might be the answer, but he walked out after three days and made his way to his sister Emily’s High Falls home. But only hours after arriving, his psychosis seemed to be mounting and he pleaded for immediate relief. When he didn’t get it at the hospital, he wandered off once again, this time into the Poughkeepsie night, destination unknown.
Emily is lucky to have friends with logistics and search and rescue skills. On the cold, rainy Saturday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend, they led a 50-person search of the Poughkeepsie area. Volunteers, aided by rescue dogs, fanned out into surrounding woods, abandoned buildings and shelters. They knocked on church and temple doors, covering 400 acres. The next day, a woman thought she saw Andy by the side of the road in Newburgh. Faculty from the Newburgh Free Academy North, where Emily teaches Spanish, began handing out and posting flyers. When the weather cleared a few days later, the private investigators hired by the family fielded drones to scan area woods and rivers.
Meanwhile Simon ran a hotline from their home and sifted through tips. Strangers submitted photos of “possible Andys.” A rare bit of comic relief was a snapshot of a naked skinny dipper escaping a private pool in northern New Jersey – another “fake Andy.” In recent days, Andy’s disappearance has been national news. Andy Cohen, the Bravo and Sirius XM radio host who has known Neiman since high school in St. Louis, has publicly prayed for his safe return. The Today Show, ET and People Magazine have quoted his pleas.
Emily says the family is “deeply in need of a recharge.” They are grateful for people like Michelle Norton, a 42-year-old health care specialist. Although she’s never met Andy or his relatives, the Kingston resident has been out searching for Andy in Poughkeepsie almost every day since she learned that he disappeared. Undaunted by the 90-degree temperature last weekend, she set up a table in Pulaski Park, then headed off to comb College Hill Park for the third time. For five hours, she showed park goers Andy’s picture but no one remembered spotting him. Michelle has five siblings and is driven by her belief that “there but for the grace of God, go I.” She says she’s not giving up.
Andy’s family can’t help wondering how things might have been different if the hospital had found a room for Andy sooner. Asked for comment, the hospital issued a statement, saying, “While we cannot comment on any individual patient’s situation due to privacy laws, we share concern for the well-being of each patient and the patient’s caregivers.”
The family would like to enlist further support from The Newburgh Community Search and Rescue (COMMSAR), a volunteer group, who have told them they’re ready to search Poughkeepsie’s nooks and crannies once more with dogs and professional equipment. But Simon says they are stymied by a lack of collaboration of the Town of Poughkeepsie police.
Our calls to the Town of Poughkeepsie police spokesperson for comment have not been returned.
Andy’s relatives want readers to know what a bright light he is; a sophisticated, clever, caring man whose brain chemistry went sadly wrong. Emily says last Thursday, Andy’s birthday, was her toughest day. In this period of terrible uncertainty, she says it’s hard not to swing into deep grief. Andy’s brother David says he sustains himself with a vision of Andy being cared for by a religious community, his brother on a spiritual journey whose Moses-like wanderings in the desert will be rewarded with the re-birth Andy so desperately craves.
If you think you see Andy Neiman, please call the New York State Missing Persons Clearinghouse at 800-346-3543.