PORTLAND, Ore. — A man who died of exposure in the woods near Southwest Barbur Boulevard has been identified as Zachary A. Young, a 29-year-old from McMinnville who was likely living there before he died of hypothermia.
Young’s father, Vance Young, said Thursday his son dealt with mental illness that fueled extreme paranoia for most of his life. He hadn’t seen or heard from his son for about a year and a half before he was notified of the death.
Zachary Young’s body was discovered Tuesday on a steep hillside, the fourth person to die of exposure in Portland this year.
His father said Zachary Young had fallen off his skateboard at 15 when he wasn’t wearing a helmet. He underwent brain surgery. He was never the same, his father said.
“For me this was a heartbreak,” Vance Young said. “Zach was a great kid. He had all the other aspirations that a kid would have — just a really lot of promise.”
For years, Young was angry at the world. He was fiercely intelligent and could have in-depth conversations about all sorts of topics, his father said, but he couldn’t quite put words to what he was feeling.
His paranoia and fear alienated him from other students at McMinnville High School, and he spent time in a special home for boys.
Young’s parents were divorced, and his father said that Young’s mother spent hundreds of hours working with him, trying to get him help with his mental health.
But once Young turned 18, they couldn’t force him to get assessed to get the social services he qualified for.
Young refused, saying he didn’t think it was right to apply for free programs or get government help, his father said. But he couldn’t hold down a job to provide for himself.
Eventually, he stopped trusting his parents and chose to live on the street. Vance Young said he and his ex-wife deposited money into a bank account that Zach could access. They kept tabs on him that way, by tracking when money was withdrawn.
They also paid for a storage unit in Tigard for his belongings. He lived in it off and on for years. Occasionally, they changed the locks to force him to contact them.
That backfired when he got so mad more than a year ago that he stopped visiting and withdrawing money.
Since then, Vance Young said his son’s life was a mystery to them.
Now, he said he wishes he had looked into having his son committed for mental treatment. He didn’t try before because Zach was an adult and he didn’t seem like someone who couldn’t take care of himself.
Young said it seemed like an unreasonable step and would have hurt his relationship with his son, but wonders if it would have kept him alive.
“I wish we had done something beyond what we did. You can sit there and say I’ve done enough,” Young said. “Yet, he is an adult and once he hits that point, he has to ask for them.”
Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com