On a Friday, Floyd Braun of Placentia didn't show up for work at Rockwell International. The next day he called his mother-in-law and told her that he, his wife and three children, ages 14, 10 and 3 months, were lost near some California desert town and would be late arriving back home.
Then on Sunday, when Braun and his family didn't appear for Easter dinner, the relatives went to the family's house. What they saw alarmed them: furniture and other household items in disarray, some even broken, and half-packed suitcases and bags scattered here and there.
The relatives called police, who said it did not look like burglary or robbery. The usual items thieves steal had not been touched. "It looked like someone just said: 'Let's go, let's go now!" said Placentia Police Lt. Daryll Thomann.
Police said there was no evidence of a crime, but they broadcast a description of the Brauns' car to other law enforcement agencies. "According to the family, (Floyd Braun) is the kind of guy who never does anything out of the ordinary," Thomann said.
But days went by with no word of the family, and people began remembering not-so-ordinary things.
Fellow employees said Braun, a computer consultant, had recently been coming to work unshaven and in rumpled clothing. One co-worker said Braun explained that he wasn't shaving because "hair is evil" and he wanted to grow it all out.
He had made an appointment with a priest to discuss converting to his wife's religion, Catholicism. Placentia police, after interviewing relatives and church officials, alerted other agencies that they believed Braun might have "felt he was coming into the desert to meet God," according to one source who saw the Placentia alert.
Then on Thursday came word from the tiny town of Lone Pine, Calif., on the eastern side of the Sierra, that the entire family, after walking 10 miles over 4 1/2 days, had straggled into town, safe but suffering from dehydration, fatigue and a few pulled muscles.
Thomann said he got a "kind of rambling story" from Braun. "Basically, they'd been driving down the road and saw some lights behind them. He (Braun) got scared, thought he was being followed and pulled off the road."
On Friday, Braun issued a one-page, typewritten statement.
As part of the conversion to Catholicism, he wrote, he and his wife, Linda, began sorting through their household goods to root out the "unwholesome" items. As they were doing so, and rearranging furniture while they were at it, they decided to go for a drive to think over "unanswered feelings" about the conversion. They left the clutter.
As they were driving at about 11 p.m. Saturday, the Brauns were "engaged in a three-car effort to stop the Braun car," according to the statement. "After an approximate 30-minute activity of getting away from the three-car group, the Brauns ended up in the desert about 1 a.m. Sunday. The next 4 1/2 days were spent in the desert attempting to reach safety."
"The above statement is intended to show that a stable, respected family went through a difficult experience that took a 'strange' appearance . . .," the release stated.
"The Braun family thanks everyone for their concern."