Not even allowed to touch her son's face, Patricia Phillips stood at Miles Dabord's bedside in a San Diego hospital Friday, wondering if she would ever know what happened to him and his brother.
She said she believes he was somehow responsible for the disappearance and presumed death of her other son, former NBA player Bison Dele, and two others. She added she feared he had attempted suicide in a fit of guilt, perhaps sending himself into a drug-induced coma.
It didn't matter. She is still his mother.
"I wanted to hug him, to stroke his face, to hold his hand," she said. Sheriff's deputies wouldn't allow it. "It was heart wrenching to see him like that."
Dabord, also known as Kevin Eugene Williams, was identified from fingerprints Thursday, nearly a week after he was discovered unconscious in Tijuana, naked save for a pair of white socks.
On Friday, he lay unconscious and hooked up to a respirator at Scripps Memorial Hospital in Chula Vista, under the watchful gaze of San Diego County Sheriff's Deputies. His mother said doctors told her he was suffering from severe brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen.
Investigators had said they hoped Dabord, 35, would eventually wake up and explain his brother's disappearance.
Dele, 33, who also went by the name Brian Williams and played for the Clippers and the Chicago Bulls before retiring in 1999, vanished from his boat in the South Pacific in early July along with his girlfriend, Serena Karlan, 30, and boat captain, Bertrand Saldo. Dabord had been sailing with his brother.
Earlier this week, a French Polynesian police official said they were treating the disappearances as a murder investigation and suggested that Dabord might have been involved.
That presumption is based on the details of a conversation Dabord reportedly had with his girlfriend, Erica Weise.
Weise, who spent time with Dabord on the island of Moorea, near Tahiti, in early July, said Dabord told her there had been a fight on the boat and all three of the people he had been traveling with had been killed, police sources said.
FBI special agent Josefina Regula declined to comment on whether Dabord was suspected of murder, saying only that Dabord is "the last person who saw his brother when they went on that boat trip. He is someone we want to talk to."
Dabord has not been charged with murder, but police in Arizona issued a warrant for his arrest after he allegedly tried to buy $152,000 in gold coins in September by forging a check from his brother's account and using his brother's passport as identification.
Any explanation Dabord had for that, as well as for why he allegedly painted over the name of his brother's 55-foot catamaran, the Hakuna Matata, registered it by a different name when it was docked in Tahiti, and himself used an alias when he checked it in, remained unanswered Friday.
Dabord was released from custody in Phoenix and disappeared before officials could further question him. FBI investigators announced earlier this month that he was considered a fugitive and they were looking for him in Mexico.
Last week, officials raided a hotel room in Tijuana where they believed Dabord had stayed as recently as Sept. 10.
As it turned out, he was in Tijuana after all. And, despite the manhunt after him, he was able to cross the border undetected.
He showed up in San Ysidro in an ambulance driven by Mexican officials Sunday morning, according to American sources. He was transferred to an American ambulance and driven to Scripps Memorial Hospital, where he was checked in as a John Doe.
Chula Vista police Sgt. Gary Ficacci said hospital officials called his department to request that officers take fingerprints to try and identify him.
Ficacci said officers were told that Dabord spent eight hours in a Mexican hospital before being transferred to the U.S. He also said Dabord showed no obvious signs of trauma, leading officials to believe that his coma may have been caused by a drug overdose.
"All that stuff is a mystery because he just kind of showed up on our doorstep," he said. Mexican police officials said they did not know anything about the case. U.S. customs officials said they had no record of Dabord crossing the border.
Phillips, who rushed to the hospital Friday with her former husband, Eugene Williams, Dabord's father, said she believes her son may have tried to commit suicide.
She said she asked doctors if her son's condition was caused by an overdose, and they told her they did not know. Hospital officials declined to comment.
Phillips said she got a phone call from her son the night of Sept. 13 in which he sounded groggy and spoke of taking his own life. His slurred, slow speech made it sound like he was "drugged," she said.
It was his third call that week. In two other calls, he told Phillips that he hadn't killed his brother and that he wanted her to know this at the end of his life.
Until last week, Phillips said she hadn't spoken to her son since 1999.
She said she feared he did not feel as loved as his younger brother, an NBA standout who ran with the bulls in Pamplona, won an NBA championship with the Bulls in Chicago, flew airplanes and captivated people even as a child with his charisma.
"Everything that happened to Brian was so much bigger than what happened in Miles' life," his mother said last week. "I think that manifested in Miles to the point where he was telling himself, 'My mother doesn't love me and she never will.' "
But on Friday, Phillips said she tried to demonstrate how much she did love her son, even as he lay lifeless and unresponsive.
She said she fears her son will never wake up. "It's to the point where you are asking yourself ... 'What is life?' " she said.
Still, she talked to him about family, telling him how she was going to take relatives to Disneyland.
"I tried to touch him with that, even though I couldn't touch him," she said. "Gene [his father] was just telling him, 'I love you.' "