DETROIT -- A man who lived without an identity for more than fouryears was finally reunited with his family outside a Detroit courtroomTuesday.
Maurice Williams - previously known as John D108 Doe -hugged his relatives, although it wasn't immediately clear whether herecognized them. Williams has been diagnosed with severe mental illnessand doesn't speak much. He smiled and waved at several people Tuesday.
Williams,46, got his identity back after an October article in the Detroit FreePress. Now, he's on the path to getting his family back permanently,too.
"Everybody is waiting to see him," said Janine Williams, who is seeking guardianship of her brother.
OnTuesday, Wayne County Probate Judge Terrance Keith said he lookedforward to Maurice Williams being back with his family and told JanineWilliams that he's close to coming home.
"The probate process,this part of it, is not about keeping families apart," Keith said. "It'sabout trying to find the elements to bring them back together."
Keithassigned John Sullivan, who previously had contact with those involved,to work with Williams' sister and his court-appointed guardian,Kathleen White-Montgomery, owner of Guardianship Service.
Sullivan said he would help facilitate visitation and that could then transition into overnight stays.
White-Montgomerysaid she has reservations about Williams being in the care of hisfamily. She said neither of his sisters has called her since he wasidentified, even though her phone number appeared in the newspaper.
"It'salways good for him to know his family," White-Montgomery said. "I hope(Judge Keith) takes another look at what is going on because I'm notvery enthused about turning him over to that family. I hope I'm wrong."
A hearing was scheduled for Feb. 12, when a plan can be set to move forward.
MauriceWilliams was placed in an adult foster care home in 2008. He was foundon a Detroit street, and police took him to Detroit Receiving Hospitalfor treatment, according to Tuesday's testimony. Court documents say hecould not tell officials his name.
Police ran his fingerprints anddidn't get any hits. Gateway Community Health, a Detroit agency thatprovides mental health services, placed him in a home. Audre Watts, anadult foster care provider, has cared for him since, along with herstaff.
"A number of things could have, should have, might havehappened in 2008," Keith said. "What I am really focused on right now is2013 and his care."
During the hearing, Williams wore a blue sweater and plaid shirt and silently looked around the courtroom.
Sullivantold the court he visited Williams, who appeared to be well-cared-for,well-dressed and happy, but who had limited communication skills.
"I asked him if he wanted to go with his sister or stay with Ms. Watts," Sullivan said.
He answered, "Stay," Sullivan said.
Janine Williams said her brother hasn't spoken since he was 14 other than to say "yes" and "no" in a low voice.
"All of the things that they're saying my brother is saying, they're lying," she said.
The judge asked whether she was present when Sullivan asked the question, and she responded "No."
Wattstold the Free Press that Maurice Williams doesn't talk much, but hassaid other words and phrases, such as "Hi, Ms. Watts," "pop," "bathroom"and "bedroom."
She said he requires constant care but that she doesn't want to keep him from his family.
JanineWilliams said in court Tuesday that her family filed a missing-personreport in 2008, the year her brother disappeared, and that she callednursing homes - and even went to some - looking for him.
"We've been looking for him all these years," she said.
Shealleged in court papers that her brother was kidnapped and repeatedthat claim in court Tuesday, but Keith shot it down and said thetestimony doesn't suggest that.
"The fact of the matter is, he ishere and you're able to stand before this court and say, 'I want mybrother back' instead of having some other conversation about yourbrother," Keith said.
He commended Maurice Williams' caretakersfor their efforts and said they made sure he had food, clothing and aroof over his head.
"They can't love him as a brother," Keith said. "But they can love him as another human being - which is what they've done."
Wattssaid workers from Gateway Community Health sent people out to attemptto identify Williams again in 2009 and 2010 but were unable to do so.She continued to care for him - even putting the name "John Doe" on hisbirthday cake - and footed the bill for many of his needs. She has yetto receive more than $40,000 for expenses that accrued over that timefor things such as room and board.
White-Montgomery's daughter,Stacey Conyers, become involved with Williams' care last May when hermother was appointed his guardian. Conyers spent hours searching forclues to his identity. She scoured missing-persons websites, made callsand ultimately contacted the Free Press to try to get help figuring outhis identity.
Without an identity and Social Security number, it was a struggle to get him the medical care he needed, his caretakers said.
SocialSecurity checks may have been issued for Williams during the time hewas in adult foster care, according to testimony Tuesday. Keith askedJanine Williams whether she had been receiving the checks.
"They stopped a long time ago," she said. "Because I stopped filling out the forms."
It's an item that Keith said still needs to be sorted out.
After the hearing, Janine Williams declined to comment, as did her cousin.
But Conyers said Maurice Williams was "done wrong."
"He had no voice and he fell through the cracks," she said.