‘I’m going away’ : Two decades later, a family from Morris Township still hopes David Abramovitz will return

Jill (left), David and Stephanie Abramovitz, circa 1997. Photo courtesy of the Abramovitz family.
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By Tyler Barth

 

Where is my brother David?

Sisters Jill Abramovitz and Stephanie Abramovitz Fletcher have been asking the question for 20 years, ever since David Scott Abramovitz left their Morris Township house for the last time, bound for parts unknown.

“It’s that horrible thing where you want closure and you also want hope,” says Jill, now a successful Broadway actress. “You cling to anything.”

David Scott Abramovitz, circa 2001.

David was 23 when he was last seen at the family home on Bickford Drive, near the Randolph border, on May 3, 2001.

After his disappearance was reported, police tracked David via cellular records to Burlington, VT. There, the trail went cold.

David struggled with depression, says Stephanie, a theater teacher in Basking Ridge.

“We know his depression is what made him escape the area. He wanted to be off with animals and nature… it’s always the super good people that suffer from depression,” she says.

The sisters remember their younger brother as reserved, gentle, and gifted. Whatever he did, he did well.

David Abramovitz loved to paint. Photo courtesy of Jill Abramovitz.

At Morristown High School (’96), David captained the track and cross country teams, Stephanie recalls. The 2000 Rutgers graduate

was a talented pianist, and reasonably fluent in French. He painted in an expressionist style. One of Jill’s last memories of David is him giving her a portrait. It hangs in Jill’s house.

“He painted landscapes of other planets,” says Stephanie, “and he did a great job. He could sketch with pencil a person’s face and it’d look like a photograph.”

David loved working with dogs at The Seeing Eye in Morris Township. Stephanie recalls a day where he overslept and missed his volunteer shift; he was beyond devastated.

“He liked dogs more than people,” Jill says.

This love for animals may have sent David up north, the sisters say. Jill believes he’s in Vermont. Stephanie thinks he’s likely in Canada.

Both suspect he’s in the mountains, where he felt at home.

‘I’M GOING AWAY’

Before he vanished, David emptied his bank account, gave away several belongings, and wrote a letter to his best friend.

The missing persons website The Charley Project called it a “suicide note.”  The Abramovitz sisters doubt this, based on experts they have consulted.

Three days after David was last seen, his friend called the family to say he had received a “depressing” letter. David recently had visited him in California for a couple of weeks. He wrote about how much their friendship meant to him, and what a wonderful time he had on his visit, according to Stephanie.

“I’m going away,” David wrote, vaguely.

He had hinted as much to his sisters around Passover 2001, after quitting The Seeing Eye.

“I’m going on an adventure. I need to figure things out,” Stephanie remembers David saying.

She took him out for his birthday, and inquired about his plans. He shut her down:

“Don’t ask any questions, or else I’m going to end the night early,” David told her.

That April evening, their last together, is etched in Stephanie’s memory. They shared an artichoke heart at their favorite restaurant, Portofino’s in Morristown, and visited a used CD store on Route 10.  (“Who is that?” David asked when she bought Lionel Richie’s Greatest Hits.)  Stephanie picked the movie, taking her brother to see Bridget Jones’s Diary.

The search for David led to Quechee Gorge Village, VT, about 70 miles southeast of Burlington. David had spoken of Quechee Gorge, a 165-foot deep canyon.

Family members canvassed the area, going door to door, visiting hotels and shelters. Climbers even rappelled down the gorge’s walls, searching for David.

Stephanie Abramovitz Fletcher with her husband. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Fletcher.

“You can’t hide your own body,” Stephanie remembers her husband saying.

Jill once touted Wyoming to David. But she has no reason to think he followed through.

Police took David’s departure seriously and did everything they could, say the sisters, who are grateful to law enforcement.

According to David’s college girlfriend, who asked to be identified as Agustina, David was interested in the book Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer. It tells the story of Christopher McCandless, a California college graduate and outdoorsman who left home in 1990 to pursue a nomadic lifestyle.

McCandless met his demise in 1992, starving to death in an abandoned bus in Denali National Park, Alaska.

In 2007, Illinois high schooler Lee Cutler apparently left for parts unknown. The search for Lee was well publicized, and a copy of Into The Wild was found in his car in a Wisconsin national park two days after he was last seen. No one knows what happened to Cutler.

Agustina says David was a good boyfriend, and the two simply went their separate ways in college.

Why did David prefer solitude?

Jill Abramovitz. Photo courtesy of Jill Abramovitz

He valued personal happiness over everything else, Jill says. And he internalized things.

“He was the quiet one and he kind of absorbed everything,” she says. “Nothing bounced off.”

Growing up in an affluent New York City suburb, David was told he had to be financially successful, which he found oppressive.

“He didn’t see a way for himself in the 9-5 world. He was a free spirit,” says Jill, whose Broadway credits include Beetlejuice and Fiddler on the Roof.

She also has appeared on TV in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Chicago Med and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. In 2015, the Morristown High alumna was a talent judge for Morristown Onstage, a fundraiser for local schools

Jill says David hated being told what to do. He wanted to control his fate. An early vegan, he refused to wear leather and swore off Twizzlers, which contain gelatin, an ingredient derived from animals.

He tried antidepressants. But they suppressed his desire to paint.

Jill thinks her brother’s gentle nature worked against him.  He never felt comfortable confronting others or advocating for himself.

“Ask for something you want! Yell at someone! Lash out! And don’t sacrifice yourself to make other people happy,” Jill says, tearing up.

Knowing their brother was in pain, and that they were unable to help him, has haunted the sisters.

LIFE GOES ON

Jill and Stephanie lost their father in 2013; their grandparents, Holocaust survivors who were alive when David disappeared in 2001, are also deceased. David’s mother still lives at the family home.

It’s been two decades since the terror attacks of 9/11. Wars have been fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Social media arrived. The Capitol was sacked. A pandemic still grips a polarized country.

“So much has happened in the world… we have no way of knowing if he’s safe from things outside his control,” Jill says of her missing brother. Occasionally, she catches herself referring to her son as David. “He’d love to meet his uncle.”

“I just hope he’s happy and warm,” says Stephanie.

When last seen, David Scott Abramovitz was 6-foot-1 and 143 pounds. His current age would be 43. His hair was brown, like his eyes. He sometimes wore a choker necklace. He had a small gap between his front teeth. He may go by “Dave” or “Davey.”  His dental records are on file, and police have the family’s DNA.

If you believe you’ve seen David, call the Morris Township Police Department at 973-539-0777.

If you are considering self-harm, or disappearing, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 988, or 1-800-273-8255, or text 741741. People are ready to help you.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Happy Birthday Uncle David! Please come home so we can celebrate💖❤️🧡💛💚💙💜🖤🤍❣️💕💞💝💘💗💓

  2. Absolutely heartbreaking story. In some strange way, I believe David is alive. I hope he will be be reunited with his family or they at least obtain closure. Peace and love!

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