“He is nothing more than an innocent victim of stalking,” Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller said about Sapp.
He added Sapp has “fully cooperated” with the police investigation into Patrick’s disappearance.
Patrick, 30, a first-year medical resident with the Western Michigan University School of Medicine, has not been seen since around 8 p.m. Dec. 5, when she drove out of parking lot at the Borgess Medical Center, where she worked that day.
Fuller and Detective Sgt. William Sparrow of the sheriff’s office updated reporters Wednesday about their investigation into the disappearance.
In recent weeks, media reports have focused on the discovery that Patrick had a romantic obsession with Sapp, which she detailed at length on her Twitter accounts. Sapp took out a personal protection order against Patrick on Sept. 17.
There has been widespread public speculation on blogs and among online commenters linking Sapp to Patrick’s disappearance.
“He is not a suspect,” Fuller said at the press conference.
After the press conference, Sparrow was asked if he thought Sapp was connected in any way to the disappearance.
“No,” he said.”There is nothing to indicate he had anything to do with this.”
In fact, investigators said, while people who spoke with Patrick on Dec. 5 in the hours before her disappearance noticed she was “acting strange,” she never mentioned Sapp’s name.
Sapp, 46, a widower with three teenage children, is pastor of Lighthouse Full Life Center Church in Grand Rapids. A church official said Wednesday that Sapp had no comment about the case or the press conference.
Among other comments made by investigators Wednesday in regards to Sapp:
- During her interviews for the medical residency, Patrick told WMU officials she wanted to come to Kalamazoo because she had a fiancee who lived nearby. Sparrow and Fuller said they did not know if she was referring to Sapp, although Patrick’s tweets indicate she was told by God in January that Sapp was her future husband.
- Sapp never initiated any communication with Patrick, the investigators said. Patrick did join his church after moving to Michigan, but the investigators point out that the church has thousands of members and said there is no evidence Sapp ever interacted with Patrick.
- Patrick made numerous attempts to contact Sapp, including visiting his house and talking to his children while Sapp was away, Sparrow said.
- Patrick received a copy of the personal protection order by certified mail, and signed for it, which means she was aware of the court order.
- There is no record that she violated the PPO.
- While Sapp has taken out PPOs in the past because of over-enthusiatic fans, this was the most serious stalking situation he has encountered, Fuller said.
- Kalamazoo County investigators found about the PPO — which was filed in Kent County — shortly after Patrick’s disappearance when they ran her name through a state database on criminal and court activity. They obtained a copy of the PPO on Dec. 10.
- As to fears expressed by some bloggers and commenters that Sapp might be in danger from Patrick, Fuller said there was no evidence of that and the focus of the case was trying to find Patrick.
- Fuller was asked about Patrick’s Twitter posts in July that she suspected Sapp sent one of his security people to her apartment complex. He said investigators hadn’t looked into that.
Investigators would not comment on what Patrick’s family or co-workers knew about her attempts to form a relationship with Sapp.
Fuller said Wednesday that while Patrick has never been diagnosed with a mental illness, she had over the years had sporadic episodes of “delusions” and erratic behavior, including periods where she would briefly disappear. He also said the last people to see Patrick thought she was behaving “strangely.”
Speaking to a reporter after the press conference, Fuller theorized that Patrick was under stress and acknowledged that stress “maybe” was related to her frustration of the lack of a relationship with Sapp.
Patrick’s tweets indicate she thought she and Sapp were communicating by telepathy, and even after the PPO, she continued to use Twitter to profess her love for him, as well as increasingly voice frustrations that there was no normal communication.
“I changed my life and came to a state I do not care for, with weather I do not like, to a littler known program when my top choices were UCLA, Harvard and John Hopkins. That is love,” she tweeted on Nov. 15, three weeks before she disappeared.
The tweets also indicate she had told her siblings in May about her plans to pursue Sapp, and in November, her brother was pressing for an explanation about her Twitter posts.
Sapp has declined all comment on the Patrick case outside of a Jan. 2 statement in response to initial media reports about the PPO. That statement said:
Throughout my career, my family and I have fallen victim to inappropriate attempts to contact me by several unknown individuals. As a father of three and pastor of one of the largest congregations in West Michigan, I cannot take this kind of obsessive attention lightly. Given these previous acts, I have taken several security measures which have included obtaining a protective order to ensure our safety. Not only am I concerned about my family, I am deeply concerned about the well-being of all families. My prayers of love, safety, reconciliation and support are always and forever with God’s children.
Sapp released a Christmas music album in October, and had numerous interviews and public appearances in recent months to promote the CD.
That includes a Dec. 2 interview with The Root, an online magazine, in which he said he wanted to start dating again but he needed to be cautious because “I’ve already had one come to my home and move to my city, thinking that God said that I’m supposed to be their husband.”
The day that interview was published, Patrick tweeted: “God please help me understand. … But I am not giving up on you. I love you. I am in love with you. No. You do not deserve me.”
Sapp has kept a low profile since his connection to the Patrick case has been made public. He has not posted on Facebook or Twitter since Jan. 3, and media reports say he asked his congregation to participate in an Internet “fast” this month.