Updated: 01/05/2014 11:18 PM
Created: 01/05/2014 4:03 PM WHEC.com
By: Chalonda Roberts
It's almost too hard to believe. Last week we told you about the disappearance of 20-year-old Nicholas Simmons.
On Sunday Greece Police told News10NBC Simmons has been found alive in Washington D.C. But the circumstances around how he was found are bizarre.
According to Greece Police, Simmons' family saw a picture published in a local edition of USA Today and thought the man pictured, captioned as Nick, looked like Simmons. The photo was brought to their attention after someone posted it on a Facebook page set up to help find their son. The photo was taken by an Associated Press reporter and ran in Sunday's local issue of USA Today in an unrelated story.
On Sunday News10NBC spoke with the Associated Press photographer who took Simmons' photo.
“I noticed there was someone all covered up with a blanket with a hood pulled over his head, and I looked down and I noticed how very young he looked. He looked a little unusual for the homeless population in D.C. in terms of his age,” said Jacquelyn Martin.
Martin said she was given a cold weather assignment with an angle of how the homeless were surviving the frigid temperatures. Martin took her photos at a steam grate just a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol. She said it's a place where the homeless hang out when it's cold, and where Simmons stood out because of his age.
“There was something about him that I thought was very moving. He was leaning towards the grate, cuddling up to it for warmth, which I thought showed how tough it is being outside in this cold weather. He's just so young. It's moving,” said Martin.
It was moving enough to make the cover page of the local edition of USA Today. That's where Simmons' parents saw their son. The photo was brought to their attention through a Facebook page set up to help find their missing son.
Captain Patrick Phelan said the family alerted Greece Police to the photo who then contacted D.C. Metro Police. Police checked the area where the photo was taken and were able to verify that the man in the photo was Nicholas Simmons.
Police say Simmons left his home on Cider Creek Lane around 5 p.m. on New Year's Day. That's the last time his family saw him. He was driving a 1999 red Buick Century.
News10NBC did reach out to Simmons' family, but they didn't want to comment on the photo or the police investigation.
However, News10NBC was able to speak with Greece Police Sunday evening.
“As this point we really don't know that much about how he got there or how long he has been there. We are fairly certain he drove there, but why he was living on the streets in D.C., we can't tell you at this point,” said Captain Patrick Phelan, Greece Police Department.
Martin said it's amazing that such a chance encounter could result in something so positive.
“It's extremely rewarding to know a photograph that I've made, made a difference in someone's life. It's really quite amazing. It just reinforces how important it is what we do as journalist. It's real easy to get jaded and to take a picture and move away,” said Martin.
Captain Phelan said Simmons' father and brother are now with him in Washington D.C. Phelan says Simmons is currently being evaluated at George Washington University Hospital.
Phelan also said normally this would not be a missing persons case because of Simmons' age, but it was because of the circumstances before he left home. Phelan said Simmons apparently had an exchange with his parents and left behind his wallet and his cell phone. Those factors made it a missing persons case.