On 3 July 2014, Misty Mayo boarded a Greyhound bus bound for Los Angeles. Desperate to escape her hometown of Modesto in Stanislaus County, 300 miles north in California’s Central Valley, the 41-year-old thought the 4th of July fireworks in LA would be the perfect antidote.
Even a mugging at the Modesto bus station didn’t deter her. When she arrived in LA the next morning with just a few dollars in her pocket, Misty immediately asked a police officer for directions to the fireworks display. She also knew she would need to find a Target pharmacy to refill her medication, but decided it could wait until later.
Later came and went. With no money in a strange city, Misty found the bus system too confusing to navigate. The longer she went without her cocktail of antipsychotics to keep the worst symptoms of her schizoaffective disorder at bay, the more difficult it became to remember that she even needed medication. In the sweltering July heat, Misty roamed the streets of Santa Monica, trying to grab a few minutes of shut-eye where she could. Mostly, she was too afraid to sleep.
Misty’s worsening mental state left her combative and paranoid. Her memories of this time are vague at best, but hospital records show a series of psychiatric hospitalisations during July and August. She was arrested at least once. By now, Misty no longer recognised that she had a health problem. Not surprisingly, she didn’t take her medications once out of hospital, and the cycle repeated itself over and over.