Andrew Sorensen’s family was in it for the long haul.
They adopted him as a baby, supported him through years of physical therapy for his cerebral palsy, adapted to his autism diagnosis, sought treatment for his mental health struggles and helped how they could when he fell into substance abuse.
Then suddenly last year, Andrew Sorensen went missing.
His family looked everywhere for him, said Theresa Sorensen, his mother. They even considered that he may have gone to Seattle or Portland and was living on the streets. The family reported him missing, but there were no leads, Sorensen said.
The search ended last month. Spokane police officers found his body in the trunk of a car just miles from the family’s home. His identity was confirmed via dental records days later.
The same day, 60-year-old John Eisenman was charged with murder in connection to his death.
Eisenman, whose daughter was Andrew Sorensen’s girlfriend, told police he killed the 20-year-old Sorenson because he believed the young man sex-trafficked his teen daughter in Seattle in October 2020.
Police have said they cannot corroborate Eisenman’s claims. Investigators had no updates on the case as of Friday afternoon.
Sorensen’s family, meanwhile, strongly disputes Eisenman’s claim. He had no significant adult criminal history and, as his family tells it, was a thoughtful, compassionate man who would not hurt his friends.
Theresa Sorensen officially learned her son was dead just hours before the news of Eisenman’s arrest.
The circumstances of her son’s death were made public in court records and a police department press release. It all happened so fast, she and her immediate family didn’t get the chance to tell the rest of their families the news that Andrew Sorensen had been found, she said.
“I just didn’t think that he was dead, I didn’t,” Sorensen said of the year her son was missing. “It was hard when the phone call came in.”
Andrew joined the Sorensen family as a 6-month-old baby with cerebral palsy in foster care, Sorenson said.
The family immediately sought extensive physical therapy for him, followed by speech and occupational therapies. Despite the struggles, Andrew was a smiling and caring child.
“He was a happy baby,” Sorensen said. “He was the most loving child. We loved him.”
It took Andrew Sorensen a while to learn how to stand, but the physical and occupational therapy paid off and he was able to complete most activities.
It wasn’t until later that his autism became noticeable. Loud noises, stuffed animals that moved, haircuts and the sound of toast being buttered affected Andrew and were among the first signs that he was on the autism spectrum.
Social interaction also was hard, Sorensen said. Her son didn’t understand personal space. Teachers had to explain to him how to ask if he wanted to hug a classmate.
“He was just the sweetest, most loving child,” Sorensen said. “And for most of his life, he was that way.”
When he got into 10th grade, Andrew began to struggle with anxiety and the constant feeling that he wasn’t like other teenagers.
“It just became harder and harder for him to feel like he fit in,” his mother said.
Behavioral health issues led to a few inpatient trips to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center before the family got him some more help out of state, Sorensen said.
When he was about 17, Andrew Sorensen started going downtown in Spokane and hanging out with homeless teens.
“With his autism, he just felt like he could fit in,” Sorensen said. “And he just, I don’t know, made friends.”
He was still living at home and would bring homeless teens to his parent’s house to hang out.
“He loved to share what he had,” Sorensen said.
At one point, five or six teens were staying at the family home. Sorensen said she would help them get on food stamps, enroll in GED programs or get their Medicaid cards.
“It wasn’t hard for me,” she said. “It was what I was doing with my son and I loved them.
“Every single one of the kids that came here know that they were cared about, they were respected and they were encouraged.”
Andrew Sorensen was able to graduate from an online high school – a proud moment for the family.
It got more difficult from there. He started smoking marijuana when he was about 18, which quickly led to harder drugs.
“It just got harder and harder,” Sorensen said, “but I mean he would still come home.”
He sometimes brought girls home. One of them was Eisenman’s teen daughter; The Spokesman-Review is not naming her because of the sex-trafficking claims.
Just like she did with all of the other homeless teens, Theresa Sorensen helped the girl out. Then the girl received a $20,000-plus settlement from a car accident. The money could have helped change the life of a girl living on the streets, Sorensen said.
Brenda Kross, Eisenman’s fiancé and the teen girl’s mother, confirmed her daughter received a cash settlement from an accident. Kross did not return a request for comment for this story.
“You would always have a roof over your head, you wouldn’t have to be homeless,” Sorensen said she told her son’s girlfriend.
Instead, the girl – along with Andrew Sorensen and some friends – bought a car, new clothes and drugs, and then went to Seattle for the weekend, Sorensen said.
“From that moment on, there was just no putting the brakes on them and what they were doing,” she said. “A bunch of kids jumped in the car to go on a joyride. And you know what? It just didn’t turn out good.”
Andrew Sorensen dropped off his girlfriend and their friends somewhere in Seattle and then drove the car to pick up a group of acquaintances. Everyone left their phones in the car, Sorensen said.
Then the car got stolen Sorensen said, leaving her son stranded with no phone and no way to contact his girlfriend or other friends. He stayed in Seattle for a few more days before his uncle picked him up and brought him to Spokane.
“My son had never driven a car before like that, didn’t have a driver’s license,” Sorensen said. “They were all using (drugs) before they left, while they were on the trip, while this was happening.”
Eisenman’s daughter ended up alone in Seattle after the friends she was with found their own way home, Theresa Sorensen said, and her parents came to get her.
“And so I know that (the girlfriend) probably felt like he had stranded her and left because … when she came back, she went to the hospital and a week later my son was murdered,” Sorensen said.
Police records confirm the teen girl was involuntarily admitted into Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center on Oct. 23, 2020. Two days later, police were called to the hospital to pick up a sexual assault kit, but after about an hour at the hospital, the officer noted that no sexual assault kit was done and cleared the call, according to police records.
Three days later, hospital staff called the police again to report that Eisenman’s daughter had threatened to kill Sorensen and her parents. The daughter wasn’t arrested or charged with a crime related to the threats.
Missing without a trace
A few days after Andrew Sorensen returned from Seattle, he celebrated Halloween with his family at their home before getting up the next morning and going to meet a friend.
She was nervous after the “disaster of the weekend before” and didn’t want him to go, but Andrew only packed a small backpack signaling he would come home, Sorensen said.
“He left and that was the last I heard from him,” Sorensen said.
Eisenman told police he found out Andrew Sorensen would be in a specific location in Airway Heights and went to confront him, according to court documents.
He tied the 20-year-old up and put him in the trunk of his car before hitting him in the head with a cinder block and stabbing him multiple times, Eisenman told police.
Eisenman then drove the car to a remote location in north Spokane County where he abandoned the car with the body still inside the trunk. It wasn’t discovered until nearly a year later when someone found the car and drove it into town.
Holding out hope
For the year her son was missing, Sorensen remained hopeful he would return.
“We just kept looking for him, our whole family, for months and months and months,” she said. “We just prayed every day that we would find him or that he would come home.”
Some extended family members found Andrew Sorensen’s sudden drop-off from social media telling.
“Him not being on social media at all, just cut off on Nov. 1, was, you know, a lot of family think that something really bad had happened,” Sorensen said. “But I just had so much hope that we could find him and that we could get him help.”
Now that a few weeks have passed since learning of her son’s death, she is angry his chance to change was taken from him.
“My husband and I were in it for the long haul with Andrew. We weren’t going to quit,” Sorensen said. “He got that taken from him, a chance to change.”
Looking forward to justice
The Sorensen family has been hurt by the sex-trafficking allegations against their son, which Sorensen said her son wasn’t capable of committing.
After Eisenman was arrested, his claims of killing his daughter’s sex trafficker went viral, leading to more than $61,000 being raised for Eisenman’s defense on crowdfunding site “Give Send Go,” which claims to be for Christians.
The road to a potential trial for Eisenman will be long, Sorensen acknowledged, but the family hopes the sex trafficking allegations will be proven false and Eisenman will be held accountable for what he did.
She believes the daughter’s settlement money may have led to disagreements within the Eisenman family, which could have factored in her son’s death.
“There was probably plans made behind this money,” Sorensen said. “They spent it, and my son was a big part of spending that money.
“There’s anger behind that,” she added.
Despite what Eisenman told police he did to Andrew Sorensen, Sorensen still worries about her son’s former girlfriend, who has been homeless in Arizona for more than a year, according to Kross. Sorensen doesn’t believe the girlfriend was involved in her son’s death.
“Every single day, she’s on the streets as a homeless girl at 19. If they’re so worried about her getting sex-trafficked, why don’t they go get her?” Sorensen said. “My heart goes out to her. I pray for her.”
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