Homeless man found dead had been declared dead in 2003; family searched for him for years

Daily Post Staff Writer

A homeless man who died in Palo Alto last month was declared to have died in 2003, after a long search by his family.

Theodore Nelson Clegg Jr., also known as Chastelain, was declared dead at the request of his brother. But, in fact, Chastelain had been living in the College Terrace neighborhood, where he was well known for his tarp-covered shopping cart and jerky body movements. He had a beard and curly hair, and he slept outside without a tent.

Chastelain died where he slept on Feb. 23, behind the Shell gas station at College Avenue and 2200 El Camino Real.

Court papers from San Francisco show that Chastelain’s brother, Patrick Clegg, and their mother and father spent years searching for him. They flew out several times from Texas to talk to people where they thought he was, and they researched tax records and death certificates with no luck.

Court declared him dead

Patrick Clegg recounted his efforts in a sworn declaration and said he believed his brother had died in May 2003. A judge signed an order establishing the death of “Theodore Nelson Clegg Jr./Chastelain” in 2010. The judge’s order was necessary so their father’s $75,000 estate could be released to Chastelaine’s brother and sister.

Chastelain was born on May 7, 1954, in Port Arthur, Texas. He also had a younger sister, Leslie Clegg Rodgers.

Chastelain graduated from the University of Texas in 1977 — the fourth generation in his family to do so, according to the school’s alumni magazine.

Chastelain told College Terrace resident Susan Cole that a horse kicked him when he was 7, and he hurt his head playing youth football. He said he made jerky movements to heal himself from past injuries.

“I’m not normal,” he told Cole.

Information about Chastelain was found in a declaration signed by his brother Patrick petitioning a judge to declare Chastelain’s death.

Chastelain moved from Texas to an apartment in downtown San Francisco in early 1989. He worked as a full-time contractor for PG&E and as a part-time valet attendant.

The Clegg family talked with Chastelain every couple of months, and Patrick visited him in San Francisco during two or three business trips.

He said he heard voices

Chastelain was evicted from his apartment on Kearny Street in August 1993 for not paying rent, which was $720 a month, the landlord said. He didn’t tell his family that he was being evicted until they found out in November 1993.

“Our family believes that he may have suffered from mental illness because he would often say that he heard voices telling him to do certain things,” Patrick wrote.

Patrick traveled to San Francisco in early December 1993 to look for Chastelain after learning about his eviction. All of his belongings were either sold or given away.

Patrick talked to Chastelain’s landlord and neighbors, and he visited shops and restaurants in the area to show people his picture.

An employee at a tobacco shop recognized Chastelain because he bought cigarette tobacco there to hand roll. Patrick kept looking at soup kitchens and homeless shelters and around the Tenderloin district with no luck.

Living on the streets in 1998

Patrick came back later that month with their dad, Ted Clegg, to keep looking. They went back to some of the same restaurants and stores but again had no luck.

Five years went by and nobody in the family heard from Chastelain. Then, in April 1998, he used a pay phone to call his mother, Beth, with a prepaid card he apparently found on the street.

Chastelain went through a lot of effort to contact Beth, calling old phone numbers and finally reaching his uncle, who had her number.

Chastelain told his mom that he had been living on the streets. He said he had been told to stay away from San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, and he had been beaten up a couple of times. He said he moved to the San Mateo area because it was safer.

As the minutes on the card ran out, Chastelain told Beth the number of the payphone that he was using. But the payphone didn’t accept call backs.

Patrick contacted PacBell to get the location of the pay phone, and the very next day, he and Beth flew to again search for Chastelain, this time in San Mateo.

Another search

For four days, Beth and Patrick did the same kind of search as five years earlier. Patrick said they only had one potential lead: a vague assertion from a homeless woman who recognized Chastelain from working on a cleanup crew after special events in San Mateo.
Patrick and Beth checked with local police and hospitals, but nothing came up under Chastelain’s driver license and social security number.

Patrick flew out nine months later for his fourth search. On that trip, he posted pictures of his brother with contact information in many public places, but he never got any calls.

The last communication between Chastelain and his family was his phone call to Beth in April 1998.

Databases searched

The family hired an attorney to look for death certificates in San Mateo and San Francisco Counties and search Chastelain’s legal name and aliases on multiple online databases. Only the record of his eviction case was found.

“I have made extensive efforts to search and inquire about Theodore’s whereabouts but the search and inquiry have not revealed any new information,” Patrick wrote in April 2010. “I believe that Theodore is now deceased.”

Patrick guessed that Chastelain died around May 2003.

Chastelain’s Social Security record shows he made $21,249 during his first full year in San Francisco. His income fell to $5,350 in 1993, the year he was evicted.

Financial history ends

Chastelain made no taxable income for the next four years, and then he made $1,605 in 1998, possibly from his job with the cleanup crew. He has no income reported after that.

Without an order establishing Chastelain’s death, his father’s $75,000 estate couldn’t be released to the rest of the family. A judge signed the order in 2010.

Chastelain had friends in the Palo Alto area. People offered him food, gift cards and outdoor gear, but he was resistant to help. Everything had to fit in his cart, and he would only accept coffee and Starbucks gift cards.

Chastelain has a short record in Santa Clara County. In 2015, police cited him twice for smoking tobacco in Palo Alto’s Heritage Park at 300 Homer Ave.

Saw boy killed by truck

Chastelain witnessed the death of an 11-year-old boy who was killed by a truck while riding his bike in March 2020.

“He was terribly shaken, as all of us were,” said Liz Gardner, a resident of the Mayfield Place apartments.

Loved Mizuno shoes

Jim Gothers, the owner of Fleet Feet in Menlo Park, said Chastelain loved the shoe brand Mizuno. He could recall old shoe models, and he cut the logo out wherever he could find it. When a truck with the logo was parked at Fleet Feet, Chastelain would come by the store and stand by the truck, Gothers said.

On the night 67-year-old Chastlaine died, the temperature was below 40 degrees. Police responded to a report of an unattended death, with no evidence of foul play, at 8 a.m. The coroner hasn’t determined how he died.


  1. I sew him everyday on Cal Ave. He was usually reading the paper. I attended his memorial last weekend. He was a rational, good person according to his friends. R.I.P.

  2. So sad. His family must be devastated to learn he had been alive. When we (county) does a homeless count, don’t we also get names of people? Wouldn’t he have been traceable if it was? At least there were folks in the community who connected with him. I suppose they may have become his family of choice.

  3. I wish to thank Braden Cartwright and the Daily Post for publishing this story. I knew Ted in Texas in the 1980’s and felt endeared to him because he was such a kind, sweet soul. He was a car broker for a time, and, not only was he my friend, I also bought a car from him. I moved from Texas and at some time learned that Ted had moved to San Francisco and went missing. Over the years I have thought about him and wondered. One of my daughters works for NamUs, and today she sent me an article where she is credited for her efforts in recently identifying the remains of a body found in 1984. Her article got me again thinking about Ted, so I Googled Theodore Clegg and your story popped up number one. I was stunned to learn about Ted, and I was stunned at the timing which led me to Google Ted’s name. I am both saddened and grateful in knowing. I will never forget Ted or the Daily Post.

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