When Steven Cross' 11-year-old son woke up one morning last month, he found a tear drenched note from his father that contained a couple of bombshells.
The note told the Lakeville, Minn., boy that his father was abandoning him. The boy also read that his mother, who he had long been told had died, was really still alive.
"If this paper is wet, it's because I'm crying so bad. You know your dad loves you more than anything...There are no jobs for architects so I have to go because the sheriff will take the house July 27th," one note read.
Cross' three bedroom home was in foreclosure and feeling overwhelmed by his financial burdens, he left his son, investigators said.
"There are many great years ahead for you. Not so for me," Cross wrote to the boy, whose name ABC News has chosen not to reveal because he is a minor.
Cross was missing for more than a month before police tracked him down and arrested him in Cambria, Calif., on Monday. He was on his way to a deli where he'd found work.
Cross, a 60-year-old architect, has had full custody of his son since the boy was 1 year old, according to court documents.
"Some good news is your mother is still alive. Though I do not think it is for the best," Cross wrote in one of the letters.
Boy Gets Shocking Letter From Dad Saying He's Been Abandoned
The boy's 38-year-old mother, Katik Kristina Porter, did not come forward last month when children's services was searching for her. However, this week she contacted Dakota County attorney James Backstrom.
"The boy's mother has been in contact with Dakota County child protection in connection with this case... Her parental rights to this boy were never terminated in a court," said attorney Backstrom.
Attempts to reach Porter were unsuccessful. Her visitation rights were suspended in 2002, according to court documents. ABC Affiliate KSTP reported that the boy told a neighbor that he hadn't seen his mom since he was 2 and believed she was dead.
The boy followed his father's instructions in the notes to take his Playstation and ride his bike to a neighbor's house to live.
KSTP reported that the boy broke down in tears when he arrived at the home of the neighbor on July 18. The neighbor has not been identified.
The boy is currently staying with a relative while child protective services determine who will get custody of the boy.
Cross appeared in a San Luis Obispo County court Wednesday and waived his extradition to Minnesota. He is expected to return to Lakeville, Minn., within two weeks. He faces a gross misdemeanor charge of child neglect.
"He said he was in financial difficulty. His house was being foreclosed upon. He didn't know what to do. He was under a lot of stress obviously and he chose to flee, and as far as we're concerned, that's not an appropriate course when you have an 11-year-old son in your custody," said Backstrom.
A neighbor of Cross who asked not to be identified because Cross is "kind of a scary" said that the boy's mother did attempt to visit her son when he was an infant.
The female neighbor described Cross as volatile and said that other neighbors had problems with him.
"He would go into rages about politics," she said. "He's kind of scary, he's weird."
She said that Cross told her he was estranged from his family. She described the 11-year-old boy as "very sweet."
"He was an only child so he wasn't outside a lot or anything," she said.
The boy appeared to know how to calm down Cross' agitated behavior, she said. Cross had gained a reputation for being very loud and aggressive during his son's baseball games.
"During the baseball games, he [the boy] had to go and try and calm his dad down during games," the neighbor said.
Cross has a previous arrest record that includes charges of driving under the influence. He has also been sued for his work as an architect.
Cross' legal and financial woes could worsen. He is also being investigated in a fraud case, Backstrom said.
"He is under investigation on a completely unrelated financial matter that the Lakeville police discovered in the course of investigating his whereabouts," the lawyer said.
If convicted of gross misdemeanor child neglect, Cross could face a maximum penalty of one year in county jail and a $3,000 fine.