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043 - The Bizarre Disappearance of Bryce Laspisa

[Case Evidence]

                Bryce David Laspisa was born on April 30th, 1994 to parents Karen and Michael Laspisa.  Bryce was raised in Naperville, Illinois, located in DuPage and Will counties.  Naperville is a suburb of Chicago, located approximately 50 miles southwest of the windy city.  Naperville is the fifth largest city in Illinois, boasting a population of approximately 147,000 residence is has been frequently ranked by USAToday and Business Insider as one of America’s safest cities.  Bryce was a handsome young man, with a brilliant shock of red hair that complimented his piercing green eyes, and from the moment of his birth, his parents were both completely smitten.  From an early age, Bryce’s ability to captivate a room was also apparent.  Friends and family would describe him as the kind of person who could light up a room, the kind of child that always found a way to make those around him smile.  This was a trait he would maintain, and hone, throughout his lifetime.

                Growing up in Naperville, Bryce was able to quickly develop a large circle of friends who were also captivated by his beaming personality and undeniably contagious smile.  Bryce’s father would say “He is such a social guy, he had lots of friends and would hang out with them often.  We would have them over to our house.”  Bryce’s magnetism and charisma was not simply limited to his knack for making others feel good, but was an outgrowth of his deeply thoughtful mind and soul, and he would share his thoughts and dreams not only with his friends, but with his parents, with whom he had a remarkably close relationship.  Karen would later say “He would talk to Mike and I about any subject, an open book, we always say that he gets that from his mom because I’m an open book and, it was always just very easy.”

                Bryce was a highly intelligent young man who performed well in school, but above all else, he was described as a happy young man.  He was always smiling, and looking to cheer others up when their days were bad.  He wasn’t prone to silent contemplation or deeply pensive moments, but instead, addressed everything with his particular brand of optimism and positivity.  While, for many, the older they get and the further they progress in school, the wider the gap becomes between themselves and their families, and moments of teenage angst aren’t uncommon.  For Bryce, though, these moments were few and far between, and often went by as unnoticed for how short lived they were.  To this day, those who knew Bryce recollect him as a beam of sunshine, and his family never felt that he held back or created any distance.

                During his childhood, and throughout the rest of his life, Bryce was shown to have a gift for art.  His sketches and drawings show incredibly promise, and it is in the field of art that Bryce will eventually pursue a career.  As Bryce grew older, his interest in sports developed along with his frame, and as Bryce grew taller, peaking at 5’11” and thicker, weighing approximately 170lbs, his athletic abilities became sharper and more defined.  While attending Naperville Central High School, Bryce played football and recreational league baseball.  His talent, be it on the grid iron, diamond or a sketch pad, was undeniable and he excelled at everything that he put his mind towards.  In 2012, Bryce would graduate from Naperville Central High School, but his college targets were somewhat up in the air.  While he certainly had the intent to go on to an institution of higher education, there was a move coming up.  Michael and Karen were retiring, shortly after Bryce’s graduation, and the family would pack up and leave their home, heading west. 

                Ultimately, the Laspisa family settled in Laguna Niguel, California.  Laguna Niguel is located in the southeast corner of Orange County in the San Joaquin Hills.  The city is bordered by Aliso Viejo, Dana Point, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Mission Viejo and San Juan Capistrano.    The city is much different from what Bryce is used to, with the winters of Illinois becoming a dim memory, replaced with the sun, sand and surf of Southern California.  Laguna Niguel’s population is a less than half that of Naperville, sitting at approximately 65,000 residents and, for anyone who has ever traveled from the suburbs of a Midwest city to the hills and oceans of southern California, the culture is as varied and different as can be imagined.  For Bryce, though, this wasn’t exactly a challenge.  The charisma he’d carried with him his entire life played just as strongly in southern California, as it had in the suburbs of Chicago.

                Bryce registered for and was accepted into Sierra College, a community college, with its main campus being located in Rocklin, California, approximately 460 miles north of Laguna Niguel.  It wasn’t a short drive, with Sierra College being just over seven hours away, and while Bryce’s parents were excited about his prospects, this would limited the likelihood of their son coming home for weekend visits too often.  This, though, was all part of the college experience, as they saw it.  College was a place for Bryce to go out on his own, learn to take care of himself, to be responsible for his grades, his laundry, eating and everything else.  Bryce had always been a very responsible young man and had steered clear of trouble, with his parents believing that they had succeeded in raising him to be the kind, dependable adult he was becoming. 

                As is to be expected of a teenager on the crest of adulthood, Bryce did step outside the lines of what was considered acceptable behavior, on occasion.  According to his parents, he had experimented with alcohol in the past, though nothing for which they considered it a major issue.  His father stated “He’s a regular kid, I’m not saying Bryce is a saint, so I’m sure he did an average amount of what teenagers do.  He did have a couple of incidents but they weren’t a magnitude enough for us to say there’s some serious problem there.”  This kind of behavior isn’t necessarily out of line with young adults who are having fun in high school and then proceding on to college.  College parties are notorious for having drugs and alcohol present, so for Bryce to have experimented isn’t that shocking.  One would imagine you’d be hard struck to find too many college level kids who weren’t having the occasional drink or dalliance with an illegal drug.

                Regardless of those types of behaviors, there didn’t appear to be any true negative impact on Bryce, his academics or his personality.  He remained the charming and polite young man he’d always been, and his outlook continued to be full of optimism and excitement.  He was very much looking forward to college, to making new friends and to carving out a future for himself.  During his first term at Sierra College, he met and began dating a beautiful young woman named Kim.  According to his parents, Kim was a sweet girl and they got along very well.  They weren’t too sure about how serious the relationship was, but according to Karen, they knew the relationship was more than casual when the two changed their relationship statuses on Facebook and began sharing a lot of photos together.  Karen would also say that, in her experience, Bryce treated Kim very well and was showing all indications that he was respectful, caring and loving.

                Bryce’s first year at Sierra College went off without a hitch.  He had successfully completed his classes, pulling in good grades and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the experience.  Due to the distance between the college and his family’s home in Laguna Niguel, Bryce had only come home for major holidays and breaks during the year.  Now, he would be coming home to spend the summer with his parents, as well as his girlfriend who lived in Chico, California.  According to Mike and Karen, all seemed well with their son.  They noticed no changes in behavior, no change in attitude, and if nothing else, Bryce seemed happy with his life and excited about the future.  Throughout much of the summer he had spoken about looking forward to his sophomore year and the possibilities that came with it.  While he had done well previously, he had been a new man on campus, but going back was to assure he’d reconnect with friends he’d made and he’d likely make new ones as well, making the experience all the more immersive and exciting.

                All of this seemed to change rather rapidly.  Bryce returned to Sierra college for his sophomore year in August of 2013, the young man was now nineteen years old and for his long trip, he hopped in his beige, 2003 Toyota Highlander SUV and made the nearly five hundred mile drive.  This semester he would be rooming with his friend, Sean, and the two were very much looking forward to having a good time and enjoying the full experience.  According to reports of the time, Bryce returned to campus approximately two weeks before the start of classes.  He was eager to connect with Sean to set up the room and get settled in before the race of constant classes began once again.  According to Karen, fairly quickly, she received phone calls from some of Bryce’s friends, including his roommate Sean.  These friends expressed concern for Bryce, stating that he was behaving out of character, and bordering on what they considered abnormal or even dangerously.

                According to Sean, Bryce had been drinking heavily.  He later told investigators that Bryce was going through an entire bottle of alcohol every weekend, which is no small amount.  In addition to this, he was reportedly using Vyvanse pills.  Vyvanse is the brand name of lisdexamfetamine dimesylate and is often prescribed for those suffering from ADHD.  ADHD medications such as Vyvanse and Adderall are often popular among college students as it allows them to party hard, stay up late and then get the boost of energy they need to make it through their days, increasing their focus in class and even aiding all night studying and essay writing sessions.  Vyvanse is a central nervous system stimulant, and according to Sean, Bryce had been taking the pills in an effort to stay up later.  It has been suggested that Bryce began taking the pills during an all night session of playing Xbox, and for whatever reason, had continued doing so.  Where he came into possession of the pills has never been clearly explained.

                Vyvanse is rather powerful and lists among its side effects a racing heart, decreased blood pressure, tremors, restlessness, hallucinations, unusual behavior and motor tics.  It’s also specified in documentation for the medication that alcohol consumption should be avoided at all costs, as very serious side effects or interactions can occur.  If indeed Bryce was taking Vyvanse and drinking to the large amount that has been described by his roommate, this could certainly go a long way to explain some of his unusual behavior which will take place in the days and hours leading up to his disappearance.  Karen also reported that Bryce’s girlfriend, Kim, also found his behavior to be changing and she was growing concerned, not only for the state of their relationship, but for his personal well being as well.

                Karen has said that she called and spoke with Bryce during this time and that he assured them everything was fine.  According to them, they heard nothing in his speech that seemed to suggest he was under the influence of anything or acting strangely.  In addition to this, he had just spent the entire summer at their home and they’d seen no indication that he had any kind of substance abuse issues, either related to pills or alcohol.  Many have suggested that this may be the result of their own naivety in relation to their son having problems, but as many have noted, children can be adept at concealing any kind of substance abuse issues, especially if they hadn’t broadened out to the point where they are having a clear impact of personality and behavior.  I know, from my own personal experience, that at college age I had several bottles of alcohol at home in my bedroom and my parents had no idea that I was drinking at night.  So, for the Laspisa family, it’s frustrating to try and put their finger on what could have changed in the two weeks since he’d left home for college to result in this behavior, but it’s entirely possible he was doing things while home, as well, perhaps not to the degree that he was when he returned to Sierra College.

                The combination of amphetamines and alcohol is certainly not a good one, as we saw from the list of side effects and the stern warnings on the label to avoid alcohol while on Vyvanse.  In addition to this, there has never been anything verified which lists the dosage of the Vyvanse that Bryce was taking.  Since it was not prescribed by his own doctor, he may have been taking a dosage that was designed for someone who had been on it longer and needed a larger milligram count.   Vyvanse dosage begins at 10mg and increases 10mg for each subsequent level, all the way to 70mg.  It isn’t outside of the realm of possibility to imagine Bryce could have been ingesting pills anywhere from the 10 to 70mg range, and we also have no way of knowing exactly how many pills per day he was swallowing with his alcohol.  Either way, the excessive drinking in conjunction with the pills certainly makes for a dangerous combination.  On top of that, there are specific health issues one could be suffering from which can also increase the risk with Vyvanse, such as specific allergies, heart disease, moderate to high blood pressure, overactive thyroid, anxiety or a history of drug and alcohol abuse.  It should also be noted that specific medications, including some stimulants, have been known to bring out symptoms similar to Bi-Polar disorder as well as suicidal thoughts or tendencies.

                A comprehensive timeline helps display Bryce’s activities and behavior in the days leading up to his bizarre activities, and ultimately, his disappearance.  On Monday, August 26th, 2013, Bryce attends his speech and web design classes and then speaks on the phone with his mother, who describes the conversation as normal, and later they receive a photo of Bryce looking happy and posing with a Madden NFL Xbox game.

                On Tuesday, August 27th, Bryce’s girlfriend Kim notes an oddness in his behavior and asks him if everything is all right.  Allegedly, during this talk, Bryce admits to Kim that he has been taking Vyvanse.  When Karen speaks of this later, she refers to the conversation and relays Kim’s statement, saying “He was acting strange and he admitted he took that pill.”

                Sometime between Tuesday and Wednesday, the 28th, Bryce and Kim exchange text messages, and his odd behavior continues.  According to Kim, she asks Bryce is he is breaking up with her and he sends a text message back telling her that she would be better off without him.  It is also during this time that his roommate, Sean, finds Bryce’s behavior to be extremely out of character.  According to Sean, at this time, Bryce gives him his Xbox, which he is reported to have loved, as well as a pair of diamond earrings which his mother had given him.  According to Karen, Bryce loved the earrings and cherished them, so this behavior, which they don’t find out about until later, will raise red flags about Bryce’s possible intentions.

                On Wednesday night, Bryce arrives at Kim’s apartment in Chino, California, at approximately 10pm.  According to Kim, Bryce continues behaving oddly and the two discuss his behavior and the state of their relationship.  Bryce reportedly breaks up with Kim but she, concerned for his well being, takes his car keys and refuses to give them back.  At this point, she calls Bryce’s parents and speaks to them both, explaining that Bryce seems to be in bad condition and she doesn’t think it’s a good idea for him to be driving that night.  Bryce first speaks to his father, who later says “He told both us the same thing, he told me, I want my keys, I want to go home, I broke up with Kim, she won’t give me the keys, and I said, Bryce are you ok?  Yes, I’m fine dad.”  Karen also speaks to her son at this point, and says “I said, Bryce, I’m worried, I said, let me come up there tomorrow, let me fly up there tomorrow, and he says, Mom, no, don’t make an airlines reservation until I talk to you because I have a lot to talk to you about.”

                At this point, Karen got back on the phone with Kim and told her to give Bryce his keys back, that he seemed all right and he wanted to go home[S1] [S2] .  Bryce reportedly leaves the Chico apartment at approximately 11:30pm.  According to Karen and Michael, as far as they knew, Bryce was going to be making the drive back to his apartment at this time.  Karen has said that she spoke to Bryce again after the confrontation with Kim, during which time she told him to go home and call her the next day and he agreed.  Of course, Bryce had specified that he had a lot to talk to his mother about, but what the subject was, the Laspisa family would never find out and that conversation would never take place.  Over the next twenty-four hours, Bryce would embark on a mystery journey and, when his parents and others spoke to him, he either seemed disiniterested in discussing his plans, or simply didn’t know what his plans were.

                At approximately 1am, on Thursday, August 29th, Karen missed a phone call from Bryce.  When she woke up, and found the missed call, she assumed it was from her son letting her know that he had arrived back at his apartment.  She wouldn’t discover until later, during the investigation, that this phone call was made from Bryce’s cell, but pings of his phone placed him hours away from his apartment, heading in the opposite direction.  According to the official timeline, at approximately 9am, Bryce makes a roadside assistance call.  He has run out of gas and is currently located in Buttonwillow, California.  Buttonwillow is located in Kern County and is 26 miles west of Bakersfield, with a slim population of only 1500.  While Bakersfield has a much larger population, this area of California is dotted with smaller towns, spread out with empty wilderness between them.  I have driven through here before, and there are definitely some desolate looking places and large gaps of vacancy in between.  Why Bryce was in this location has never been fully understood.

                Karen and Michael received a call that morning, at 11am, from their insurance company.  This is the first time they are notified that Bryce used the roadside assistance, and they are told about the charge.  Not understanding why Bryce would be in that location, his parents assume that he had begun driving home.  Buttonwillow places him approximately halfway between Sierra College and the family home in Laguna Niguel, just 178 miles away.  What is interesting to note is that, according to google maps, if Bryce had headed straight towards Buttonwillow from his ex-girlfriend’s apartment in Chico, the total driving time is only approximately 5 hours and 43 minutes.  However, he doesn’t place the call to roadside assistance until 9am, meaning that nearly double that time, 9 and a half hours, have passed.  What Bryce was doing for all that time, where he was going or what his intentions were remain unknown.

                I do want to specify, there is some confusion about the roadside assistance point here.  According to multiple sources, Bryce placed his roadside assistance call at 9am, but no one arrived with gas until 12pm.  Other reports suggest that the call was placed earlier, and that at 9am, Bryce was given the gas by roadside assistance.  This second explanation seems to be most prominent, and fits with the timeline more accurately and thus it is the account I will be using.

                Being that Bryce had already received the gas he needed, Karen couldn’t understand why he hadn’t called and why he wasn’t answering his phone.  Bryce reportedly received three gallons of gas, for which he pays $20 using his credit card.  The gas is delivered by a roadside assistance serviceman named Christian, who worked locally at Castro Tire and Truck.  Another note is that, were Bryce planning to head home, he would have arrived around 12pm if indeed he’d left Buttonwillow after filling up, but when twelve came and went, without Bryce’s arrival, and no contact, Karen’s concern continues to grow.  At this point, she places a call to her insurance company, asking to be put in contact with the roadside assistance serviceman. 

                Christian spoke with Karen and explained that he had dropped gas off to Bryce hours earlier.  When asked about whether or not Bryce was doing all right, Christian responded that he seemed okay to him.  Karen explains that she has tried to call her son several times, but he isn’t answering.  Christian volunteers to head over to the spot where he’d found him that morning, but Karen tells him not to bother.  It’s unlikely that he hasn’t moved in the past three hours and she speculates that Bryce may not have called, or may not be answering, because he is driving and may be out of service.  Despite her objection, Christian tell her is going to check regardless.  To his surprise, when he arrives at the location in Buttonwillow, he finds Bryce sitting in the exact same spot he was hours earlier.  At this point, Christian calls Karen back and explains that Bryce hasn’t been moving.  He also allegedly says “his eyes look a little red.”  At this point, Karen requests that Christian put Bryce on the phone.

                According to Karen, she is a little upset with Bryce at this time and asks him what he is doing.  Bryce reportedly tells mother that he is doing nothing.  She asks him why he has been sitting in this location, but he doesn’t appear to have any kind of answer that satisfied her.  Karen instructs Bryce to just come home, later stating “I just said, what are you doing?  He just said nothing.  And I’m just, Bryce, you’re three hours away.  You just need to get gas and you’re three hours from home.”  Bryce agrees, saying that he will arrive home around 3pm.  At this point, Karen and Michael have no reason to doubt he is going to be home that afternoon and, feeling better that they have spoken with him, they go about their days.  They plan to ask him some serious questions when he arrives, but three o’clock comes and goes with no Bryce.  At approximately 3:30, Karen calls Bryce but receives no answer.  She calls again, multiple times, but Bryce fails to pick up.  Thinking that he may have taken a detour, gotten sidetracked, hit traffic or stopped for food, they wait longer, but when 6pm arrives, and Bryce is now three hours later, they call and file a missing person’s report with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

                The first step made by the Sheriff’s Department is to contact AT&T, the provider of Bryce’s cell phone, in homes of pinging his currently location.  The Sheriff’s department is granted an emergency ping and learn of Bryce’s location.  At approximately 9pm, authorities call the Laspisa’s to inform them of where their son is, Karen and Michael are shocked.  According to the ping, Bryce is still in the town of Buttonwillow, and in the past nine hours he has moved no more than eight miles from where he had previously been parked.  Karen and Michael, at this point, don’t know what to think and they can’t wrap their head around why Bryce would have been sitting in this town for, at this point, at least twelve hours.  Karen later stated “I can’t account for nine hours of what Bryce did, or where he was, except that he’s only eight miles away from where he was when his car was serviced for gas.”

                Not long after this call is placed, deputies from the Kern County Sheriff’s Department, although in some reports these officers are listed as being California Highway Patrol officers, come upon Bryce’s vehicle. Official transcripts of dispatches from that night state that the Sheriff’s Deputies located Bryce near a hotel at Highway 58 and Freeway 5, or the I-5, in the 25200 block of San Michele.  The dispatch reports the time as being 9:33pm, and goes on to say that Deputy Hernandez spoke with Bryce, advised him to call home and that there was nothing wrong when he arrived.  He lists Pings from AT&T which reported Bryce being in the same location over the course of several hours.

                According to their report, he is parked not far from the entrance to the interstate, on Lagoon Drive, in Buttonwillow, merely sitting in his vehicle on the side of the road.  Feeling that something is wrong, and that Bryce isn’t behaving in a normal manner, officers instruct him to exit his vehicle.  At this point, Bryce is given a field sobriety test, but according to the officers, Bryce passes.  They ask him if there are any drugs or alcohol in the vehicle, and he tells them no.  When asked if they may search his vehicle, Bryce agrees, and officers go through the Toyota Highlander.  To their surprise, they find nothing suspicious, illegal or out of the ordinary. 

                According to the deputies, Bryce appears to be fine.  He has passed their sobriety test, there are no drugs or alcohol present and he appears lucid.  He is answering their questions, his responses are normal, he is able to hold a conversation and doesn’t appear to be disoriented or under the influence of anything.  When asked what he is doing at the location, and why he hasn’t gone home yet, Bryce reportedly answers that he is simply relaxing and letting off a little tension.  Considering his demeanor, the long drive from Sierra College and the fact that Bryce doesn’t appear to be under any duress, they have no reason to question this explanation.  The officers inform Bryce that his parents have filed a missing persons report on him and that they are greatly concerned.  Strangely, when they instruct Bryce to call home, he doesn’t want to and appears hesistent. 

                Why Bryce didn’t want to call home, no one knows.  It has been speculated that he may have been sitting in the same spot for so long because he didn’t want to go home and face his parents, but no one can really know for sure.  After seeing his resistence to making the phone calls, Sheriff’s Deputies actually dial his mother’s phone number, and call her themselves.  Karen’s first question to the deputy is whether or not he believes Bryce is all right to continue driving.  Karen later says “I said to the officer – is he ok?  And he says to me, yes ma’am he is.”  At this point, the officer puts the phone in Bryce’s hand and tells him to talk to his mother.  Though she is frustrated, upset and confused, Karen doesn’t want to say anything that might upset Bryce or cause him to delay his return home.  She wants him to get home as fast as possible, and then, when she has him there and knows he is safe, she has some strong questions she wants to ask. 

                However, at this time, as Karen later stated “I said Bryce what are you doing?  He said, mom I’m putting stuff back in my car because they searched my car.  And I’m like, Bryce, what are you doing?  You’ve been in the same area for eight or nine hours.  I said, you need to get something to eat and now you’re gonna be traveling in the dark and now I’m kind of worried.”  In other statements made by Karen, she has also suggested that Bryce made mention of meeting up with friends later as a possible explanation for spending so much time in Buttonwillow.  Who these friends were, and why he’d have to wait in his car for over twelve hours remains a mystery.  Much like Bryce’s actions prior to, and in the hours following his interaction with sheriff’s deputies, no one has yet been able to determine a reason behind it all.  Bryce agrees to make his way home and the deputies, at this point, go on their way feeling that everything is fine.

                Approximately an hour later, some time between 10pm and 11pm, Christian, the serviceman who had brought the gas to Bryce, notices that he has a missed call from Bryce’s mom from earlier in the day.  He decides to call her back, checking if there is anything wrong and to see whether or not Bryce has made it home.  Karen explains that Bryce had sat in Buttonwillow for almost the entire day, she tells him about the deputies speaking to him and how concerned they are for his safe return.  At this point, Christian tells her that he can, once again, return to the area an make sure everything is ok.  Karen explains that Bryce has told her he is on his way home, and that she has spoken to him.  She goes on to say that it’s unlikely that Bryce is still in the area, but Christian says he will check just to make sure.  Christian arrives at the location where police had previously spoken to Bryce and finds him, still, sitting in his Toyota Highlander.  Christian calls Karen back within fifteen minutes of their initial call and explains that Bryce still hasn’t moved.  Bryce has now been sitting in Buttonwillow for at least thirteen hours.

                Christian, at this point, tells Bryce to begin driving and that he’s going to follow him onto the I-5 South.  The I-5 runs from Mexico well up into Canada, and is the main interstate that Bryce would use to make his trip south towards Laguna Niguel.  Bryce speaks to Karen at this point, by Christian’s insistence, and Karen tells him to drive safely and to keep his cell phone on so that they can keep in touch with him.  They also do this so that they may be able to have his phone pinged to acquire his location should he, again, fail to arrive home in time.  Christian follows Bryce, who gets on the I-5 heading south.  At this point, Christian continues for ten miles before pulling off the interstate and calling Karen.  He explains that Bryce is now moving along the I-5 and that he seems to be driving well, and is heading in her direction.  Karen is grateful to Christian and thanks him for his concern and his efforts.  At approximately 12:30am, Bryce stops for gas and purchases a soft drink.  Karen attempts to call Bryce at approximately 12:50am, but receives no answer. 

                At approximately 1:50am, on Friday, August 30th, Karen gets in touch with Bryce again.  Karen and Michael are concerned and want to know where he is, but Bryce is evasive in his responses.  He explains that he had been on the I-5, but had taken a detour, but was now back on the interstate.  Michael gets on the phone with his son and asks him to describe landmarks, but Bryce says its too dark for him to see any.  Michael asks for Bryce to tell him what signs he is passing, but Bryce states there are no signs, or that he simply can’t see the signs, it’s not exactly clear.  Either way, it seems apparent that Bryce is avoiding giving out information about his exact location.  He does, however, explain that his GPS suggests he will arrive home at approximately 3:25am.

                The last contact Bryce has with his parents takes place at 2:09am.  Bryce calls home, and speaks to his mother.  According to Karen, Bryce explains that he is feeling really tired and he is planning to pull off the road and sleep in his car for a while before continuing home.  His parents feel this is a good idea considering how long he has been awake, and they think that getting some rest might help him clear his head and assure that he arrives home safely.  They are concerned about him driving while tired, and so they tell him to find a safe place to park for a few hours.  He says that he has pulled off the I-5 and is parking in a residential area to catch some sleep.  This is the last time the Laspisa family ever speaks with Bryce.

                At 8am that morning, Mike and Karen hear the sound of the doorbell.  Assuming it is Bryce, having finally arrived home, they race to the door.  To their surprise, they don’t find Bryce waiting for them and instead are confronted by an officer of the California Highway Patrol.  The officer asks if they are the owners of a 2003, beige, Toyota Highlander, Bryce’s SUV.  When they confirm the vehicle is their son’s, the officer informs them that the vehicle was found abandoned that morning in the Castaic Lake area.  According to the officer, the vehicle was found on Main Ramp Road, an access road leading to the Castaic Lake Recreation Area which runs parallel to Lake Hughes Road, which heads up the hill towards a cell tower.  The crash site location was approximately a two hour drive north of Laguna Niguel.  The vehicle was located at 5:30am.  The officer goes on further to state that not only was Bryce not found at the location of his vehicle, but that the vehicle itself was not merely abandoned.  It had crashed and was found lying on its side, at the bottom of a twenty-five foot embankment at the base of a steep hill. 

                Upon inspection of the vehicle, authorities find Bryce’s laptop, wallet and cell phone inside.  They also find small drops of Bryce’s blood, one on the passenger seat headrest, another on a backseat, which they believe indicate a minor injury but nothing that would have stopped him from walking away from the crash.  On the one hand, it’s a miracle he wasn’t more severely injured, on the other, they cannot help but wonder where he would have gone.  The rear window of the SUV was smashed out, and investigators believed it had been broken out from the inside, not during the crash itself, and for them, they begin to theorize that this may have been how Bryce exited the vehicle following the crash.  Near the broken back window, they also discover a duffel bag which is unzipped.  This prompts investigators to wonder if Bryce may have gone through the bag, following the crash, and taken something with him.  The questions are endless, though.  Why was Bryce in this area?  How did he manage to crash his car?  If indeed he was driving at the time, where did he go and why did he leave his belongings behind?

                While looking over the crash scene, investigators begin to piece the moments leading to the accident together.  Since the SUV is located at the bottom of the embankment, they ascend to the top.  There is a cell phone tower at the top, and investigators note tire marks which lead from the tower, down the bill to the point where the SUV was found flipped.  Inspection of the tire tracks show that larger sized rocks had been kicked up, and there is evidence that, while going down the embankment, the driver was pressing the accelerator, speeding up, rather than hitting the breaks to slow down.  The embankment leads down to Castaic Lake, and for investigators, they believe that Bryce may have made the choice to drive his SUV into the lake, but had flipped before he made it.  Suicide becomes a theory, and when it is factored in with his odd behavior in the days and hours leading up to his disappearance, it is one which is hard to deny. 

                Due to the proximity to the lake, the condition of the vehicle and reports of Bryce’s behavior, investigators call in search teams.  Drivers are sent into the lake to look for any signs of Bryce, officers on foot, and others on four wheelers, comb over the mountainous area looking for any indication that Bryce may still be in the area.  Helictopters survey the scene, and bloodhounds are brought in.  Utilizing socks and shoes that Bryce had left behind at his ex-girlfriend’s apartment, they begin tracking his scent, which leads down Lake Hughes Road, near a gas station and truck stop, and then simply stops, which makes investigators wonder if Bryce may have hitched a ride with someone.  There were also reports that a team of dogs had tracked Bryce’s scent down to the edge of the lake.  Despite exhaustive search efforts in the area, nothing is found to suggest that Bryce is still around.  Divers spent four days in Castaic Lake, but ultimately were unable to discover anything.  For investigators, it was baffling.  They couldn’t decide if Bryce had accidentally, in a half asleep state, crashed his car, or if he’d done so on purpose.  In addition to this, they begin to speculate whether or not he may have suffered a head injury which impacted his decision making or could possibly have caused amnesia.

                There is a surveillance camera which photographs the license plates of all vehicles heading up the hill along Lake Hughes Road.  In the course of their investigation, authorities reviewed the footage and made an odd discovery.  According to still photos taken by the camera, Bryce made his ascent up Lake Hughes Road, for the first time, at 2:15am, just six minutes after he’d spoken with his mother and said he was pulling over in a residential area to sleep, but the Castaic Lake region is far from a residential area.  His vehicle shows up on the camera, again, at 4:29am, an hour before the crash site is discovered.  His vehicle is not seen coming down Lake Hughes Road, which seems to indicate that when he went up at 2:15, he followed the road for a long way, until it spit him back out onto a main road, at which time he doubled back and went up the road once again.  What Bryce was doing in that area, and why he went up a second time adds another confusing detail to what is already a confounding disappearance.

                  As a result of their inability to locate anything related to Bryce, his case fell into the hands of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau.  Sgt Roger Wallace, when asked about the search, suggested that they had done a very exhaustive search, with the assistance of the Santa Clarita Valley Search and Rescue team, but had failed to come up with anything which might answer their questions.  Bryce’s parents were not apt to sit idly by and watch, and almost immediately turned to social media, making posts on Facebook and twitter.  Within hours they had a number of volunteers who wanted to help with the search, as well as putting up fliers and spreading the word about his disappearance.  Karen later stated “Through all of the social media, it has been overwhelming.  I’ve been on Facebook.  I was inundated with emails from people.  People are spreading the fliers and trying to help.”  Investigators began speaking to people close to Bryce, though outside of drug use, alcohol use and his recent odd behaviors, there was little to be gleaned from them.  Bryce’s roommate explained that he had given him his Xbox and earrings, though he claims to have no understanding as to why.  In addition to this, Sean revealed that, on the night Bryce vanished, he received a text from him.  The text read “I love you bro, seriously.  You are the best person I’ve ever met.  You saved my soul.”

 

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                The search for Bryce continued throughout the weekend, but by the following week, efforts had been reduced and Bryce’s case was changed from an emergency search to a more casual search, feeling that there was no likelihood they were going to discover anything new at Castaic Lake.  This would be the first act which would create a rift between the Laspisa family and the investigators working his case, while Karen and Michael felt that Bryce’s case wasn’t being addressed as thoroughly as they would have liked, investigators felt they had little to go on and if, in fact, Bryce had walked away from the accident, they had nothing to give them a direction to go in.  On Wednesday, September 4th, five days after Bryce vanished, police responded to a fire burning in the area of Castaic Lake, near to where Bryce’s vehicle had been recovered.  Once on the scene, they found the body of a deceased male had been set ablaze.  For days following the discovery, the Laspisa family waited with baited breath, but the decedent was ultimately identified as a man from Los Angeles, and not Bryce Laspisa.

                Authorites begin to lean toward the possibility that Bryce has chosen to run off from something in his life.  They feel that whatever it was that he was referring to when he told his mother that they had a lot to talk about could go a long way toward solving the mystery of where he went, and why.  At the same time, his family finds it difficult to accept that Bryce would have left of his own volition, and in their frustration with the police, they hire a private investigator who begins digging into the case for them.  It’s a difficult case, with a lot of dead ends and no real answers.  For police, there are several factors that indicate to them that Bryce ran off:  Something was obviously troubling him.  He was killing time, delaying his arrival home.  Buttonwillow, where he spent a large portion of the day,  has a lot of trucker activity and it is theorized that Bryce may have been looking to hop on board and be driven away.  The fact that he gave away his Xbox and earrings also leads them to believe that, whatever happened to Bryce, it was part of a plan he was choosing to execute.

                Bryce’s parents feel that he was far too close to them, and that they had such a good relationship, they can’t believe he would have willingly chosen to walk away and leave them wondering if he was all right.  They don’t believe their son would put them through the incredible pain of wondering where he is, and what happened to him, if he had the ability to do something about it.  Bryce’s uncle, Glenn David, when asked about Bryce possibly leaving, acknowledged this possibility and addressed his nephew directly, stating “Bryce, it’s your uncle Glenn.  Come on, let’s go.  Make a call, have somebody make contact.  Whatever it is, we’ll work through it.”

                Soon, days become weeks, weeks become months and months become years.  For the Laspisa family, every day is heart wrenching as they wonder what could have happened to their son.  The bizarre circumstances of his last known days and hours continue to weigh heavily on the minds of both his family and investigators.  Sadly, though, there is very little to report about Bryce following the first few weeks after his disappearance.  The Private Investigator, hired by the family, ultimately decided that Bryce likely sustained a head injury in the crash, which resulted in some form of retrograde amnesia, or possibly a fugue state, which left him confused, disoriented and not knowing who he was.  After a few years of having the investigator look into the case, the Laspisa’s ultimately stop using her services as it appears that, whatever happened to Bryce, simply cannot be uncovered at this time.

                Bryce’s parents took part in several candelight vigils in hopes of garnering attention to his case and bringing someone forward with information, though no new information has ever come to the surface.  Over the years, they have elected to instead try to spread awareness of his case through random acts of kindness they hoped would be done in his name.  When asked about the possibility of a memorial, or another candlelight vigil, Karen responded “It has become too difficult to hold these, especially for me.  You would think, with time, as his mom, I could do an observance, but my pain is still as raw as it was the day he disappeared.”

                In August of 2015, two years after their son vanished, the Laspisa family hired a sonar specialist to check Castaic Lake, as thoroughly as possible, for his body.  After using sonar, nothing was discovered which suggested that any body was in the depths of the lake.  If indeed Bryce Laspisa is still out there somewhere, he is living a transient existence, for there has been no activity on his social security number, bank accounts, credit cards or passport.  For all intents and purposes, beyond comprehension, Bryce appears to have mysteriously vanished into the darkness of the Castaic Lake region, and has yet to be seen again. 

                Since Bryce vanished in August of 2013, nearly five years ago, there have been multiple sightings reported, though none of them could be verified.  Often times, homeless men in California are reported as resembling Bryce, but when the individual is located, it is never Bryce, or the individual fails to be located in the first place.  However, sightings of Bryce are not only limited to California, with individuals from across the country calling in sightings.  He has been seen everywhere from California to Oregon to Texas, in every form and fashion from a homeless man asking for change outside an In and Out Burger, to a young man with dreadlocks spending time on the beach.  The most recent of these sightings was discussed on the Facebook Page “Find Bryce Laspisa.”  In the post, there is discussion of a homeless man with red hair seen in some tents behind a CVS.  Thousands of tips and sightings have been reported, though none have led to Bryce being discovered.

                With Bryce’s disappearance coming following such bizarre circumstances, many theories have been developed to address what are considered to be the most likely possibilities.  Some of these theories have been put forth but investigators, others from the family and some still from online investigators. 

                The first theory is that Bryce Laspisa elected to run away from his life and his family.  Supporters of this theory believe that the car accident was done purposefully, with the intent of ending up in the lake, but when this failed to happen, many believe Bryce walked away from the accident and from his life.  For many, there is a high likelihood that Bryce is still alive out there, somewhere, choosing not to return.  Others have a different spin on this, and suggest that Bryce’s choice to run off may have been related to the onset of a mental illness, or as a result of side effects of the drug Vyvanse which he had been abusing.

                The second theory suggests that Bryce may have been suicidal the night that he vanished, and that his ultimate plan was to crash his SUV into the Lake and drown.  When he failed to do so, many believe he may have wandered off into the wilderness with the intent of committing suicide.  Whether this was as the result of some difficulties in his life, the influence of drugs and alcohol or some other, yet unknown details, is hotly debated.

                The third theory follows the thought process presented by the Laspisa’s private investigator, that Bryce’s disappearance may in fact be related to the crash itself.  According to this theory, Bryce may have been disoriented that night, due to a lack of sleep, or the residual effects of coming down from drug use.  The accident, whether on purpose or purely accidental may have caused a head injury which resulted in a case of retrograde amnesia, or possibily a fugue state, which left Bryce confused and unsure of his own identity, where he was or what he was doing.  For many, they believe Bryce’s disappearance came when he wandered off in this state and that he is now living as a homeless person without any recollection of his past, or knowledge that he is being searched for.

                The fourth and final theory is that following the crash, Bryce may have hitched a ride with a trucker, or another person, and he may have been murdered in a random act of violence by someone with whom he interacted in the early morning hours of August 30th, 2013.  Supporters of this theory note Bryce’s closeness to his family, and the likelihood that were he still alive out there somewhere, and in possession of his mental faculties, he would have gotten in contact by now.  Being on foot, in the early morning hours, the chances of him running into someone who meant to do him harm are difficult to silence.

                Nineteen year old Bryce Laspisa’s final hours are incredibly difficult to understand.  In the last days of his life, friends and his girlfriend noted a drastic shift in his personality, odd behaviors and were worried about his well being.  Regardless of their concerns, Bryce’s family feels that he was lucid and normal in their conversations with him, while law enforcement who interacted with him just hours before he vanished, saw nothing in his behavior which led them to believe he was in any way at risk or under duress.  What led this intelligent, caring and popular young man to crash his vehicle in the hills of Castaic Lake, at which points he seemingly vanished into nothingness?

                When last seen, Bryce Laspisa was described as being a Caucasian male with red hair and green eyes.  He stands 5’11” tall and weighs approximately 170lbs, though his weight may be different if indeed he is living as a homeless person.  Bryce has a tattoo of a Taurus bull head and his birthday in roman numerals on his upper left arm and both of his ears are pierced.  When last seen, Bryce was wearing a blue and white checkered shirt, white cargo shorts and size twelve red and white Nike shoes.  A $5000 reward for information leading to Bryce’s recovery remains in place.

                For his family, every day is a struggle.  They wake, go about their routines and try to live their lives, but they are haunted by the questions which cannot be answered.  What happened to their Son, what was it that he wanted to talk to them about and was it in some way connected to his disappearance?  For them, they cannot begin to grasp what could have transpired in the two weeks following his summer vacation and his disappearance.  For them, the last time they saw Bryce, he was the same optimistic, hopeful and caring son they’d always known.  What they do believe is that Bryce is alive out there somewhere, and he needs their help as desperately as they need for him to come home.  In the nearly five years that have passed, they have never given up hope that he will return someday, though every time a young male body is discovered, or a red haired homeless man is spotted, their breath catches in their chests as they wait for verification, and so far, it has never been proven to be Bryce. 

                When asked about what she believes may have happened, Karen Laspisa responded:  “He never ran away from home, there was never any problem big enough that would make Bryce literally want to walk away from his life.  He loved us too much, and we love him too.”

[Thoughts & Theories]

                The disappearance of Bryce Laspisa is one of those cases that is so utterly bizarre it’s hard to wrap your head around.  A bright young man, heralded by everyone in his life as smart, optimistic, kind, caring and fun to be around, over the course of a two week period, seems to spiral into a dark place, begins abusing drugs and alcohol and winds up spending a large sum of time driving around, sitting in random places and, ultimately, vanishing into a desolate area in the early morning hours.  Bryce’s case has been discussed since nearly the day he vanished, and for most of those who examine it, they cannot help but be confounded by the details and incredibly confused by the evidence, what little there is.  For his family, it’s a waking nightmare.  The idea that your child can leave home, seemingly fine, and then suddenly, and without warning, fall into a darkness from which he cannot escape. 

                In this particular case, you’ll notice a great deal of detail leading up to his disappearance, and very little following it.  That’s because, outside of numerous unverifiable sightings, and speculation from all sides of the equation, there’s very little to discuss.  There is a rift between the Laspisa’s and the police, with the family feeling that authorities determined that Bryce left of his own volition, and in not so many words, they’ve implied that the police abandoned his case.  On the side of law enforcement, they do believe that Bryce likely left by his own choice, but they disagree that they abandoned his case.  They simply felt they had no new leads, no information and nothing to follow.  While they do follow up on reported sightings, they’ve never found anything which leads them to believe that anyone has actually seen Bryce.  They continue to monitor his personal information, and are in possession of his fingerprints, DNA and dental records which are used whenever a John Doe body is found, but over these past five years, they’ve never found anything concrete to lead them to Bryce.

                When you’re dealing with something like this, with very little information and completely out of the ordinary behavior, you’re going to have a decent amount of theories.  There certainly are four major theories revolving around Bryce, each of which possesses its own evidence, and each of which contradicts the others.  Bryce’s disappearance reminds me strongly of the Rico Harris disappearance, which I covered in episode 4.  Two young men, with some drug abuse involve, who vanished from rural areas in California.  Both of them were on long drives, both had people waiting for them to arrive and both made phone calls indicating their location, and that they were stopping to sleep.  Though there doesn’t appear to be a connection here, the similarities are certainly fascinating.  Both stories are remarkably sad, and for both families, they’ve yet to find answers.

                The first theory in the disappearance of Bryce Laspisa is that Bryce chose to leave of his own choice.  While this is a theory which is often examined in cases where people over the age of eighteen disappear, for the most part, I find them to be unlikely.  In Bryce’s case, this may be a more likely scenario than usual, but there are several factors which have to be considered.  First and foremost is the drug and alcohol abuse.  We have never gotten a clear picture of who Bryce received the Vyvanse from, as he had no prescription that we know of.  ADHD drugs are not a rarity on college campuses, so the source could have been anyone, but I do find it fascinating that while his roommate and girlfriend were concerned about his use, no particular individual was named as the source.  Dabbling in prescription drugs of this kind without a prescription is dangerous, to say the least.  We don’t know what dosage Bryce was taking, but were he to have gotten these pills from his own physician, it’s likely he’d have begun on a lower dose.  Vyvanse is, essentially, methamphetamine and the impact it can have on the body, as well as the mind, when taken improperly can be very damaging.  When you combine that with alcohol, you’re got a recipe for disaster.  The question that comes up in my mind is what led Bryce to taking the pills in the first place.  The story that has been told is that he took the pills to stay up while playing Xbox with friends, but that doesn’t really make a lot of sense.  It’s possible, but if that was the plan, why would he continue taking them?

                Maybe he liked the way they made him feel, or maybe he was told by a friend about how great the pills were.  Anything down the road is speculative, but for someone to so quickly turn to drugs and alcohol seems to suggest there may have been something going on in Bryce’s life that those closest to him were not privy to.  We could speculate endlessly about it, and what it was that he wanted to discuss with his parents, but ultimately we have no way of knowing.  For the running off by his own choice theory, we have to wonder, if this is what happened, if the choice was made of sound mind or if it was a result of possible side effects of the drugs.  Police believe it was a choice Bryce made, and they point to his giving away his xbox and earrings, breaking up with his girlfriend and having a secret to share with his parents and seemingly delaying his arrival home, as if he wanted to go elsewhere, as indicators that he was having issues he wanted to escape from.  I’ve always felt that the giving away of those items might be more indicative of paying off a drug debt, as they are items which carry a street value and are easy to sell, rather than indicators that he was planning to run off, but that is purely speculative on my part.

                Here’s something that’s never made sense to me, though.  If you’re planning to run away, wouldn’t you want things with you that carry value, be them sentimental or something you could exchange for cash?  Bryce left behind his wallet, laptop, cell phone and the vehicle he flipped.  Why would you run away without transportation?  Perhaps he didn’t want to be easily tracked, and that could explain leaving the cell phone behind, but why not take his wallet and laptop?  The laptop could have, at least, garnered him some traveling cash to ensure he had food for a while.  It’s very confusing, but again, we don’t know what state of mind he was in.  While law enforcement who spoke to him that night found him to be lucid, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t hiding something or simply putting on a show for them.

                The area he was hanging around was also bizarre.  While he suggested he was going to meet up with some friends at some point in time, there’s never been anything found to indicate he knew anyone in the area.  It’s not exactly a heavily populated location with a lot of options, though it is interesting to note that he was hanging out in the area of a truck stop.  Could his plan have been to run off with a truck driver, and get across country quickly?  Perhaps, though why do that when he could have simply driven himself further away and then ditched his vehicle.  It does seem like some of these acts were done in order to avoid being tracked, but we also have no way of knowing if the accident was accidental or done on purpose.

                Were Bryce of sound mind, you’d have to imagine that, were he planning to run off, he may have said something to someone so that those who loved him wouldn’t worry about his safety.  Perhaps leave a note behind, something to indicate that while he was leaving, he was all right.  Then again, I have seen many cases where someone simply chooses to run off and gives no indication that they are going to do it.  Unfortunately, when it comes to this case and this theory, we have very little to work with.  There is the possibility that Bryce was under the influence of the drugs, was suffering from side effects, or that the drugs may have resulted in the surfacing of a latent mental illness, and all of these could have played roles in his choice to leave.  We simply have no way of narrowing it down, or knowing for certain.  Bryce’s behaviors could be symptomatic of drug abuse, but they could also suggest a mental disorder such as bi-polar or schizophrenia.  If indeed one of these illnesses had surfaced, it would go a long way towards explaning his odd and unpredictable behavior.  The possibility that Bryce fled of his own volition is certainly there, and while the family firmly disagrees, it cannot be completely ruled out.

                The second theory is that Bryce may have been suicidal and that the vehicle crashing was as a result of him attempting to drive into the lake with the plan of killing himself.  The fact that tire marks suggested he was pressing the accelerator, and not the break, has been noted as a support for this possibility.  It’s certainly odd that he wouldn’t have been breaking as he careened down a steep embankment over brush, rocks and across dirt and sand.  Does this necessarily mean that he was intending to get into the lake?  Not really.  We have no way of knowing if Bryce had familiarity with the area, but if he didn’t, in the darkness, he may not have even been able to see the lake.  He drove of Hughes Lake Road, to where a cell phone tower stood, and then drove down the embankment, where his vehicle ultimately flipped on a different road.  Wouldn’t it have been easier to have gotten on that road and then drove toward the lake if that was his intention?

                We don’t know what led him to this location in the first place, and while I understand that authorities consider suicide a possibility, weren’t there easier ways for him to accomplish this?  If Bryce had wanted to end his life, why not do it in a way which was guaranteed to succeed?  There are multiple ways he could have accomplished this goal without needing to stay awake for more than twenty-four hours, driving all around California.  He sat at Buttonwillow for over thirteen hours, and during that time, he could have easily found a way to end his life if he’d wanted to.  Some have speculated that he spent this time considering the possibility, while others feel that Bryce was simply lost and trying to find himself.  We have no way of knowing, but going back to the accident, assuming he survived the crash without a major injury, and he was still suicidal, where would he have gone from there? 

                Tracking dogs indicated that he may have headed towards the lake, they also indicated that he may have gone back down the road towards the gas station and truck stop.  Had he gone to the lake, it’s hard to imagine that divers wouldn’t have found him.  They were in the water just hours after the crash, but at the same time, Castaic Lake is rather large, covering 320,000 acres.  That’s a lot of area to cover, and we have seen in the past that a body of water can be searched multiple times before anything is ever actually found, if at all.  For many, they believe that Bryce went into the lake that night and simply has never been recovered.  This is a possibility, but drowning oneself is a complicated task to accomplish without some measure by which to restrain your arms and legs.  Your body is going to kick into action and try to save you.  Drowning is not comfortable, you’re going to breathe water into your lungs, you’re going to choke and you’re going to have that desperate need to escape.  Now, were Bryce under the influence of something or suffering from a mental illness, these could all change his reaction.  Police searched his vehicle when they stopped him and found no illicit substances in the car.  He passed a field sobriety test.  How could someone who seemed to be all right, suddenly nose dive into a situation such as this?

                If Bryce did not go into the lake, the one main problem I have with the suicide theory is the lack of a body.  Suicide victims do not frequently go out of their way to conceal their remains, and in the nearly five years since Bryce vanished, his remains have never been located.  Now, it’s entirely possible he could have wandered off into the mountains, or that his remains may have been discovered by animals, but considering the breadth of the searches that have been conducted in the area, it seems unlikely that even a shred of clothing wouldn’t have been recovered by now.  He chose this area, for some reason or purpose, so why would he have gone there, with suicidal intentions, and then elected to go elsewhere?  It’s yet another aspect of this mystery which remains to be determined.  Suicide remains a possibility which can neither be ruled in or out, but in this particular case, it does seem less likely than other scenarios.

                The third theory in the disappearance of Bryce Laspisa was put forth by the private investigator that was later hired by the family.  According to her investigation, with all due examination given to the relationship between Bryce and his family, she firmly believes that Bryce, while sleep deprived and disoriented, drove off the embankment accidentally and was subjected to a head injury which damaged his memory.  Post Traumatic Amnesia is described as a state of confusion that follows a traumatic brain injury.  However, there are several things which could occur following a traumatic brain injury and they don’t all point to the possibility of retrograde amnesia.  Amnesia has two classifications, retrograde, meaning the individual forgets all or some incidents leading up to the injury, and anterograde, meaning the individual will not be able to store new memories from the time of the injury.  For Bryce to have forgotten who he was, he’d have to have been subjected to retrograde, and while there many instances of this lasting for long periods of time, many studies indicate that the victim will regain his or her memories within days.  Based on the very limited amount of blood found in the SUV, and the lack of blood in the area, it’s difficult to imagine that Bryce sustained a severe enough head injury to have caused these problem.  It is important to note, though, that concussions and traumatic brain injuries are not always associated with the necessity of an external injury which will result in blood loss.

                There was also the possibility of a fugue state having taken place.  A fugue state is a dissociative disorder characterized by reversible amnesia for personal identity including memories, personality and other character defining traits.  The state can last days, months or even years.  According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it can also involve unplanned travel or wandering.  This certainly sounds like a possibility when we consider Bryce’s travels in the days leading up to his disappearance and, ultimately, the disappearance itself.  The causes of fugue states are varied, but can include severe stress and traumatic events, even including accidents of violent situations.  So is it possible that Bryce entered a fugue state following the accident?  Certainly, though it should be noted that fugue states are considered a rarity.  If indeed this is what happened, it would go a long way towards explaining his disappearance, and possibly even his actions leading up to it, but what would have caused the fugue state to begin with?  Well, drug and alcohol abuse has been shown in some cases to be a contributing factor to a fugue state.

                It’s difficult to imagine that Bryce was in a fugue state leading to his disappearance, though.  He knew his girlfriend, he knew his roommate and he addressed his parents as mom and dad when he spoke to them on the phone.  They didn’t notice anything in their conversations which would suggest he had no idea who he was, let alone who they were.  This would seem to indicate that if a fugue state occurred, it occurred following the accident, which then calls into question all of his behaviors leading up to the accident.  While I completely understand the interest in finding a psychological reason for what happened to Bryce, it’s difficult to pin it down as amnesia or a fugue state when the details of the hours leading up to his disappearance are factored in.  It could have been stress, drug use or latent mental illness that led him to Castaic lake, but the concept that he was suffering from something which led him there, and then he experienced a traumatic brain injury following the crash, which created a fugue state or amnesia seems like a rather complicated set of circumstances in which a lot of rare and unlikely things occurred.

                Bryce’s disappearance is certainly bizarre, and defies definition, but trying to put a finger down on one particular factor is nearly impossible.  There simply is not enough information currently present which can explain his behavior leading up to the disappearance.  For police, they believe that whatever led to Bryce telling his parents that they needed to have talk, likely contributed to his giving away items and vanishing.  For them, the possibility of amnesia or a fugue state is slim to none.  While these possibilities cannot be completely ruled out, they do seem to fall more into the category of rare or unlikely.  If Bryce had simply crashed, and then vanished, without the strange behavior beforehand, these would seem much more possible, but given events as they played out, its difficult to latch onto one of these theories as more than speculative at best.

                The final theory in the disappearance of Bryce Laspisa is that Bryce, following his accident, became victim to an act of violence which may have resulted in his abduction or murder.  The possibilities here are nearly endless, with everything from Bryce coming across a total stranger who may have had ill intentions, someone looking to rob him, the possibility of a drug debt or a vengeful person from his personal life or some other incident which has yet to be considered.  Police have long theorized about the possibility that Bryce may have hitched a ride with someone in the early morning hours, and this person may have taken him somewhere with bad intentions, or may have given him a ride somewhere where he met with a violent individual.  In that rather empty area of California, there are a myriad of places that someone could have concealed a body or left Bryce where he was unlikely to be discovered. 

                The idea of Bryce getting a ride with someone, and then being subject to violence later seems unlikely.  You’d imagine that if someone had given a kid, fitting Bryce’s description, a ride at that time, he or she would have become aware of his disappearance and may have made a call.  This isn’t a gaurentee, but it seems more likely than not.  While it’s purely speculative, it seems more likely that if Bryce was the victim of an abduction or homicide, it was likely conducted by the first person he came across that morning.  Being that that area is so desolate, it’s hard to imagine someone driving around looking for someone to attack, so there is a less likely possibility that this was a situation of someone who was out looking for trouble merely coming across Bryce, essentially, in the middle of nowhere.

                We can’t rule out other factors, though.  Someone may have seen Bryce and decided to rob him, or someone may have followed him and waited until he was somewhere where they might sneak up on him.  All of these are possibilities, but again I find myself returning to the accident scene.  If Bryce’s intention was not to disappear, if this was the result of a random act, then why would he have left his cell phone behind in the accident?  Surely this could have been used to call for help, report the accident, check in with his parents.  Also, why would he have left his wallet behind?  We know he had a credit card and leaving it in the vehicle severely limits his abilities to get assistance, let alone food.  He had previously called roadside assistance when he’d run out of gas.  This seems like a much more likely situation for him to have made that call.  Unless, of course, he knew his parents had tracked him through that previous call and he didn’t want to be tracked. 

                The possibility of a random act of violence cannot be ruled out, but again, it seems unlikely.  There are so many details which would need to fall into place for this to happen, and none of them go towards explaining Bryce’s actions in the hours leading up to his disappearance, nor his choice to leave important items behind in the SUV.  While I think a random act of violence is certainly possible, a full examination of the major theories in this case seems to put a majority of the weight away from a random act of violence and more in line with the possibility that whatever happened to Bryce was something he chose to do, whether that was due to the influence of drugs, alcohol, head trauma, mental illness or some combination of all remains to be determined.

                The Disappearance of Bryce Laspisa is one of the most frustrating cases I’ve ever examined.  All unsolved cases are rife with unanswered questions, but in this instance, the questions themselves are mysterious, too.  What happened to this young man to lead to his bizarre choices.  What led him to Castaic lake.  What did he want to talk to his parents about and why did he seem reluctant to call them?  Why did he sit in Buttonwillow for nearly thirteen hours and why was he, seemingly, avoiding going home after giving away personal items and severing his relationship with his girlfriend?

                These are questions that both law enforcement and the Laspisa family would desperately like to have, but more so, they would like to find Bryce alive and well so that they might help him through this difficult period in his life.  It has been nearly five years since anyone verifiably laid their eyes on Bryce, and in that time, there have numerous sightings but nothing which has ever been proven true.  This is one of the rare instances in which I truly believe there is a high possibility that the victim is still out there, and that he may yet be found and brought home.  Sadly, without further information, a verified sightings or some new discovery which might break this case open, the disappearance of Bryce Laspisa remains open, unsolved and very cold.