Detectives working on a missing person case conduct their investigation at the mercy of the clues left behind.
While anybody can say the same thing to any other criminal investigation, one thing that makes the disappearance of an individual potentially more complex; the actual crime scene is harder to pinpoint.
The missing person’s “last seen” location does not always leave clues to the current whereabouts.
In some cases, investigators find no indication of foul play, searching even harder; no trace to follow, no person of interest identified. A missing person case can quickly become cold as detectives run out of leads to scrutinize.
It was just about an accurate description of the disappearance of Brian Shaffer. On April 1, 2006, he vanished without a trace during a celebration of the spring break with some friends in a bar in Columbus, Ohio.
Even the people who were supposed with him that day provided no reliable accounts as to his whereabouts. A long and extensive search for Brian has been fruitless. After more than 15 years, the case remains open.
10 /10 Barhop Fun
Brian Shaffer and Clint Florence arrived at Ugly Tuna Saloona, a bar at the South Campus Gateway in downtown Columbus, Ohio, sometime after 9 p.m.
Both were determined to spend the night out with friends celebrating the beginning of spring break.
About an hour later, Brian was seen talking to Alexis Waggoner, his girlfriend, who at that time was a second-year medical student at Ohio State University.
While the girlfriend was visiting her parents in Toledo, Brian was having fun barhopping with Clint.
9 /10 Back To Ugly Tuna
Starting from the Ugly Tuna Saloona, Brian and Clint made their way south from South Campus Gateway to Arena District.
At every stop, each had a shot of hard liquor. They moved back north to The Short North, from the Arena District, where they met Clint’s friend Meredith Reed.
All three had several shots before completing their round back to Ugly Tuna with Meredith as well.
Again at Ugly Tuna, the three were captured by a surveillance camera as they took the escalator to the second-floor bar and stepped inside. It was at 1:15 a.m.
8 /10 Two College-Aged Women
About 45 minutes later, Brian was back in the camera’s view, and this time he was seen talking to two college-age women. Brian appeared to have said goodbye to the two and walked away.
No one has ever seen him since. Calls from Clint and Meredith went unanswered. Brian’s father, Randy, and Alexis kept making calls throughout the entire weekend in vain.
It was not until Monday, April 3, that his family informed the Columbus police about the mysterious disappearance. Sgt. John Hurst and his team of detectives began their search at Ugly Tuna, the last place Brian had been seen.
7 /10 Camera Confusion
Brian was within the bar’s camera view for few moments. The video recording showed Brian entering the bar, but it contained no footage of him leaving.
Assuming Brian had gone the same way he arrived, for sure, the camera would have captured the scene. The easy explanation was that Brian found another exit that led directly to a construction site.
However, this exit was challenging to navigate, especially by a person with many shots of hard liquor in his system. It was also possible that Brian changed his clothes or donned a hat before taking the elevator, concealing his leave.
Two cameras were monitoring the entrance at Ugly Tuna. One camera panned the area constantly, while another was manually operated.
Brian could have slipped out in a blind spot and gone to a place where nobody recognized him. During the first few days of his disappearance, at least 50 police officers searched the bars, scoured the streets, and knocked on doors.
They also made sure to check local hospitals and homeless shelters. Investigators even visited riverbanks and landfills, not to mention nearby sewer lines. They found no clues as to his whereabouts.
5 /10 On The Brink Of Desperation
Before the barhopping happened, Brian and Alexis had planned to go to Miami for an actual spring break vacation. They were scheduled to fly there on April 3, two days after he went missing.
When he missed the flight, his family reported him missing. Lead investigator Hurst theorized that Brian’s disappearance involved foul play.
It was unlikely that he would deliberately ignore the getaway and vacation. Even if he had intentionally missed the flight, it made no sense that he never came home.
Hurst said people usually disappeared on the brink of desperation, not a vacation.
4 /10 Not One Good Clue
A year since Brian went missing, no one had used his credit card to buy anything or his cellphone to make any call. Police received hundreds of tips, including reports of the sighting, but none were accurate.
Brian had some easily distinguishable physical features, such as a dark speck on his left iris and a Pearl Jam tattoo on the right bicep.
He was a 27-year-old dark-haired male with an athletic build. The police never had any good clue to follow, and as a result, the investigation went unbearably slow.
With the lack of hints, investigators ended up chasing even the questionable tips without consequences.
3 /10 Smiley Face Killer
At some point in the investigation, the police also considered the possibility that Brian had ended up dead in the hands of Smiley Face Killer, the serial killer believed to have murdered several intoxicated college students throughout the Midwest before dumping their bodies into local rivers.
At the time of his disappearance, Brian lived in the 200 Block of King Avenue, Columbus, Ohio, just about 10 minutes of walking distance to the Olentangy River.
In every alleged dumping ground of Smiley Face Killer, a spray-painted image of a smiley face is found nearby. Not in the Olentangy River.
2 /10 $100,000 Reward
Brian Shaffer was neither the first nor the only person to have vanished without a trace, but certainly, his case is one of the most frustrating.
The reward for clues that could lead to his whereabouts started at $25,000 then went up to $100,000, and still, no one came forward with reliable information.
According to Hurst, no one said anything about the case does not mean no one knows where he is or what happened to him. This person only chose to stay quiet for many different reasons.
1 /10 Case Remains Open
So much has changed over 15 years. The disappearance of Brian Shaffer, however, remains unsolved. Tips keep on coming now and then, including a 2020 hint that included a photograph of a homeless man in Mexico thought to be Brian.
The FBI ran a facial recognition and determined the picture was of someone else.
On March 28, 2021, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation released an age-progressed photo of Brian, who would be 42 years old now, hoping that it will lead to some answers.