Carpenter Newton reporting for Digital Journal
-- By all accounts, Brian Shaffer is one of our brightest. At 28, he's two years down with two to go on his medical degree from Ohio State University, but says the "whole doctor thing" is just temporary until he can get a band together and put out a record. He has an "awesome and amazing" girlfriend that he wants to own an island with, one day to bask in the sun and drink margaritas all day.
The only problem is Brian is not here. He's been missing since the night of April 1, 2006. On that night, Brian went out in Columbus with some of his friends to celebrate Spring Break. Just a few days later, Brian was to be on vacation with his girlfriend, Alexis, in Miami. He called Alexis that night to tell her he loved her and was looking forward to the trip. After the call, Brian and his friends went to the Ugly Tuna Saloona for drinks. Brian is seen on surveillance tape outside the bar, but once he disappears from view, it's the last image anyone has seen of him since.
In the weeks following Shaffer's disappearance, few clues emerged as to his whereabouts or what happened the night he went missing. Police questioned everyone who knew Brian, examined the surveillance footage in-depth and found a homeless man who thought he had seen Brian a week after he disappeared. Rewards were offered and the case was featured on NBC's Dateline. But spring ended, and soon summer came... without Brian.
Not long after Brian went missing, his girlfriend, Alexis Waggoner, started blogging about it on her MySpace.
Waggoner, also a medical student, documented searching dumpsters, printing flyers and being interviewed by Dateline in the early days of the search. On April 19, she wrote:
Today I spent the afternoon with people from Dateline NBC who are going to run Brian's story nationally next weekend. For those of you who have been curious, we have done so many things already to find Brian. We have searched through all the dumpsters (that was terrifying), we have walked the Olentangy River (thankfully to no avail), there have been search and rescue dogs all over the place, a day of helicopter searches, we have handed out and hung up thousands of fliers, and we have had psychics.
But no matter how grizzly the reality was, Alexis always made it a point to convey the true Brian Shaffer.
Brian is an amazing person. He is brilliant, kind, thoughtful, loyal, sweet, funny, talented, and handsome. I can't tell you how much I want to have him come home.
A month later, burglars hit Brian's vacant apartment. Alexis was the first to be called:
The police called me at 3 AM after I had finally cried myself to sleep at about 1 to tell me that someone had kicked in Brian's door and they needed me to come and tell them what was missing. The silver lining, I guess, is that it's brought the news back full blast, which has also helped to bring the $100,000 reward back into the spotlight.
Brian had planned to take Alexis to a Pearl Jam concert on May 22 in Detroit. He had already purchased tickets, but as Alexis blogged on May 15, she felt like she couldn't go without Brian. Pearl Jam is Brian's favorite band; he loves the group so much, he had a band logo tattooed on his upper right arm. Alexis auctioned the tickets off on eBay and added the money to Brian's reward fund.
June marked the year anniversary of her and Brian's first date.
In the next week is also the year anniversary of our first date and our first kiss. That was also our last week of school, and on the very last day I had gotten into a car accident. The following day, Brian, after only less than a week of dating, came over and drove me 30 minutes away to where they could fix my car, and then we went out to dinner and a movie. I'll never ever forget how sweet he was that day to drive me basically anywhere I needed to.
Later in the month, Alexis published a thank you note to Eddie Vedder, frontman of Brian's favorite, Pearl Jam. Vedder had dedicated time during the band's Cincinnati show to read off Brian's description and dedicated a song to him. (See YouTube Video
Brian would FLIP OUT to know that Eddie Vedder talked about him! I mean, Brian has a Pearl Jam tattoo and tributes a lot of this love of music to Pearl Jam.
July and August passed with no new information, but a promising development happened in late September. Alexis called Brian's cell phone, just like she had been doing at least once a day since he'd been missing. On September 23, the phone rang for the first time before going to voice mail.
Basically, all I know is that for a few hours a couple of weeks ago, Brian's cell phone was ringing before going to his voice mail for the first time in months. I kept calling it to hear it purely because it was one of the best sounds I have ever heard, even if no one picked up. His phone rang. That was good enough for me. It also scared the crap out of me, because I had no idea what I would say if a person answered it. I just wish I could have had the chance. I really wish I could get a straight story from someone on what happened and why because wondering where Brian is, is more than enough of a question to ask myself everyday without this one too.
Cingular, Brian's cell phone provider, offered two possible explanations. The most logical was a computer glitch that caused a dial tone to be heard. However, there was a possibility that Brian's phone was turned on and working for at least a short period of time in September. Sadly, Brian's phone did not have GPS capabilities and could not be located by Cingular.
More months passed and the seasons changed again. Alexis made a Christmas wish that Brian would somehow come home, but he didn't. She pondered what she would feel should Brian spontaneously come to her door:
Obviously, at first I'd be so thankful and happy. Then I thought that if he were out there somewhere and if he knew what was going on and how much he was missed, how incredibly hurt and angry and heart broken I would be. How could you fully explain to someone what it was like to miss them, pay their bills, defend them against anything negative said about them, and tell people how wonderful they were for over 9 months? But at the same time love them, and hope and pray that happens. He'd better hope he has no clue who he is if he's out there somewhere, that's for sure!
Life continued to move on without Brian. Alexis advanced in her studies, started hospital training and helped deliver a baby in January. The ten month mark of Brian's absence was noted because he had now been gone longer than Alexis had known him.
As the one year mark quickly approached, Alexis and Brian's family set up a prayer vigil to remember Brian and generate new ideas for the search. But before that could happen, Alexis had new reason to be worried. Skeletal remains were found in mid-March about an hour away from where Brian went missing that were likely to be about a year old. At the time, it was unknown if the remains were that of a male or female.
A guy out looking for aluminum cans in a makeshift garbage dump in the woods found them. I found out last night, and lets just say it was a long night for me.
Two days later, the remains were determined to be female. Alexis posted a blog titled 'It's not Brian, thank goodness.'
It has now been over one year since Brian Shaffer went missing. On April 1, Alexis and Brian's family, along with a small group of people, some strangers, gathered outside the Ugly Tuna Saloona and hung new fliers for Brian. They said a prayer and parted ways.
Alexis retains hope that Brian will eventually come home. Reading her blog is difficult but also awe-inspiring; how this young woman can deal with such a terrible situation and yet go about her life with a such a positive attitude nearly defies the laws of nature. Should Brian make it home, what an incredibly dedicated, beautiful and lovely lady he has to come home to. All of the words she uses to describe Brian can also be used to describe herself.
Brian Randal Shaffer
Date of Birth: February 11, 1979, 28 years old
Height: 6 feet, 2 inches
Weight: 160-165 pounds
Tattoo: Upper right arm, Pearl Jam symbol
Central Ohio Crime Stoppers: 1-877-645-8477
Resources used for this article:
Brian Shaffer's MySpace
Alexis Waggoner's MySpace
Ohio State University Brian Shaffer Support Page
Central Ohio Crime Stoppers