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Vigil to mark hope for missing Naperville Central graduate

<p>Bryce Laspisa’s tan-colored, 2003 Toyota Highlander sport utility vehicle was discovered about 5:30 a.m. Aug. 30, lying on its side at the bottom of a 15-foot-deep ravine in Castaic, Calif., according to a sheriff’s department news release. | Submitted</p>

Bryce Laspisa’s tan-colored, 2003 Toyota Highlander sport utility vehicle was discovered about 5:30 a.m. Aug. 30, lying on its side at the bottom of a 15-foot-deep ravine in Castaic, Calif., according to a sheriff’s department news release. | Submitted

Susan Frick Carlman
scarlman@stmedianetwork.com | @scarlman
Feb. 25 9:20 p.m.

The search for missing 2012 Naperville Central High School graduate Bryce Laspisa will mark six months in duration Friday, and a trio of vigils that evening will underscore the continued hope that he’ll return safely home to his family in California.

Local friends and relatives will gather at the headquarters of the Naperville Woman’s Club from 8 to 9 p.m. Friday. The building, also known as the Old Stone Church, is at 14 S. Washington St.

Family friend and Naperville resident Emily Barenbrugge, who babysat for Laspisa when he was a preschooler, is coordinating the local observance. It will take place on the same day as two vigils planned in California, including one at Sierra College, where he was a student. All three events are encouraging participants to wear orange, in honor of Laspisa’s vivid red hair.

Initially scheduled at the site where his damaged vehicle was found, the other event has been relocated to a church about ten miles south of there, because rain is in the forecast. Barenbrugge said the resulting time change will enable Laspisa’s parents to participate in the Naperville vigil via iPad, on Facetime.

The last time Laspisa’s family heard from him was at about 2 a.m. Aug. 30, when the 19-year-old called his mom, Karen Laspisa, during what his family believes was a trip home to surprise his parents. His tan-colored 2003 Toyota Highlander was discovered later that day, lying on its side in a ravine near the main boat launch in the Castaic Lake State Recreation Area with its rear window shattered. All of his belongings, including his wallet, laptop and cell phone, were inside the SUV.

Police said they also found blood inside the vehicle, but after an extensive search that included divers and tracking dogs as well as hundreds of volunteers on foot, they concluded he left the site on his own, likely walking away.

A Facebook page titled Find Bryce Laspisa was soon set up, and dozens of tips promptly came in and were checked out. A private investigating firm retained by Laspisa’s parents continues the search.

“They say they get tips every now and then, but they haven’t panned out to be Bryce,” Barenbrugge said Tuesday.

The chief investigator, Shannon Tulloss, is especially interested in hearing from Laspisa’s friends, believing they may have pieces of information to share that could help the effort. A dedicated tip line has been set up for callers to report sightings or other information; it can be reached at 949-292-4400.

Now a mom herself, Barenbrugge said she talks regularly with Laspisa’s mother, who is hanging onto hope that her only child will still find his way home.

“She’s having a really hard time,” Barenbrugge said. “She’s not complete without her son.”

She and others involved in the search stress that no repercussions will result from any contact made with Laspisa or those who may have crossed paths with him in the past six months. The family simply wants word.

“They just want a phone call from him, if somebody out there knows where he is,” she said. “They just want to know he’s OK.”

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