Holding on to hope

Hope, prayers and light were the weapons against yet another cold night in Naperville as local friends and relatives gathered at the headquarters of the Naperville Women’s Club at Old Stone Church Friday night for a vigil to remember Bryce Laspisa.

The 2012 Naperville Central graduate has been missing for six months now and has not been heard from since making a call to his mother at 2 a.m. on Aug. 30.

The vigil, which began at 8 p.m. and lasted less than 20 minutes, was coordinated by family friend and Naperville resident Emily Barenbrugge, a former babysitter for Laspisa when he was a preschooler.

Barenbrugge said she keeps in touch regularly with the family and that “coordinating a vigil here was the least I could do.”

“I organized the first vigil here last year one month after Bryce was missing, and this marks the sixth month and it’s important to keep his name out there,” Barenbrugge said.

“I think the thing that gives Bryce’s parents hope is that there is still no evidence that he has died, plus their faith and the hope that someone, somewhere will make a difference and their prayers will be answered.”

The program included an introduction by one of Laspisa’s uncles, who appeared on behalf of the family, along with a FaceTime message sent via iPad from Laspisa’s parents, who were out in California attending one of two vigils held there at an earlier time. The short program concluded with a slide show featuring the missing Naperville Central graduate.

Pastor Erick Ewaskowitz of Resolution Church in Oswego appeared at the one month vigil and again led participants in prayer Friday night. Ewaskowitz spoke about the things in life that are true and the outcomes of being tested.

“I know there are probably people of various faiths or levels of faith here, but there are two things we can all probably agree on,” he said. “One is that we live in a broken world, and the other is that we all long for something better. When darkness rules the day, we develop perseverance which leads to character and then to hope.”

Laspisa’s uncle Brian David, 50, spoke before the vigil about his nephew and said that his hope springs “from there being no evidence as yet indicating there was foul play.”

“We still have hope even though there has been no news for a while following a number of false sightings and the fact that the investigator asked us to cut down the postings on Facebook,” David said. “We need to keep this fresh and make sure the awareness is there. Someone has seen something and knows what happened, and all it takes is just that one person.”

David said the family has worked with a couple of psychics and that one received strong impressions of Laspisa being in Portland.

“My theories on what happened have changed,” David said. “There was a time when I thought being abducted and being held somewhere or possibly something with child trafficking was number three on the list, but those theories have been moving slowly to the top.”

Alysa McMahon, 19, a former classmate of Laspisa’s, said she met Bryce in sixth grade and that later in high school, they were in the same prom group. She described his disappearance as “hard to accept.”

“You look at pictures of him on Facebook after high school, and when another friend told me he was missing, it was hard to accept,” she said. “The whole situation is bizarre.”

Jacoby Battle of LaGrange sat with the audience and said his wife Patricia talks with Laspisa’s parents in California nearly every day.

“My wife and Bryce’s mom are best friends and grew up together,” he said. “There are rough days, but they have faith and try to believe the best.”

Following his phone call on Aug. 30, the 19-year-old’s tan 2003 Toyota Highlander was discovered later that day on its side in a ravine near the main boat launch in the Castaic Lake State Recreation Area in California, with its rear window shattered. Police reported they found blood inside the vehicle, but following an extensive search that included divers and tracking dogs as well as hundreds of volunteers on foot, police believe Laspisa likely walked away from the site on his own.

Those with any tips or information about Laspisa are urged to call a dedicated hotline at 949-292-4400.