Tips continue to come in on missing Naperville Central grad

<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>
Naperville, 9/30/13--A "Light The Way Home" sign forms a backdrop for the group of supporters. A group of about 100 relatives, friends and supporters of missing Naperville Central alum Bryce Laspisa came together Monday night at Frontier Park in a candlelight vigil.   | Jon Langham/For Sun-Times Media
Naperville, 9/30/13--Erick Ewaskowitz, lead pastor at Resolution Church in Oswego, speaks to supporters gathered and says a prayer for Bryce Laspisa. A group of about 100 relatives, friends and supporters of missing Naperville Central alum Bryce Laspisa came together Monday night at Frontier Park in a candlelight vigil.   | Jon Langham/For Sun-Times Media

More than four months have passed since Bryce Laspisa’s family last heard from him, but his loved ones continue to hope the 2012 Naperville Central High School graduate will return safely home.

The family now lives in southern California, where Laspisa’s parents have retained a private investigator to look into his disappearance last summer from the area around Castaic Lake, about 30 miles north of Los Angeles.

Orland Hills resident Brian David, Laspisa’s uncle, said the detective was hired a while ago, but the family opted to keep the arrangement quiet at first.

“We were kind of letting the dust settle, because we’d had so many fictitious sightings,” said David, 50. “But we couldn’t leave anything unchecked.”

After calling with his mother about 2 a.m. Aug. 30, during what was believed to be a trip to visit his parents from his college near Sacramento, Laspisa vanished. His 2003 Toyota Highlander was discovered later that morning at the bottom of a ravine near the lake, its rear window shattered and blood stains on the interior.

Searchers scoured the area and the lake in the days that followed, but found no trace of the 19-year-old. A month after his disappearance, on the same day a vigil was held at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville to support the search effort, the large-scale, organized daily searches were suspended.

Investigator Shannon Tulloss doesn’t put too much stock in the fruitless quest. She said she receives reports of possible sightings of the missing Sierra College student every day.

“This is an ongoing, ongoing pursuit of somebody we’re having trouble locating,” the owner of Shannon Tulloss Investigations in Santa Clarita, Cal., said.

There are indications from the search, which included tracking dogs, that Laspisa left the site of the accident, Tulloss said.

“The evidence reports are that he walked away from the scene. He could very easily have gotten a ride,” she said, noting that the crash site is near heavily traveled roads. “He doesn’t appear to have been seriously injured. It wasn’t that bad an accident.”

Although they’re discouraged that the search now is far less intensive than it was in the days following his disappearance, Laspisa’s family members remain guardedly optimistic as well.

“I guess at this point, with all the time that’s passed, there’s a few things that at least I’ve ruled out,” said David, who feels confident that the young man didn’t sustain a potentially serious head injury. “They haven’t found a body, so that’s good. … We’re all still hopeful that he’s out there.”

Hopes still rise and fall with the frequent sightings. One tipster sent images of a contestant on the TV game show “Let’s Make a Deal” who strongly resembled Laspisa. David said that gave reason for hope, until it was discovered the episode was taped in May.

“You have to look at every possibility,” he said.

The case is unlike most other missing-persons investigations Tulloss is hired to conduct.

“He went missing under unusual circumstances,” she said. “And because he is the only son of the Laspisa family, this is something that has touched people’s hearts across the country.”

The website reports that the young man’s loved ones urgently need assurance that he hasn’t come to harm: “He is not wanted by any law enforcement agency. His family is not angry with him and loves him. His friends are worried and hope that he is OK. Bryce did nothing wrong and is not in any trouble at all. ... If you have seen Bryce recently, his mother and father are desperate to know that he is okay and would like to help him if he needs help.”

Tulloss emphasized that no tip should be disregarded, and no hope is too small to sustain.

“It’s really a heartbreaking situation,” she said. “So you just keep looking ahead, moving forward every day.”

The Laspisa family has established a dedicated tip line to facilitate immediate response to possible sightings or discussion of Bryce Laspisa: 949-292-4400

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