Friends pray for safe return of missing NCHS grad
Friends of a missing 2012 Naperville Central High School graduate were holding onto hope Thursday morning for the safe return of their friend, 19-year-old Bryce Laspisa, who went missing Aug. 30 after crashing his car into a ravine in California.
That hope remained alive, despite a blow to the case that came Wednesday when a burning body was discovered near the scene of Laspisa’s crash.
Investigators said Wednesday they do not know what connection, if any, exists between the body and last week’s disappearance of Laspisa.
“I hope to God it is not him. We are all just waiting to find out,” Laspisa’s childhood friend, Jake Kigyos said. “I have faith that he is safe somewhere out there.”
Laspisa attended Lincoln Junior High School and Naperville Central High School. He and his family later moved to Orange County, Calif., and he enrolled in college.
“He is just a normal teenager,” Kigyos said. “When he was missing the first day, we thought he got upset and just didn’t come home, but when they found his car crashed, and he was gone, it got serious. It is totally out of the ordinary, and not in his character to (go missing).”
Los Angeles County sheriff’s department Lt. Wes Sutton told local reporters Wednesday night “there is no way to comment” on whether the discovery of the body and Laspisa’s disappearance might be connected, according to published reports. Results of a scheduled autopsy that might identify the remains will not be known for as long as a week, according to a sheriff’s department spokesman.
Kigyos is hoping the two cases are not related.
“We are all on the lookout here (in Naperville), in case he shows up,” he said. “I heard he was missing Naperville and his friends a lot.”
Kigyos thinks maybe Laspisa is on his way back to Illinois.
“If by chance he sees any of this, just say that all of us friends and family miss him a lot and just want him to get home safe so everyone can be able to see him and have him around,” Kigyos said.
Friends, including Kigyos, last saw Laspisa just before he moved out West following graduation. Plans to visit their childhood friend were in the works, Kigyos said.
“None of us ever thought something like this would happen.”
As the search goes on, a Facebook page, FIND BRYCE LASPISA, dedicated to helping find the former Naperville teen is garnering attention from across the country.
“As Bryce’s mom, I have truly taken comfort in reading all the posts from his friends and family around the country,” his mother wrote. “Know how much we appreciate all the kind, and of course funny, comments. All of us that know and love Bryce are aware of his kind heart and making us laugh.”
Bryce Laspisa’s tan-colored, 2003 Toyota Highlander sport utility vehicle was discovered about 5:30 a.m. Aug. 30, lying on its side in Castaic, Calif., according to a sheriff’s department news release. Laspisa was never located. Castaic is an unincorporated area in the Santa Clarita Valley in northern Los Angeles County.
The burning body was found by a bicyclist just after 6 a.m. Wednesday southeast of Castaic Lake. In spite of the discovery, diving teams equipped with an underwater camera on Wednesday continued to scour the lake, and an aerial, helicopter search of the surrounding area was also conducted.
Laspisa lives in the Northern California community of Roseville and attends college there. His parents believe he was driving to Orange County to visit them when he vanished, authorities said.
His family reported him missing on Aug. 29, but he was found later that evening in Buttonwillow, Calif., a little north of Los Angeles County. Police said his last contact with family members came about 2 a.m. Aug. 30, when he spoke with his mother by telephone.
K-9 teams and investigators from other area law enforcement agencies have joined Los Angeles County authorities in the search for Laspisa.