In the fall of 2013, Bryce Laspisa, a red-headed, blue-eyed college student from California, started acting weird. His behavior became erratic and his drinking habits worrisome (even by college standards). And he started doing bizarre things like handing out his belongings to friends and breaking up with his girlfriend out of the blue.
He had all his friends wondering what in the world had happened to him over the summer. What happened to the charismatic, friendly, easy-going kid they met during their freshman year?
Still, no matter how odd his behavior was, nothing prepared them for what was about to happen.
Bryce went missing on August 30, 2013. And while some people believe he took off to start a new life, I find it hard to believe he would be able to keep his identity a secret for so many years (nearly 8!).
Seriously, what in the world happened to Bryce Laspisa?
A Fresh New Start
An only child to Mike and Karen Laspisa, 19-year-old Bryce seemed to have everything going for him. In the summer of 2012, the same summer he graduated high school, his retired parents decided to pack their bags and move the family to America’s Golden State – California. They purchased a home in Laguna Niguel, a city known for its many beautiful parks.
Shortly after their arrival, he enrolled at Sierra College in Rocklin, located nearly seven hours away from his parents. Some found it weird he chose to be so far away, but to me, it looks like he just wanted some space. Which is something most kids long for at that age.
A Charismatic Artist With a Bright Future
By all accounts, Bryce had a great freshman year. He was majoring in industrial and graphic design, excelling at it, making friends, growing close to his roommate Sean Dixon, and even started dating a fellow student named Kim Sly. The future was bright.
At the end of the school year, Bryce returned to Laguna Niguel to spend the summer with his family, where he took an English class at a local college (to earn a few extra credits).
When he came back to Rocklin in August, just two weeks before classes began, his friends noticed a shift in his personality. They soon came to a terrifying conclusion – the Bryce who had left for the summer… never really came back.
The First Signs of Trouble
Bryce’s behavior was growing increasingly erratic. He began drinking heavily; even by college standards, he was drinking A LOT. And it wasn’t just the amount that was disturbing. It was the type of booze he was abusing.
He wasn’t chugging beer. He was downing bottles of hard liquor all by himself. He had never done this before, and his friends were growing more and more concerned. Bryce’s parents said they had never once seen him drinking at home during the summer. They said that he seemed happy, calm, and collected. No red flags whatsoever.
A Popular Study “Aid”
The fall semester started on Monday the 26th of August 2013. And Bryce kicked it off by taking his very first web design class. A day later, on the 27th, he called his mom to share how his first day went, and, according to her, he sounded upbeat and eager for the new year to come.
After hanging up, Bryce joined one of his friends for a night of drinking, video games, and the newest addition, Vyvanse – a stimulant that provides the user with enough stamina to power through the night without a minute of shut-eye. Sadly, its side effects are less appealing. Mood changes, unusual behavior, and bad comedowns are just a few of the damaging symptoms people have reported.
“You’re Better Off Without Me”
Bryce began using Vyvanse on a weekly basis. By the time August 27th came around, he had been up for over 24 hours. Sleep deprivation, in combination with the potent stimulant, likely caused a serious shift in Bryce’s psyche, because that very night, he broke things off with Kim.
They got into a bit of an argument after she expressed her concerns regarding his impulsive behavior. That’s when he texted her, “You’re better off without me.” When she asked him if he was breaking up with her, he responded with a definite yes.
Kim Wouldn’t Let Him Leave
A day later, his roommate Sean grew so concerned with his friend’s behavior that he decided to call Bryce’s mom, Karen. He complained that her son wasn’t sleeping, barely eating, and was doing virtually nothing but drinking. A few hours after hearing from Sean, Karen received another call.
This time, it was from Bryce himself. He was at Kim’s apartment in Chico, and while no one really knows the specifics of their meeting, he likely went over to talk about the breakup.
The reason he phoned his mom was to complain about Kim – she was keeping his car keys from him and wouldn’t let him leave.
Sadly, She Couldn’t Force Him to Stay
Worried about his bizarre behavior, Kim believed he was way over his head and didn’t want him to get behind the wheel. She took his car keys away from him and begged him to get some sleep. But after Bryce called his mom, Kim could do little to keep him away from the road.
“She’s just upset because I broke up with her,” he told his mom. But that wasn’t true. She wasn’t upset about the breakup as much as she was scared for his mental health.
Still, because Bryce didn’t slur his words or say anything too weird, his mom asked Kim to let her son go. He left her apartment at about 11:30 p.m.
He Never Went Home
Even though his mom wasn’t too concerned yet, she was still a bit wary due to Sean’s earlier call. She planned to fly out the next day to see him, but he refused. “Mom, don’t make any reservations until I talk to you,” he said, “I have a lot to talk to you about.”
A few hours later, at 1:00 a.m. (the 29th), he phoned her again, this time, just to check in. Karen assumed her son was back at his apartment by this point. But what she didn’t know was that he never really went home.
Stuck in a Small Town
The following day, Karen and Mike got a voicemail from their insurance company confirming that their Toyota Highlander (Bryce’s car) had requested roadside assistance. Karen immediately rushed to call Bryce, but he never picked up.
She then phoned Sean, who confirmed her worst fear – her son hadn’t returned to the apartment. They then decided to look through his credit card transactions for any clues about where he was and discovered a charge from a place called Castro Tire and Truck, a small auto shop located in Buttonwillow, a town three hours north of their home in Laguna Niguel.
Was that good news or bad news? His parents couldn’t decide.
The Last Person Who Saw Him
When they saw the transaction, they thought, “Oh, great. He’s probably on his way home.” But since Bryce wasn’t picking up yet, they decided to call the repair shop to check in. A technician named Christian picked up and informed them that he had helped their son out earlier in the morning at around 9:00 a.m.
As it turns out, Bryan ran out of gas, so Christian got about three gallons and helped him fill up so he could make his way to the gas station. Hearing Karen and Mike’s shaky voices, he offered to check and see if their son was still in the rest area where he assisted him earlier that morning.
“Please Come Home”
To Christian’s surprise, he found Bryce in the same exact spot where he left him. Bryce was equally surprised to see Christian again, and even more when the technician told him his mom was on the phone and wanted to talk to him.
Karen asked her son what was up, and he responded with “nothing.” Oddly enough, she didn’t push any further than that. She didn’t ask why he was up all night or why he hadn’t moved since the morning. She just told him, “Listen, you’re three hours from us. Please fill up your gas tank and come home.”
For a while there, it felt like the mystery was solved. But just for a while.
Where Was Bryce?
Around noon, Christian found Bryce still in the rest area. So, Karen and Mike expected him to be home by 3:00 p.m. But three came around, and nothing. No sign of their son. At 3:30 p.m., they called his phone, but to their dismay, yet again, he didn’t pick up.
They tried convincing themselves that he was probably somewhere stuck in traffic. But by the time 6:00 p.m. came around, no rationalizing could relieve them of their worries. They finally filed an official missing person’s report.
Paralyzed in His Car
The first thing police did was ping Bryce’s phone to see if any location would come up. Luckily, his phone was still on, and it pinged in – and this is where it becomes seriously obscene – Buttonwillow, the same little town he stopped in at 9:00 in the morning to fill up his gas tank. The same little town he was in at noon when he talked to his mom.
At this point, Bryce had been in Buttonwillow, just sitting in his car, for around nine hours. Because police were now involved, they sent deputies to check the area. They found Bryce about eight miles from where he was parked at noon. Astonishingly, he looked completely lucid. As if everything was fine.
Just Letting Off Some Steam
The officers approached Bryce and asked him what was going on. According to them, he didn’t seem under the influence at all. His speech was totally clear, and he was able to walk in a straight line. His seemingly normal behavior confused them all the more.
Bryce’s response to their question was, “I’m just relaxing… letting off some steam.” But when they urged him to call his parents, his entire demeanor changed. He grew panicky, reluctant, and very hesitant. For whatever reason, he didn’t want to call them.
“The Kid Seems Fine”
The cops weren’t taking no for an answer. They dialed the phone and handed it to him once his mom picked up. “What are you doing?” she asked him again. Bryce gave her a very literal answer – he said he was just putting stuff back in his car after the police’s search.
His response was cold and aloof. It was like he didn’t understand how incredibly bizarre he was acting. Again, his mom didn’t push him. She just told him, “Okay. Get something to eat and come home.”
She then talked briefly with the cops, who assured her that “the kid seems totally fine” and that he had passed all their sobriety tests.
Christian Followed Him Onto the Highway
The deputies left the scene fully convinced that the young boy would soon be on his way back to his parents. But (and this, sadly, isn’t much of a surprise anymore) a few hours later, Karen and Mike got a call from Christian, the technician who drove by and found Bryce still in his car, still “letting off some steam.”
This time, Christian was like – enough is enough. He told Bryce’s parents he would follow their son onto the freeway to make sure he got on it and was heading home. Bryce, who at this point clearly understood that standing in place was leading him nowhere, bought a soda at a nearby gas station and told Christian he was ready to go.
His GPS Said He’d Be Home Soon
Finally, more than 12 hours after he first arrived at Buttonwillow, Bryce was heading out. Christian drove behind him for about 10 miles and later reported that there was nothing unusual about the boy’s driving. Confident that Bryce would continue the journey safely home, he turned his car around.
Over the next few hours, Bryce’s parents call him every so often, making sure he was on track. They keep asking him to point out landmarks so they could get an idea of his location. It was late at night, so he responded that he couldn’t really see what was around him. The only thing he kept telling them was, “My GPS says I’ll be home at 3:25.”
Not Who They Were Expecting
At about 2:09 a.m., he called his parents to tell them that he was too tired to drive and that he was getting off the interstate to take a nap. And while Karen and Michael were desperate for their son to come home, they were also worried about him falling asleep on the wheel. They agreed to check up on him first thing the next morning.
When they heard the door knock at 8:00 a.m. the next day, they rushed to open it with a sense of relief flooding over them as they twisted the doorknob. Unfortunately, it wasn’t Bryce. It was a California Highway Patrol officer with a concerned look in his eyes.
A Mysterious Crash
They were told that Bryce’s car had been found, overturned, and abandoned after plummeting down a 25-foot embankment near Castaic Lake – about two hours north of their home. Some of his belongings were in the car (laptop and phone), and some were scattered outside of it (duffle bag and wallet).
The cop wasn’t concerned about the car, and neither were the parents. It was the fact that Bryce was gone. The only thing they found was a trickle of his blood in the inside of the car. But other than that, it seemed like he had vanished from the face of the earth. For the second time in less than 24 hours, Michael and Karen had to report their son missing.
Theory Number One
The first theory goes something like this: A little before dawn, Bryce drove off the main road and headed up a hill towards a cell tower. He passed the tower, then went down the hill again and started accelerating as he drove towards Castaic Lake. From the top of the hill, he might have had the illusion he was really close to the water, but in reality, he had a 25-foot drop ahead of him.
Police found that the car’s back window was pushed out from the inside. So, they believed he had crashed on his side, realized he was fine and conscious, and scrambled his way out through the back window. As to why he would drive his car off a hill like that – most people assumed it was an act of suicide.
Regardless, police had a more burning question in mind – Where was he?
More Confusing Evidence
Police immediately began scanning the area with helicopters, divers in the lake, searches on foot; every possible method was used to track the boy down. Yet they came up empty-handed. The only thing they managed to get their hands on were two photos that somehow confused the case even more.
A surveillance camera in the area snapped two pictures of Bryce’s car going up the hill towards the lake. One at 2:15 a.m., just six minutes after he told his mom he was getting off the interstate to rest. So, for a moment there, police assumed he drove up to take a nap, just like he said.
But the second picture proved them wrong.
The Crash Wasn’t Accidental
The second snapshot showed Bryce passing by the same camera at 4:29 a.m., an hour before his crashed car was found. It’s impossible to know what he was doing in those two hours and why he went up the hill a second time.
It’s terribly weird Bryce would go to a spot and then come back to it two hours later. And then, finally, fly his car off the hill. Something clearly snapped in his brain. Sleep deprivation, his mental health, the pills he took, the alcohol he drank – it likely drove this poor kid into a state of psychosis.
Police were convinced that the crash was in no way accidental. Bryce had been in total control of the vehicle as it sped down, hitting the accelerator all the way to the bottom.
A Dead End
On the ninth day of the search, police brought in bloodhounds to track Bryce’s scent. The dogs sniffed their way from his car all the way to Government Cove, where divers were sent in to search the area. They concentrated on shallow waters first and gradually dove deeper and deeper. But were unable to find anything.
The dogs eventually led investigators to a truck stop, but that’s where the scent ended. Since then, there have been absolutely zero clues about what happened to Bryce.
Could he have hopped on a truck with someone and, just like that, drifted far away from his previous life?
Cutting Ties With His Previous Life
Once news of Bryce’s disappearance began to spread, his friends from college revealed more disturbing evidence. Sean (his roommate) said that on the same night Bryce drove off, he sent him a text saying: “I love you bro. Seriously, you’re the best person I ever met. You saved my soul.”
Even more disturbing is that on the night before he disappeared, Bryce gave Sean his Xbox console and a pair of diamond earrings gifted to him by his mom. “I don’t need them,” he told his friend. When someone starts giving out his possessions, it’s a huge red flag.
He Definitely Snapped
Despite popular opinion, Bryce’s parents were (and still are) adamant that their son was not suicidal. They insist that Bryce loved them too much to voluntarily disappear like that.
So, what was it? Some people assume he began to develop bipolar tendencies or even schizophrenia.
All we know is that Bryce had been awake for somewhere between 24 to 72 hours. So, the sleep deprivation, as well as his abuse of Vyvanse, could have easily sparked a brain reaction that caused him to hallucinate.
Even though… come to think of it, that also sounds pretty unreasonable, considering how he passed all the sobriety tests and showed no signs of psychosis.
How Has Nothing Come Up Yet?
After two taxing weeks, police announced that they were gradually backing away from the search. They had thoroughly inspected all the areas on the list, both on land and underwater, yet nothing had come up.
At 5 foot 11 and with bright red hair and even brighter blue eyes, Bryce Laspisas stood out in a crowd, making it all the weirder that nothing has come up about him in nearly eight years since the incident.
Did He Forget His Own Identity?
Some people believe he must have hit his head hard in the crash, likely causing him to forget his own identity. So, assuming he’s alive, they think he probably doesn’t know who he is anymore. But blaming his disappearance on the car crash isn’t satisfactory by any means.
Bryce’s strange behavior started way before he flew his car off the hill.
A large group of people believe he’s still in the lake. They think his intention was to commit suicide, probably by driving his car into the lake. But when he fell off the embankment and still survived, he limped his way down to the waters and drowned himself. But that’s also kind of unlikely because of the bloodhounds who tracked his scent all the way to the truck stop.
And if he drowned, it’s weird that his body wouldn’t have surfaced at one point.
Someone Surely Would Have Reported Seeing Him
Through the years, police have received several phone calls from people who believed they had spotted him, but officers could not confirm any of the sightings as legitimate. Sadly, there may never be a clear answer as to what happened to Bryce Laspisas, though his bizarre vanishment makes it likely he is no longer with us.
If he were alive and living life someplace else, I find it hard to believe he would have managed to keep his identity a secret for so long. Especially with all the “Missing Person” banners and posters his friends and family put up.
People Blamed His Parents
Bryce’s parents suffered a lot of backlash online for their behavior. People harassed them with comments like, “Why on earth wouldn’t you drive up and get him?” His mom’s decision to let her son make his way home alone made them wonder whether she had something to do with it.
And while there are plenty of crazy-parents-murder-their-kids cases, I feel like, in Bryce’s case, judging his mom here is completely unnecessary. None of us can say we would have 100% driven up to get him in the middle of the night, especially after police checked up on him and reassured his folks that he looked completely fine.
His parents are still searching, to this day.