"Make sure your worst enemy doesn't live between your own two ears."
It was the 30th of August 2013. A Friday. At 2 am, Bryce Laspisa called his parents to let them know he was pulling off the I-5 to sleep in his car in a residential area. He was on the way to see them and he told them he had a lot to talk about.
Bryce graduated from Naperville Central High School in 2012. He was a good student and he played football and baseball. When his parents, Karen and Michael Laspisa, retired, the whole family moved from their home in Illinois to Laguna Niguel, California, United States. A short time later, Bryce moved to Chico. Chico is around 450 miles away but Bryce had to move there as he was about to start sophomore year at Sierra College. Bryce was a talented nineteen year old and he chose to study graphic and industrial design.
Karen and Michael with their son Bryce Laspisa
Things seemed good for Bryce in Chico. His roommate was a good friend of his and he had a beautiful girlfriend, Kim Sly. But in the week leading up to the 30th of August, Bryce was not himself. He seemed a little out of sorts.
On the 26th of August, a Monday, Bryce started his new semester but Kim thought he was acting a little erratically. She discovered he had allegedly taken an ADHD pill, one that had not been prescribed to him. It was believed that he had taken the pill Vyvanse to help him stay awake to play video games all night with his roommate. His roommate noted that he was drinking more than he usually did too.
In the days that followed, things didn't get any better. Bryce gave away the diamond earrings gifted to him by his mother to a friend and other possessions like his Xbox. He ended his relationship with Kim.
Bryce Laspisa and Kim
Bryce went to Kim's house on the 28th of August. He called his mother and told her that Kim would not give him his car keys. Kim spoke to Karen on the phone and she told her she was concerned and worried about Bryce because he was behaving differently. Kim told Karen that Bryce shouldn't be driving. His roommate had also called Karen to voice his own concerns earlier that same day. He too noticed that something wasn't right with Bryce. Bryce told Karen he was fine and that he would head back to his own apartment. He left Kim's house around 11.30pm.
Bryce didn't go home that night. Instead, he began driving south on I-5 toward Laguna Niguel. At 1am, on the 29th, Karen missed a call from Bryce's phone. At that point, he was an hour away from his apartment in Rocklin. A few hours later, at 11am, Karen and Michael received a voicemail from Bryce. Bryce had used their credit card as he ran out of gas in Kern County. He charged the $20 worth of fuel to their card.
Karen wanted Bryce to come home to their house straight away and he said he would as he wanted to talk to her but hours later, there was no sign of him. She called the Tire shop where Bryce bought the fuel and one of the employees went out to look for him. Bryce was in the same spot as he was in hours earlier. He was sitting in his car and his "eyes were a bit red." Other than that, Bryce seemed fine.
Karen spoke to Bryce at 12.30pm and he was due to arrive home by 3pm that afternoon. But 6 hours later, Bryce was still not home and he wasn't answering any calls. Karen and Michael reported him missing.
The California Highway Patrol located Bryce. He was in his car on Lagoon Drive, in Buttonwillow. They knew about his erratic behavior from speaking to his parents so they carried out a search of the car. They were looking for drugs but found nothing. Bryce passed a field sobriety test. There was no alcohol in the car either. Bryce seemed fine. As Bryce hadn't actually done anything wrong, the California Highway Patrol left him in his car. They just asked him to call his mother.
Karen spoke with Bryce at 11pm. He got some more fuel at one point and bought a drink.
Just before 2am, on the 30th of August, Bryce called Karen again. He told her he had gotten off the I-5 but was now back on it again and on the way to her house. He called her again a few minutes later to let her know he was no longer on the I-5 as he needed to pull over to sleep. At that stage he had been awake for some 48 hours so Karen was glad that he would get some sleep.
Bryce didn't pull over to sleep though. He drove for another hour and a half to Castaic Lake.
Sometime between 4.20am and 5.15am, Bryce's car, a Toyota Highlander, was found abandoned at Castaic Lake by law enforcement officials who had arrived at Castaic Lake for a training exercise. The Lake was some two hours from Karen and Michael's home. The vehicle was found 15 feet down a ravine on its passenger side.
The car was at the bottom of a 25' embankment. It was across from the Lake’s main boat access road. The back window was broken but there was no sign of Bryce. Police believed he may have gotten out of the car through the back window. There was blood on the passenger side and on the back seat but it wasn't a large amount of blood so police didn't believe Bryce had suffered a serious injury. Investigator Shannon Tulles said:
“He likely did not sustain a debilitating injury at the scene.Given his physical conditioning, he absolutely had the ability to leave the scene.”
Bryce's belongings were still in the car. His clothes were in the trunk and his phone, laptop and wallet were inside the car. His bag was on the back seat.
Police obtained some CCTV footage from the area. The CCTV showed the car in the area. At 2.15 am, the car drove along Lake Hughes Road near Caustic Lake. The car drove up the same road again just before 4.30pm. The track pattern, from the top of the embankment down the bank to the Castaic Lake, led police to believe that the car went down the bank at a high speed and no brakes were used.
Police conducted a thorough and extensive search of the area. The Castaic Lake was searched for a number of days and nothing was found. Dogs, helicopters and volunteers took part in the search. Scuba divers searched the Lake about 40 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
The ground search focused on Government Cove near the main boat launch on the upper lake. They searched an area where the dogs, the search/scent K-9 dogs, picked up a scent. They tracked a path that seemed to suggest that Bryce got out of the car and walked away near to a gas station.
On the 4th of September 2013, a jogger saw a brushfire on Lake Hughes Road, near Castaic.
Karen and Bryce Laspisa
The Los Angeles County firefighters responded to tackle the brushfire in the area surrounding the Lake. The cause of the fire was determined to be a burning body. The body was too badly burned to immediately determine the person’s sex or identity.
Police later determined the body was not Bryce.
The Los Angeles County coroner confirmed it was not Bryce. It was the body of thirty five year old Lamondre Deon Miles. He had been shot several times in the torso and his body was dumped and set on fire. It was believed his murder was due to an unpaid debt.
Bryce Laspisa as a child
Just one day after police determined the body was not Bryce's body, the search was called off. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Deputy Johnie Jones said:
"We've pretty much exhausted searching in that area. They've found basically nothing. So we're kind of at a standstill."
The search is far from over for Bryce's parents though. They live in hope that one day their son will be found alive. When Bryce was first reported missing, they received numerous tips and were informed of multiple possible sightings of their son. And when the leads dried up, they hired a Private Investigator. Unfortunately, nothing at all was found. His disappearance is still a mystery. Karen explained the turmoil they face:
“It’s gut-wrenching, every day not knowing. It’s a living nightmare. It’s just been difficult because there has been no new news. We continue to have hope Bryce will be found.”
Bryce was described as 5 feet 11 inches tall and 170 pounds, with red hair and blue eyes. He has a tattoo of a Taurus bull head with a Roman numeral on his left shoulder.
He was last seen wearing white cargo shorts, a blue-and-white checkered shirt and white-and-red Nike shoes.
Anyone with information about Bryce was asked to contact sheriff’s investigators at 323-890-5500. Anonymous tips can be submitted through Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS or lacrimestoppes.org.
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"My family and myself are good, decent and very honest people."
"He is the single most blatant, arrogant, yet curiously effective liar and manipulator of the truth.”
- Deputy District Attorney Christopher Evans
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