The road to nowhere – Bryce Laspisa

Bryce Laspisa was 19 years old when he went missing at Castaic Lake in California on August 30, 2013. A series of unexpected events occurred in the lead up to his disappearance, including a sudden relationship breakup, some cryptic messages to his parents and erratic behavior witnessed by his friends. His vehicle was found wrecked and overturned and blood was found, but there was no sign of Bryce at the scene – it’s like he vanished into thin air.

Background – the lead up to Bryce’s disappearance

Bryce Laspisa was born on April 30, 1994.  He was born in Illinois and he attended Kingsley Elementary, Lincoln Jr High, before graduating from Naperville High School in 2012.   His parents are Karen and Michael Laspisa.

Bryce and his parents

Bryce’s entire family were living in California at the time of his disappearance – they had all moved out there when his parents retired. Karen and Michael were living in Laguna Niguel and Bryce was residing in Chico, 450 miles away. Bryce had moved to Chico to attend Sierra College where he was about to start his sophomore year of study. Bryce lived with his roommate Sean Dixon, and his girlfriend Kim Sly lived nearby.

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Bryce and Kim

During the summer break, Bryce told friends and family he was excited and eager to return to Sierra College and to resume his classes in graphic and industrial design. By all accounts, he seemed happy and normal during this time. Bryce was a social person who enjoyed video games and he had a large circle of friends. Nothing seemed to be amiss in Bryce’s life until a few days before his disappearance.

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Bryce and his friends

Bryce’s Disappearance – what happened?

On Monday August 26, 2013, Bryce attended his classes at Sierra College as normal.  His mother has said that she spoke to Bryce that day and they had a ‘good normal conversation’.  It has also been reported that the family have seen a photo of him that was taken on this day and he appeared happy.  

Sierra College

Tuesday August 27, 2013.  This is when things begin to get weird.   It has been reported that Bryce’s girlfriend Kim said “He was acting strange and he admitted he took that pill”.  ‘That pill’ is thought to have been ADHD medication that was not prescribed to Bryce. 

Sean Dixon, Bryce’s roommate has also said that Bryce had been drinking hard liquor and taking Vyvanse, an ADHD medication. Bryce was taking Vyvanse to keep him from falling asleep while they played video games all night. It’s been reported that Bryce had been drinking heavily for a while, and would often consume a bottle of hard booze each weekend.

Bryce also gave away some of his belongings to friends including his xbox and a pair of diamond earrings that his mother had given him.

On Wednesday August 28, 2013 Bryce texted his girlfriend Kim, saying that “she would be better off without him.”  At 10pm on this night, Bryce went to Kim’s house and she has said that he appeared to be agitated and unwell.  He told her again that he wanted to end their relationship.  She took his car keys from him so that he could not drive away in the state he was in.  This made Bryce mad and he called his mother Karen to ask her to intervene.  Karen offered to fly out to Bryce the next day to help him but he told her to not make airline reservations because “I have a lot to talk to you about.” 

During this time, Karen asks Kim to return his keys.  Bryce left Kim’s apartment around 11.30pm, with everyone believing he was going back to his apartment to get some sleep.

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Bryce and Kim

Bryce’s mother received a phone call from him at 1am on this date but she missed the call. She assumed it was to let her know that he had arrived safely at his apartment. Phone records that have been pulled since his disappearance show that he was one hour away from his apartment, in what is said to be an isolated area.

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Bryce and his parents

– The next day, August 30, 2013 at 11am, Bryce’s parents receive a voicemail from him saying that he had used their roadside assistance account at 9am. He had run out of gas near the Buttonwillow Rest Area, west of Bakersfield, California. He had travelled almost 350 miles from his apartment in Chico. Three gallons of gas were delivered to Bryce by a man Christian who worked at a company called Castro Tyre and Gas. The cost for the gas was $20 and was charged to his parents’ credit card. As the charge records showed that he was in Buttonwillow, his parents assumed that Bryce was on his way to see them. Their Laguna Niguel home was under a three hour drive from Buttonwillow. They tried to call Bryce but he did not answer any calls at this time.

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Buttonwillow rest area

When Bryce had not arrived at his parents’ hours after the gas was delivered, they called Castro Tyre and Gas, and Christian went back to the rest stop to check on Bryce. To his surprise, Bryce was still sitting in his car at the rest stop. He spoke to his mother on Christian’s phone and when asked what he was doing, he replied ‘nothing.’ Christian told Karen that Bryce appeared ‘ok’ and added that ‘his eyes look a little red.’

After speaking to his mother at approximately 12.30pm, his parents expected Bryce to arrive in Laguna Niguel by 3pm. The time came and went and Bryce never showed up. He still was not answering any calls and six more hours passed by without any communication from Bryce. His parents tracked his phone and they discovered that he had only moved 8 miles in a 9 hour time period. Why they didn’t drive to pick up Bryce in this time is unknown.

At 9pm, Bryce’s parents asked California Highway Patrol Officers for help. The officers found Bryce and searched his vehicle which was now located on Lagoon Drive in Buttonwillow.  The car was searched for drugs and alcohol and that nothing was found.  The police officers spent twenty minutes with Bryce and they performed a sobriety test that he passed.  They also asked Bryce to call his parents to let them know he was fine and he was very reluctant to do so.  He did give in and eventually called them. 

Around 10pm, Karen called Bryce again and he answered his phone. She asked him what he was doing and he told her ‘I’m going to hang with friends later.’ 

At 11pm, Bryce stopped at a gas station in Buttonwillow where he buys a drink for $1.71.  After that, Karen has said that ‘he tells me he’s on the I-5 South but he’s telling me nothing.’   It been reported that he also purchased $39 worth of gas at this time at the Valero Station on Lagoon Drive in Buttonwillow.

At some point during this night, the Laspisa’s called roadside assistance again.  Bryce was found to still be in the same area and had now been in Buttonwillow for over 13 hours.  The roadside assistance driver followed Bryce onto the Interstate to make sure that he was on the road and that he was headed in the right direction.  At this time, it’s been said that according to his GPS, he was due to arrive in Laguna Niguel at 3.25am.

Friday August 30, 2013.  At 1.50am, Bryce contacted Karen to tell her that ‘he had detoured off the I-5 but was back on the  I-5.’   Karen’s last ever contact with Bryce was at 2.08am.  He told her ‘I got off the I-5 and I’m in a suburban area.  I’m going to sleep in my car.’  Karen thought that Bryce had been awake for almost 48 hours by this time and so she did not argue with his decision to get some sleep. 

But, Bryce didn’t pull over to get some rest. He continued driving a further 90 mins south to Castaic Lake.  Between the time he left Buttonwillow and 5am, according to CCTV, Bryce made three separate trips to the location where his car would eventually be found wrecked.  A camera which was located on Lake Hughes Road near Lake Castaic caught Bryce’s 2003 Toyota Highlander going up the road at 2.15am, only minutes after he last spoke with Karen. The same camera captured him again driving up the road at 4.29am. 

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Castaic Lake

The exact time of the car wreck is not known but it is estimated to have occurred between 430am and 515am. Police officers had arrived at Lake Castaic to conduct a training exercise and that is when they came across Bryce’s wrecked vehicle. Law enforcement arrived at Karen and Michael’s home in Laguna Niguel around 8am to inform them of the crash.

Bryce’s car had been found overturned and wrecked on an access road leading to Castaic Lake Recreation Area, approximately two hours north of his parents’ house. The car had gone down a huge embankment and had flipped onto its side. There was a small amount of blood on the passenger side headrest and in the backseat. The back window of the car had been removed which indicated that someone had left the car through that point. Bryce’s belongings were found in the car, including his laptop, cell phone and wallet. There was a duffle bag found in the back of the car and it was unzipped. This lead investigators to believe that Bryce had removed something from the bag before he left the vehicle.

Tire tracks from the vehicle were found at the top of the embankment and they led down the bank towards Castaic Lake. The track pattern indicated that there was speed involved in the incident and that there had been no effort made to use the brakes. This led detectives to believe that Bryce was purposely trying to drive the vehicle into the lake, perhaps to take his own life.

The Search for Bryce

Search parties were immediately set up in the area.  Divers searched Castaic Lake for days and never found any trace of Bryce or his remains. A volunteer group searched campgrounds and other areas where Bryce may have been seeking shelter.

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A boat searches Castaic Lake for Bryce

While the search was ongoing, Los Angeles County firefighters responded to a brush fire in the area surrounding Castaic Lake.  A burning body was found to be the cause of the blaze.  The body was too badly damaged to determine if it was a man or a woman.  While Bryce’s family held their breath and waited for the coroner’s report, the body was determined to not belong to Bryce.  The victim was identified as being Lemondra Miles – a 35 year old man who had been shot in the torso before being dumped and set on fire in Castaic. 

The Laspisa family hired private investigator Shannon Tulloss. Shannon believes that Bryce did not sustain any massive trauma that would have taken his life during the wreck. ‘He likely did not sustain a debilitating injury at the scene. Given his physical conditioning, he absolutely had the ability to leave the scene.’

Multiple blood hounds tracked Bryce’s scent to a truck stop on Castaic Road where it stopped. Shannon Tulloss said ‘Logic is usually our best friend. All the logical facts surrounding this case seem to indicate that he likely walked away from the scene.’

The official search led by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s office was called off three weeks after Bryce disappeared.

The Laspisa family also turned to psychics for help in Bryce’s case during this time.  A psychic sent in the following tip which Karen posted on the family Facebook page for Bryce ‘The only thing I am seeing is that (Bryce) is either in or around the lake.  I looked it up on google maps and it looks like a V shaped lake.  I don’t know what area his car turned over after looking at the Facebook pages, but I am drawn to the top right hand point of the V.  I don’t know if he is alive or not but I am sensing if the search keeps persistent then it is likely he will be found in one shape or another.  It looks like there is a lot of dirt around him and trees.  It might seem a little generic but the visual looks like someone sitting in the dirt with a lot of greenery around and it looks like 3 trees right around him  – 1 on his right hand side and 2 in front.  Also sensing some dampness so maybe he got rained on or something along with the dirt.  Other than that I am not getting much.  If I get anything else, I will be sure to let you know. ‘  

Karen has since stated that multiple psychics, clairvoyants and mediums have sent their visions of Bryce to the family.  None of them have been accurate and their information varies from him being alive to him being deceased. 

In the years since Bryce’s 2013 disappearance, the Laspisa family have continued to regularly search the area where his vehicle was found.  In 2015, they hired a sonar boat and searched the lake for two days.  Their private investigator worked with a drone operator during the same time and nothing new was found. 

So, what happened to Bryce?

As of August 2019, Bryce is still missing.  His unstable behavior leading up to his disappearance including breaking up with his girlfriend and giving away his prized possessions lead people to question if he perhaps had a psychotic break due to either his use of illegal substances or the onset of a mental illness. 

When police questioned Bryce at the rest stop, they found it unusual that he did not want to contact his parents.  Bryce had recently told his mother to not fly to see him in Chico and he specifically told his mother on August 30 to not come to pick him up.  He mentioned that he had important information he wanted to tell them, but he clearly showed through his actions that he was reluctant to get home.  Because of this strange behavior, one theory is that Bryce is living off the grid and for whatever reason, cannot or will not get in touch with his family.

Bryce’s mother has stated that she does not believe he is voluntarily missing “As his mom, he’s my only child (and) I know he wouldn’t do this on purpose. His dad is on the same page too. The first week we thought that maybe he thought that he did something wrong and was ashamed, but after a week, we thought there is no way that he would just put everybody through this. Not just Mom and Dad, but also his family and friends.  He loved life too much and he was looking forward to so many things. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Multiple search and rescue dogs tracked Bryce’s scent at a truck stop where it abruptly stopped.  Could this indicate that Bryce got into a vehicle and was driven away?  In 2013, the Laspisa family asked for information about a purple semi-truck that was known to frequent truck stops in Castaic as it was thought that Bryce may have gotten a ride with the driver.  Nothing fruitful came from this lead.  To this day, family and volunteers continue to post Bryce’s information at truck stops around the country. 

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Castaic Truck Stop

It is possible that Bryce sustained a head injury or concussion during the car wreck.  This has led the family to theorize that he may be living among the homeless community and that he may not know who he is.  Bryce’s mother reported in September 2013 that there had been an alleged sighting of Bryce at a Habit Burger in Valencia, CA where he asked for water and seemed confused. She said “Bryce may be wandering around with a head trauma and has no identification on him.’

The Laspisa’s have left messages for Bryce on pages such as ‘Missing and Homeless on Facebook – “Bryce , we love you and miss you very much. We continue to hope that one day we will all be together again.”

As recently as July 2019, tips with possible sightings of Bryce have come in.

Bryce’s family have set up a Facebook group titled ‘FIND BRYCE LASPISA’ where to this day, they investigate tips and leads.  

Bryce was unfamiliar with the area that he disappeared in and he had never been known to hitchhike before.  His family have said that he did really enjoy outdoor activities. 

Bryce’s dental records, DNA and fingerprints have been entered into NAMUS and other databases, and no match with an unidentified male has ever been made. 

In November 2018, an internet hoax circulated with photos of Bryce and information stating that he had been found.  It is unknown where this information originally came from and the Laspisa family have stated that it is false.

In Bryce’s memory, the Laspisa family have asked that people perform random acts of kindness in his name.  Bryce’s mother said about the initiative “That’s the purpose to be able to continue spreading the awareness about Bryce still being missing and that Bryce has a very kind heart.” The Laspisa family ask yearly on the anniversary of Bryce’s disappearance that people continue their random acts of kindness.  In 2018 the family statement said “Today marks the fifth anniversary of our son, Bryce, going missing. We miss him very much and continue to hope that one day he will be reunited with his family.  All we can ask is that people keep him in their thoughts and perform an act of kindness on his behalf today.” Printable cards for anyone participating in the random acts of kindness initiative can be found on the family’s Facebook page for Bryce. 

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Bryce is a white male with red/orange hair and blue eyes.  He is 5’10 and approximately 160lbs.  He has a tattoo of a Taurus bullhead and his birthday in Roman numerals on his upper left arm.  At the time of his disappearance, Bryce was wearing a blue and white checkered t-shirt, white cargo shorts and size 12 red and white Nikes. 

Rumors and Speculation

People on Facebook and other forums such as reddit have many theories on what happened to Bryce. There is speculation that Bryce had a past history of drug and alcohol abuse and that he was arrested as a teen for MDMA possession.  Classmates from his Illinois high school have said that Bryce was known for regularly taking alcohol to high school.  An online post that was reportedly made by Bryce’s best friend from high school, labels Bryce as a ‘druggie’. 

Bryce’s parents are said to have been controlling – it’s thought that they chose the college he would attend, with little or no input from Bryce.  Karen and Mike had access to Bryce’s call and text records, even before his disappearance and now have access to his Facebook and email accounts.

One rumor is that Bryce planned his disappearance and his stopover in Buttonwillow was actually him killing time while he waited for someone to come and pick him up.  Some of his college friends are said to have been in on this plan, but this has never been proven. 

Another theory is that Bryce was waiting for a drug dealer in Buttonwillow.  Investigators have been unable to find out who supplied Bryce with the ADHD medication that he was illegally taking.  Could he have been waiting for a drug dealer who never showed up?  The drug that he was taking, Vyvanse, can cause hallucinations, anxiety and paranoia during the withdrawal phase.  Is this why Bryce was acting so erratically? Or did he leave his life to get away from his controlling parents? 

The Laspisa family asks that anyone who thinks they have seen Bryce to take a photo and send it to findbrycelaspisa@gmail.com.  There is a $5,000 reward for information that leads to Bryce’s whereabouts.  There is a tip line at 949-292-4400.  The LA County Sheriff can also be reached in regards to  Bryce’s case at 323-890-5500.

Check out the Bryce Laspisa episode by the Stolen Lives podcast team.

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