Brian Shaffer was a second year med student at Ohio State University in the spring of 2006. His mother had battled a devastating and fatal illness with cancer and his girlfriend, Alexis Waggoner had been visiting her family.
Spring Break was about to be in full swing and Brian and his ex roommate Clint Florence headed out that Friday to have some drinks at the local bars.
Brian Shaffer and his friend Clint Florence
The two men arrived at the Ugly Tuna Saloon around 9:15PM and had a few shots. He and Alexis spoke on his cell phone around 10:30PM. Brian and Clint then left the Ugly Tuna Saloon around 11:00PM and walked to Short North Tavern and then to another bar around 11:40PM. By 1:15AM they were back at the Ugly Tuna where their evening had begun.
Brian returning to the Ugly Tuna
Brian can be seen in the grainy surveillance video returning to the Ugly Tuna around 1:15AM. He can also he seen on the foyer near the escalators speaking with some girls that Clint knew. He then walks out of the bottom right side of the camera and Brian Shaffer disappears into thin air.
Brian – last images of him
By 2:00M its closing time. Clint calls Brian on his cell phone and it goes straight to voicemail. He goes to the men’s room and looks for him but Brian is not there either. Eventually Clint assumes Brian has left and he leaves as well.
Saturday, April 1st Alexis continuously tried to call Brian with no luck. The couple had plans to leave town for a Spring Break vacation in Florida that following Monday. By Sunday she was scared and knew something was not right.
One baffling aspect of this case that still perplexes law enforcement today is the fact that Brian could not be seen on surveillance leaving the bar after he had re-entered. Both bar exits are covered by cameras, as is the escalator in which you see Brian enter and leave and enter again.
Outside the bar, out of camera view, are stairs and an elevator that lead to the first floor. Once on the first floor, the only way out, without being seen on tape, would be through a service exit that leads to a construction site, with doors to the street.
Only exit not covered by cameras
Brian’s credit cards, bank account and cell phone have not been used. There have been no significant leads to indicate what happened that Friday night.
Connections or Coincidence?
Since 1997 at least eight college men were found dead in local rivers after a night out at local taverns or bars in the mid-west. Many started to wonder if there was a serial killer in our midst, preying on vulnerable inebriated men.
The series of deaths began in July 1997, when the body of 19-year-old Richard Hlavaty was found in the Mississippi. In 2004 the body of 21-year-old UW-La Crosse wrestler Jared Dion was also found in the Mississippi river. In September 2006 UW-La Crosse basketball player Luke Homan was again found in the Mississippi and a month later police classified the death of Chris Jenkins, a University of Minnesota student as a murder and not accidental.
According to a criminologist at Minnesota’s St. Cloud State University, more than twenty college-aged men had drowned after disappearing from bars or parties since 1997 in an area from Minnesota to Ohio.
However, in September of 2007 after La Crosse police asked the FBI’s National Center for Analysis of Violent Crime to review their investigations, the FBI stated that they had found no evidence to support a theory of a serial killer and contributed the deaths to excessive drinking. Some are not convinced however and think they police are trying to avoid publicity.
One name that has continuously been linked with Brian Shaffer’s disappearance is that of Anthony “Tony” Luzio. On the evening of July 3, 2005 Tony had gone to a friend’s house to play cards. Afterwards he stopped at a local hangout and around 2:30AM Tony and a group of friends went to a party, one mile from Tony’s parents house in Powell, Ohio.
Tony was last seen leaving the party at 4:00AM, presumably to his apartment. That was the last time anyone ever saw Tony Luzio again. His 2004 Honda Civic is also missing and has never been recovered. He disappeared just 15 miles from where Brian Shaffer disappeared.
In November of 2005 29-year-old Mohamed Rihani also disappeared in the same close proximity after leaving his residence in the vicinity of Riverview Drive and Olentangy River Road in Columbus, Ohio. He too was driving a Honda Civic, black in color. Both he and his vehicle have vanished.
Where it Stands
Since Brian Shaffer’s disappearance, other college-aged men have also disappeared, although not close in vicinity to the disappearances of the previous mentioned men.
In November of 2007 18-year-old Justin Gaines disappeared from Wild Bill’s in Duluth, Georgia and just one week later Kyle Fleischmann disappeared from the Buckhead Saloon in Charlotte, North Carolina. December 23, 2007 21-year-old Joshua Szostak disappeared after leaving the Bayou Café on North Pearl Street in Albany, New York.
It does seem that young males have a false sense of security when being out and about, thinking that nothing can happen to them. All these young men that were mentioned were in good shape and seemed very capable of taking care of themselves. However, once alone and intoxicated, one can become vulnerable and a victim.
Today Brian’s father (as well as all the other families of these missing men) continues the quest to find answers and to find his son. After all, not knowing is the hardest.
FBI: No Serial Killer in River Drownings
Find Brian Shaffer
Brian Shaffer’s Myspace
Dateline – Into Thin Air
Dateline NBC Video – Into Thin Air