Brian Shaffer vanished from the face of the Earth at the age of 27. Over 15 years later, no one has any idea what happened to the Ohio State medical student.
Shaffer disappeared in 2006, and his case is still baffling the police and the online community of wannabe detectives. The FBI recently released a mockup of what Brian Shaffer would look like now, aged 42.
By now, there are thousands of assumptions about what happened that faithful night the young man vanished. Let's go through what we know and discuss some of the most popular or most likely theories.
Brian Shaffer Lost His Mother Three Weeks Before Disappearing
On March 31st, Brian and his father Randy went out for a steak on the first day of spring break. It wasn't a celebration but a bonding time. As Brian was in his second year of medical school, a break was more than welcome, especially since they lost Brian's mom three weeks earlier. So he met up with a friend at Ugly Tuna Saloona.
After dinner, Shaffer met William "Clint" Florence, and the idea was to go bar hopping. William later said that they visited several bars and did at least one shot per bar. A friend, Meredith Reed, picked them up in the middle of the night, and they went back to Ugly Tuna Saloona.
It is then that Meredith and William lost track of Brian. Around 2 am the bar closed, and though his friends tried calling him, Brian did not answer his cell phone.
On Friday, April 1st, 2006, before 2 am, his friends last saw Brian. Meredith, as they assumed, he went home, and so they headed to their homes as well.
Brian's Trip To Miami With His Girlfriend
Shaffer and his girlfriend Alexis Waggoner were supposed to travel to Miami on April 4th. When he didn't show up for his flight, his family alerted the Columbus police.
This trip was supposed to be a romantic getaway, and many assumed that Brian would ask Alexis to marry him. It was not just a trip but the last gift from his late mother, making it even more relevant to the young man.
Alexis was visiting her family in Toledo during the weekend and only spoke to Brian on March 31, at around 10 pm.
Since it was the weekend, and Brian went out for a night of fun and drinking, everyone thought he was resting and preparing for his trip. Though Alexis was worried and called Brian's dad, they knew something was seriously off when he never showed up at the airport.
Alexis, Brian's dad Randy and brother Derek soon learned that his car was in the parking lot, six blocks from the Ugly Tuna Saloona. Since it was an area with high crime activity, the police launched a citywide search.
A few days later, someone broke into Brian's apartment, and it raised even more red flags. However, the police soon connected that the disappearance of Brian Shaffer and the break-in were not related.
Brian Shaffer On CCTV Cameras
The police had plenty of footage, but as it later turned out, they did not answer any questions about Brian's disappearance.
There are more cameras in Columbus than in any other Ohio city, especially in the area around Brian's apartment and the Saloona.
The footage from the entrance into Ugly Tuna Saloona will continue to confuse the authorities since it showed Brian entering the bar at 1:15 am and again at 1:55 after he was spotted talking to two women outside.
Now, this is where things get twisted: the cameras caught everyone getting out of the bar, except for Brian.
Brian was not on any other security cameras in the area, apart from entering the bar with William and Meredith and reentering after saying goodbye to two young women.
Some investigators assumed they missed him, but considering how many cameras were in the area, that seemed highly unlikely.
The two exits were covered by surveillance and the third one was under construction, making it impossible for anyone, let alone someone under the influence, to walk out simply.
The Hunt For Brian Shaffer
After going through the CCTV footage, the police went to Ugly Tuna Saloona with dogs and pretty much turned the place upside down.
Since they didn't find anything, they started looking into dumpsters, even in the sewer system. But nothing came up. So, the authorities released a detailed description of Brian Shaffer, describing him as 6'2'' and 170 pounds, with a stick figure tattoo, a tribute to Pearl Jam's single Alive.
Again, nothing came up, and the police started questioning whether Brian wanted to get away, grieve alone, or take some time for himself.
Though that didn't sound impossible at the time, since Brian never called or was seen again, that theory did not stick.
It also didn't sound like Brian, as he was described as a responsible son and student. He attended Ohio State University (OSU) and later began his studies at the OSU College of Medicine in 2004.
His biggest inspiration was his mom, who was a nurse. Losing his mother was hard, but at the same time, it only made Brian closer to his father and brother (pictured in 2016).
The case even made it to Pearl Jam, and Eddie Vedder would take time between songs to spread the word about the missing fan. Brian had tickets for their May 22, 2006 concert, and Alexis auctioned them to raise money for the award for any helpful information about her loved one.
William's Involvement And Smiley Face Murders
It was time for the police to turn to people in Brian's life. His father, brother, friend Miranda all took polygraph tests and passed.
However, William "Clint" Florence refused.
Derek was the first one who said that William was talking against Brian Shaffer days after his disappearance. The police questioned William, but nothing came from it.
The Shaffer family and Brian's girlfriend were almost sure that William was somehow involved in the disappearance. And while foul play crossed everyone's mind, at some point, people started to believe that Brian Shaffer chose to disappear, and William helped him.
Another theory was that Brian Shaffer was the victim of Smiley Face Murders. The thing about these killings is there is no proof that any organization or serial killer, gang, actually ever existed under such a name. But, in the late 90s and early 2000s, intoxicated young men were found dead by drowning, and in most cases, there was graffiti with a smiley face.
When you think about it, the one thing missing would be the motive. But, if you are dealing with deranged serial killers, all reasoning goes throw the window. Retired NYPD detectives claim that the Smiley Face gang worked in at least 11 states in the US.
Additionally, they were connected to 45 murders by drowning, which had certain inconsistencies, yet were overruled as accidental.
The difference is that other men were found. Brian Shaffer is still missing.
The Psychic And A Creepy Phone Call
Of course, Brian's family, especially his dad, were desperate. So he even went to see a psychic, whose "theory" only fed more into the Smiley Face Theory.
The psychic told late Randy Shaffer that his son was in the water, near the bridge pier. He gathered people, and they started examining the Olentangy River. Nothing came out of it.
Alexis kept calling Brian's cell phone every day. In September, something happened that gave everyone hope that Brian Shaffer was alive. The phone rang instead of going straight to the voice mall.
Later, the investigations revealed that it was a glitch caused by the cell towers.
That one call, ringing, gave hope to his loved ones, but it was all soon gone, and they had to face the pain of not knowing where Brian might be all over again.
What makes this disappearance even sadder is that Brian's dad died in a freaky accident in September 2008. Randy Shaffer was convinced that his son did not simply vanish, but he never lived to discover what happened to Brian.
Today, Brian has a brother, sister-in-law, and nephews.
Why Brian Shaffer Might Still Be Outhere
Brian Shaffer was a laid-back, intelligent man. Online, he once posted that the ideal life would be in Florida, just hanging around.
Many, to this day, think that Brian flew to live that carefree life, leaving medical school behind. Some of his friends stated that Brian wanted to become a doctor to please his parents.
After his mother passed away, it gave him a chance to start fresh. And not long ago, in 2019, the police received a photo of a homeless man in Tijuana (pictured above). The Internet community was confident that it was Brian Shaffer.
The resemblances were uncanny, and it took the FBI four weeks to determine that the man on the photo was not Brian.
It still gave his friends and family hope. And even authorities cannot confirm that Brian Shaffer is dead simply because there is no evidence of foul play.
If William is hiding something, he might have helped his friend escape. But, in the digital age, and after over 15 years, someone would've spotted him.
Speaking of William, Brian and him had an altercation in a bar, according to witnesses. However, two highly intoxicated friends could've been arguing about soccer. The fact that he wasn't cooperative with the police might mean that he had other things to hide, way less sinister than anything involving the disappearance of his mate.
Brian Shaffer Would Be 42 Today
Columbus police are confident that someone withheld the evidence about Shaffer's destiny.
Retired police officers who worked on the case in 2006 believe that there is a slight chance that Brian is alive today. After all, he never left the Ugly Tuna Saloona, and if he did, he was in disguise. '
Other exits were not fit enough for a grown man, so the key to this whole case is most likely within the bar's walls.
Since the police officers found no evidence of foul play, they released a new sketch of what Shaffer would look like today.
After thousands of hours of videos and hundreds of interviews, everyone is still as puzzled as they were back when Brian Shaffer disappeared in 2006.
The police also checked all flights at the time of Brian's disappearance and came short-handed.
In the case of Lars Mitteke, there were signs of distress, at least one bar fight, and additionally, Lars was in a foreign country, making it harder for both Bulgarian and German police.
But, Brian Shaffer disappeared literally in front of his friends, near his apartment. He was saddened about his mother's death, but he was also trying to comfort his dad, and there were no signs that Brian was suicidal or depressed.
Not many things in the case of the disappearance of Brian Shaffer make sense because it genuinely seems that the young man with a loving girlfriend, family, and promising career, vanished into thin air.