Over a decade ago, in 2006, Ohio State University med student Brian Shaffer was reported missing. He has not been seen since.
Following the loss of his mother to cancer, coupled with the stress of finals, it is understandable that Shaffer wanted to do nothing more on a Friday night than kick back with friends.
Shaffer blended in with almost every other patron of the Ugly Tuna Saloona. Amongst the gaggle of students relaxing after an intense week of studying, just down the street from Ohio State’s campus, the 27-year-old was gearing up for a trip to Miami with his girlfriend the following Monday.
He never seems to have made it out of the bar.
March 31, 2006. April Fool’s Eve
Shaffer had just finished dinner with his father, Randy, before meeting up with his friend and former dorm mate, William “Clint” Florence, to go on a bar crawl that was taking place on the Southern Campus.
After downing booze at each stop, the two ran into Clint’s friend Meredith Reed, and the three ended up at the now-closed Ugly Tuna Saloona – a popular bar for those looking to enjoy themselves right before spring break.
Closer to closing, the sounds of a local rock act and the rousing song of drunken patrons permeated the air.
The second the lights came up, Reed and Florence realized Shaffer was no longer sitting with them. After checking the men’s restroom and calling Shaffer’s phone to no avail, the two determined he must have left during the shuffle.
The Next Morning
Meanwhile, Shaffer’s girlfriend Alexis Waggoner woke the following day eagerly; she was excited for the trip to sunny Miami the two were about to go on. Waggoner had been preparing herself for a potential marriage proposal on the beach.
Wanting to be fully prepared for the trip, she called Shaffer to discuss their itinerary, and when she received no answer, assumed he was just sleeping off the hangover.
Shaffer’s father, Randy, decided to visit his son that morning. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary – parked car, bed made, shelves all in order – Randy did not immediately suspect his son was missing. After multiple attempts to call Shaffer, Randy got in touch with his other son Derek.
According to Derek, Shaffer had initially invited his brother and sister-in-law with him on the bar crawl.
After their date at the Funny Bone Comedy Clu, the two had planned to join him, but they decided to call it a night when the show ran too long.
In a 2016 interview with The Colombus Dispatch, Derek relives the night his brother went missing.
“I’ve thought about that night over and over and over for 10 years,” he says. “What if I had been there that night? Would things have been different? Would my brother still be here? I’ve carried that guilt around for a while.”
After receiving frantic calls from his father, Derek joined the search. The two quickly filed a missing person report, holding on to the belief that Shaffer couldn’t have gotten very far while intoxicated in the middle of the night.
Having just lost his wife a few weeks prior, Randy was determined to find his older son. In addition to filing the report, he (along with Derek and Waggoner) asked the community for assistance.
The Columbus Division of Police did everything they could, stapling missing-person posters to telephone poles, thoroughly investigating the Ugly Tuna Saloona, resorting to scavenging through the trash caned behind the bar, and guiding cadaver dogs up and down the campus in the event they would be able to locate a body.
Officers then seized surveillance footage from cameras in and around the bar. Based on what they saw, they deduced that Shaffer, Florence, and Reed entered the bar around 1:15 am on April 1. At 1:50, Shaffer talked to some Ohio State women before heading back inside the bar.
Ten minutes later, the video showed Reed and Florence leaving, and Shaffer was nowhere to be seen. Detectives rewound and fast-forwarded the footage multiple times to no avail. After spending hours combing through footage, they determined that everyone entering the bar was accounted for that night, except for Shaffer.
The case was handed over to the FBI on April Fool’s Day. It sounded like a crude joke, one where a guy walks into a bar and never shows up again.
Both Florence and Reed and Randy, Derek, and Alexis were immediately sought for questioning.
Florence hired an attorney and denied taking a polygraph test or discussing anything with the police.
Florence’s evasion of police questioning has always seemed suspicious to Derek. “I didn’t know Clint very well, but I always thought something was off with him,” he recalls. “The way he talked about my brother after he went missing — kind of in a negative way. I wouldn’t expect that from someone whose friend vanished”
Brian Lives On Over A Decade Later
Alexis Waggoner was affected just as much as the Shaffers. The day she discovered Brian was missing changed her life forever.
She was active in searching for her boyfriend, spending months posting fliers, canvassing the surrounding areas at night, and talking to neighbors.
Waggoner called Shaffer’s phone almost every day for a year, hoping he would pick up rather than going to voicemail again.
Other than a brief moment of hope that happened to be a glitch in the mobile network system, she has consistently been beaten down by the tragedy.
Now happily married, she accepts that moving on was necessary. There will always be remnants of the story present in her life, but she has made peace with the chapter needing to close.
After Randy’s death in 2009, Derek was all on his own, safe for his childhood-sweetheart-turned-wife Maurin.
Still wearing a green missing person bracelet with his brother’s name on it, Derek is unable to lose hope.
The website his father set up continues to receive tips from well-wishers, all of whom try and provide whatever information they can to assist law enforcement in finding out what happened to Brian.
But there will always be the occasional attention-seeker on the Internet. After seeing a tribute on Randy’s obituary that read: “Dad, I love you. Love Brian (U.S. Virgin Islands),” that turned out to be a comment from a public computer in Franklin Country.
As per melmagazine.com, Brain Shaffer’s case is one of many in Ohio where young men go missing. He has become just another case number: MP#1709.
Two identifiers distinguish him from other FBI files: an unnatural fleck in his left iris and the tattoo he sported on his right bicep – the stickman used for the CD art of the Pearl Jam debut single “Alive.”
A devoted fan, Shaffer never made it to the Cincinnati concert he planned to see. But the band spent their following few shows after he disappeared, encouraging the public to provide law enforcement with any tips they may have regarding his whereabouts.