The first post we’re going to tackle is my biggest pet case – I find it both incredibly sad and surprisingly hopeful. Bryce Laspisa was just getting started in life when he began acting strangely. He drove to an unfamiliar town and sat for over twelve hours. And then his car was found wrecked two hours away. What was going on with Bryce Laspisa, and where did he go? Let’s explore.
Who Is Bryce?
Bryce David Laspisa was born on April 30, 1994 to Karen and Mike Laspisa. By all accounts, Bryce was a friendly and popular kid. He had great artistic talent. His family was tight-knit and his parents were very present in his life. Bryce was a charismatic and caring presence in the lives of his loved ones – though his life was not without its bumps. He allegedly ran into some issues with substance abuse while going to high school in Naperville, Illinois. He wasn’t the best student, but he did well enough to graduate and be accepted to Sierra College in northern California – which he chose to go to as his parents were moving across the country to Laguna Niguel, California. Bryce started college in 2012.
According to his parents and friends, Bryce’s freshman year of college went very well for him. He chose to study industrial and graphic design, and made friends easily. He started dating a young woman named Kim. It was during the first few weeks of his sophomore year – 2013 – that things started to break down.
A few weeks into Bryce’s sophomore year, sometime in August 2013, Karen’s phone rang with an unexpected call. Sean Dixon, Bryce’s roommate, was calling her to tell her that he was worried about Bryce. Bryce was drinking a lot – multiple bottles of liquor in a sitting – and had begun behaving in an alarming manner. It was also revealed that Bryce had been using the ADHD drug Vyvanse – which is not unlike amphetamines if the user does not have ADHD. Bryce had been using the drug recreationally to stay up to play video games.
Bryce had also texted Kim on August 27 saying that she would be better off without him, breaking things off. The next day, on August 28, he drove to her home to officially end things. Kim was so worried about Bryce’s mental health and state of mind that she took his keys and refused to give them back. In response to this, Bryce called his mother and explained the situation. Alarmed, Kim offered to fly up to check on Bryce, but he declined, saying that she should not book a flight until they talked, because he “had a lot to talk to [her] about.” Karen then talked Kim into giving Bryce his keys back so he could get home. Kim reluctantly did so. Bryce left Kim’s apartment at 11:30.
Around 1 AM, he called his mother again to talk. She assumed he was calling from his own apartment – however, cell tower pings show that he was on the road when they spoke. At around 11 AM on August 29, Karen and Mike were notified that their insurance’s roadside assistance service had been used for gas in a small town called Buttonwillow. Confused, Karen called Bryce, who didn’t answer. She tried Sean, who confirmed that Bryce did not return home the previous night. At around 3 PM, Bryce’s parents contacted the servicer listed on their insurance – Castro Tire and Truck.
The owner of Castro Tire, a man named Christian, reported that he had delivered a few gallons of gas to a young man matching Bryce’s description earlier that morning around 9 AM. Meaning that Bryce drove from 11:30, when he left Kim’s apartment, until he ran out of gas at 9 AM. That’s nine and a half hours of driving time for a trip that google maps clocks at just under 6. No one knows what he was doing during this time.
After speaking to the Laspisas, Christian went back to the spot he had last seen Bryce at – and found that Bryce had not moved in all of the hours that had since passed. Christian told a disaffected Bryce that his parents were worried about him, and that he needed to get on the road to head home. He followed Bryce to the highway and let the Laspisas know.
After another block of hours without hearing from Bryce, the Laspisas filed a missing persons report on Bryce in Orange County, where they lived. In an attempt to find him, his cell phone was tracked and his location was determined. Officers were dispatched to his location – which was just a few miles away from Buttonwillow. He’d moved about eight miles in nine hours. When the officers made contact with Bryce around 9 PM, he told them he was fine and allowed them to search his car. He was persuaded to make contact with his parents, and he spoke to Karen on the phone. He told her he was repacking his car, and that he would head home.
Karen attempted to call Bryce around 12:30 AM as the date ticked over to the 30th of August, 2013, though he did not pick up. Bryce called her back at 1:50 AM. When Karen asked him where he was, he told her it was too dark to see any signs. At 2:08 AM, Bryce told Karen that he was too tired to keep driving, and that he was going to pull over to sleep. Karen agreed and told him she would see him in the morning. This was the last known point of contact with Bryce Laspisa.
*note: see the websleuths source for a timeline with even more details than what I’ve covered here.
The next morning, the Laspisas received a knock on their door. Bryce’s car had been found wrecked near Castaic Lake, on its side at the bottom of a 25 foot embankment. The back window of the car had been kicked out, and Bryce’s duffel bag was outside of the car. His ID was missing from his belongings.
Investigators determined that Bryce had accelerated intentionally when driving towards the cliff. And the way the cliff sat, it looked like the water was much closer than it actually was. The obvious conclusion here being that Bryce intended to drive into the lake to die by suicide. To add to this inference, a camera at Castaic Lake captured his car driving through the recreation area twice, which some believe hints at building up the courage to drive over the edge. It is important to note, however, that this is speculation.
Working under the assumption that Bryce could have walked into the lake in a secondary attempt to die by suicide, a full-scale search of the area was undertaken immediately. Nothing was found, however. No body. No signs of a body. In fact, there has never been signs of Bryce’s body found in or near the lake.
The investigators also questioned Bryce’s roommate and girlfriend, who brought up the heavy drinking and recreational drug use. In the weeks before his disappearance, he had become reckless with his actions. He had even begun giving his personal belongings away, including diamond earrings and his Xbox.
Five days after Bryce’s car was discovered and he was reported missing, a body was found burning near Castaic Lake. Fearing the worst, Bryce’s friends and family waited with bated breath to see whether this was Bryce or not. Thankfully for them, the person was found to be a totally unrelated murder victim from Los Angeles, and the search for Bryce continued.
Nine days after the discovery of the car, investigators turned to scent dogs. Two separate bloodhounds caught Bryce’s scent. Both dogs traced the scent trail through the recreational area and to a nearby truck stop, where the trail ended. Most interpret this as him getting into a car – either because he suffered a head injury and lost his memory, or because he needed to get away from the scene for some reason.
Investigators, as the search has worn on, have marked Bryce down as being voluntarily missing, though the reasoning behind this is not publicly disclosed.
There are quite a few theories with this case. It would be impossible to cover every nuanced take of each theory, so we will just cover the top three that I have come across during my years of reading on and researching this case. I’ll save my favored theory for last. As always, feel free to discuss other theories in the comments.
The first set of theories comes with whether the car wreck was an accident or not. Some believe that the wreck was an accident because Bryce was driving distracted or sleep deprived. Others see the wreck as intentional, and an attempt to end his life. The second theory makes much more sense, considering Bryce drove directly at the embankment and accelerated to do so.
The second set of theories is regarding whether Bryce is alive or not. The first theory is that Bryce drove off of the embankment in an attempt to die by suicide. When that didn’t work, he kicked the back window out and wandered off to find another way. My main problem with this theory is that he took his ID with him. If he was going off to die by suicide, he wouldn’t need that.
Some believe that Bryce was murdered by a trucker at the truck stop where his scent trail ended. There isn’t much more to this theory beyond that.
Some believe that Bryce ran away from this scene of the accident and his (perhaps) attempted suicide with only his ID because he wanted to start a new life. There are alleged reports of his mother being overbearing and reputation-focused (no proof, just personal accounts, so take it with a grain of salt, readers), which may have put undue and severe pressure on Bryce. Enough to make him leave his old life behind. Even without parental influence, Bryce may have felt like his life was not going how he wanted, and the only way to get things right was to do a hard reset of his circumstances.
I personally believe that Bryce drove off of that cliff on purpose in an attempt to die by suicide. There is just too much pointing to suicidal ideation to ignore – the sudden reckless behavior, the giving away of prized possessions, the sitting in one place seemingly doing nothing – it all reads to me as a severely depressed person planning the end of their life. It is possible that this was triggered by the Vyvanse, or it could have been a social factor we’re not privy to, and that’s what he had to talk to his mom about. When his attempt to die by suicide failed, Bryce took his ID and walked to the truck stop to hitch a ride. He had friends near Chicago and in the Pacific Northwest, so some posit he was headed there to start over.
I think the failed suicide attempt was a wakeup call for him, and he decided to start over when he was able to stand up after such a dangerous act. I think it gave him a new perspective that made him split off from the old life that made him want to die.
And, for perhaps the first and only time, I think Bryce could still be alive.
If you or anyone you know has any information about the disappearance of Bryce Laspisa, please contact the proper authorities. His case is currently being handled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office 323-890-5500