Brian Shaffer had the world at his feet in 2006. He had obtained a degree in Microbiology and in his second year of studying Medicine at The Ohio State University. He had an ambitious girlfriend, Alexis Waggoner, who was also studying to become a doctor.
Brian and Alexis were planning to head to Miami for Spring Break on April 3, 2006. Many people in their social circles believed that Brian might propose to Alexis during this vacation. They were both looking forward to the break – it had been a rocky start to the year for Brian and his family. His mother Renee died in March 2006 from myelodysplasia.
March 31, 2006 – Brian disappears
Brian’s classes wrapped up for Spring Break on March 31, 2006, a Friday. He and his father Randy went to dinner that night to celebrate. Randy thought Brian looked exhausted after a week of cramming for exams. Brian told Randy of his plans to head out with friends that night after dinner.
At around 9pm, Brian met his friend William ‘Clint’ Florence at the now-defunct Ugly Tuna Saloona in downtown Columbus.
At 10pm, Brian phoned Alexis.
Brian and Clint continued to bar-hop around Columbus. At each bar, they both had a shot of hard liquor.
At midnight, the pair met up with Meredith Reed. She eventually drove them back to the Ugly Tuna Saloona and they all went inside for a final drink. At some point between around 1 and 2am, when the bar closed, Brian became separated from Clint and Meredith. At first they assumed he was in the bathroom or chatting with other people. They began to call him and every call went unanswered. When they were made to leave as the bar closed, they assumed Brian had made his own way home (his apartment was only 6 blocks from the bar) as he was not able to be found at the venue. They went home.
April 1, 2006
Alexis tried to call Brian the next morning. Her call went straight to voicemail. She thought he may be sleeping off a hangover. She kept calling as the day went on and became worried when she could not get hold of Brian. She phoned Randy who went to check Brian’s apartment.
When Randy arrived, he thought Brian’s apartment looked normal. His car was there and the bed was made. But there was no sign of Brian. Randy contacted police to file a missing person report.
Police began investigating straight away. They viewed CCTV from the bar. Brian was seen entering the bar with Clint and Meredith at around 1.15am. He was also seen alone outside the bar at around 1.55am, chatting with two women. He appeared to chat, say goodbye and move as if he was heading back into the bar. The bar closed shortly after this footage and Brian was NOT seen on CCTV again – there was no sign that he left the bar for a final time.
There was one exit that was not covered by CCTV. There was much construction going on in the area at the time and one exit lead to a service door. This area was checked and there was no sign that Brian had been there.
Police also viewed footage from other nearby bars in the hope of tracking Brian’s movements, but he was not seen on any other footage.
Dumpsters were searched. Police also checked the sewer system for any sign of Brian. Nothing ever turned up.
As days turned to months, police asked those closest to Brian to take polygraph tests. Brian’s father and his brother Derek both reportedly passed their exams. As did Meredith Reed. Clint Florence refused to take one. “I didn’t know Clint very well, but I always thought something was off with him,” says Derek. “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.
Randy set up a website – FindBrianShaffer.com . Tips came into the website.
According to this article, someone called Jesus claimed he knew what happened, that Brian was battered unconscious by two black men after a clash at the Ugly Tuna. “[Jesus said] ‘When Brian woke up, he had a big black penis in his mouth,’” Randy recalled in 2007. “[He said] they shot him in the head, burned his body and had sex with his ashes.” It was a hoax. Later, a woman thought she saw Brian in Atlanta; another was certain she had spotted him in Sweden.
Alexis called Brian’s phone every night before she went to bed, in the hope that one day he would answer. Every night, it went straight to voicemail. But in September, six months after Brian disappeared, the phone rang. Nobody answered, but it still rang! She contacted police and they pinged the phone to a tower in Hilliard, a suburb fourteen miles northwest of central Columbus. Nothing else ever came from this lead.
Randy never stopped looking for Brian. In September 2008, almost 2.5 years after Brian disappeared, a large storm hit Randy’s neighborhood, Baltimore. He stepped outside to try to clear some debris and was struck by a falling tree. His date of death is September 14, 2008. Brian’s brother Derek had now lost his entire family – his mother to cancer, his father to an accident and Brian to a disappearance.
The Columbus Dispatch hosted Randy’s obituary online. Friends and family members posted their tributes. Three days after his death, this tribute appeared on the website – “Dad, I love you, Brian,” from the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Police investigated this tip and it was found to be a hoax. The message originated from a public computer in Franklin County, Ohio.
So, what happened to Brian?
April 1, 2020 will mark 14 years since Brian disappeared. There are a few theories as to what may have happened to him –
1 – Brian left to start a new life
Brian had been rocked by the death of his mother and her funeral was held only 25 days before he disappeared.
Some people theorize that he was also questioning his study and career choices, and perhaps even his sexuality. Did he feel trapped in his life? Brian wrote on his myspace page – I really love music and this whole doctor thing is really just a job (only temporary) until I get my band together and put out a record. I want to own an island someday, or at least a beach so I can listen to Buffett all day and drink margaritas with my senorita.
Investigators looked into the possibility that Brian changed his clothes and left the Ugly Tuna undetected, moving on to start a new life. After extensive research, one of the investigators, Andre Edwards, said he could “say with 100-percent certainty” that Brian did not leave via the escalator.
2 – Brian attempted to leave the bar intoxicated and became trapped or died somewhere in the area
There was much construction going on in the area around the Ugly Tuna when Brian disappeared. Did he leave via a service door and become injured in a construction zone? Police don’t seem to think this is a likely possibility. They have reviewed all footage and conducted thorough checks of the area. Did he somehow slip through the cracks and his remains have been undetected for over a decade? Some people comment and say that perhaps developers or building owners are covering up his death after he slipped into an out-of-bounds area, for fear of a lawsuit.
3 – Brian left the Ugly Tuna and died after that
Brian’s wallet and cell phone have never been found, yet his bed was made the next day when his father went to check on him. This infers that he probably never reached his home after his night out. Did he come across someone and get in a drunken argument with them, resulting in his death? Some people have attempted to link Brian’s disappearance to the idea of the Smiley Face Killer. Many purported Smiley Face victims have fallen into bodies of water while intoxicated – did this happen to Brian and his body has just never been found?
Randy and other searchers spent hours scouring the Olentangy River for signs of Brian or his belongings and nothing was ever found.
4 – Clint Florence was involved in Brian’s disappearance
There are many online rumors about Clint’s role in Brian’s disappearance. He was one of the last people to see Brian. Clint was the only person to decline a polygraph test. He also lawyered up. There is speculation that Clint was a drug user – could this have been related to Brian’s disappearance? If Brian is alive somewhere, family and friends believe that Clint may know more about the disappearance – “If Brian did take off somewhere, if that is the case, we just always had a strong feeling that Clint would possibly know that,” Derek said.
You can view Brian’s entry on the FBI VICAP Missing Person site here.