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The Mysterious Disappearance of Brian Shaffer

In 2006, 27-year-old Brian Shaffer had the world at his feet. Born to Renee and Randy Shaffer, Brian loved music, the beach, his family, and his girlfriend, Alexis.

Handsome and gifted in many ways, Brian was adored by his parents.

He was a second-year medical student at Ohio State University. And while a recent tragedy in the family left Brian devastated, little did he know that he would soon contribute to the family’s sorrow.

On April 1st, 2006, while surrounded by a crowd of bar-hopping college students, Brian Shaffer became the very definition of the phrase “gone without a trace.”

Photograph of Brian Shaffer.

Brian’s Life

Brian Randall Shaffer was born in 1979 in Pickerington, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. He was tall, athletic, and made friends easily. In high school, he was captain of the tennis team, and many thought he was good enough to turn professional.

Brian received his Bachelor of Science in microbiology and worked as a radiology tech assistant for the Ohio State University hospital while taking a short break from school.

Brian was professional and dedicated to his education and career, but his family and friends also knew that Brian longed for the laid-back lifestyle of living on a tropical island.

Brian wanted to own a bar on a beach where he’d play and listen to music all day. Realistically, though, Brian knew his career path lay elsewhere, and he made the decision to become a full-time medical student.

Brian’s mother, Renee, was diagnosed with myelodysplasia, a type of bone marrow cancer. Sadly, in 2006, she passed away, which plunged Brian into depression.

He admitted to his girlfriend, Alexis, that he was struggling with the loss of his mother. At one point, Brian even suggested that Alexis might be happier with someone else.

Brian Shaffer and his girlfriend.

Alexis showed unwavering support for him, and their relationship was soon back on track. 

Rumors swirled amongst family and friends that Brian planned to propose to Alexis. Brian had purchased tickets to see Pearl Jam later in the spring, and he and Alexis planned to take a trip to Miami on Monday, April 3rd. The trip had been a Christmas gift from Brian’s mother.

The Fateful Night

Friday, March 31st, was the last day of classes for Brian and Alexis before spring break. Alexis made a short trip out of town, and Brian met his father at Outback Steakhouse for dinner.

Brian’s dad was still reeling from the loss of his wife just three weeks before. Randy said that although Brian looked exhausted from studying for finals, he was in good spirits.

At about 9:30 p.m. Brian met up with his friend and former dorm mate, William “Clint” Florence, at the Ugly Tuna Saloona, a second-story bar located at 1546 North High Street in Columbus.

North High Street is popular among the college crowd, but especially so on the night spring break started. Brian had invited his brother Derek and his girlfriend Lauren to join them, but the couple had other plans that evening and declined.

At 10:00 p.m., Brian called Alexis, told her he missed and loved her, and affirmed how much he was looking forward to the trip to Miami. Alexis told him to call her the next day.

When he hung up, Brian and Clint left the Ugly Tuna and headed out to other bars on foot, stopping to do shots along the way.

While at The Short North bar, Brian and Clint ran into a friend, Meredith Reed, who gave them a ride back to the Ugly Tuna Saloona. Once there, she decided to go in and have a drink with them.

Last Call

At 1:15 a.m. on April 1st, 2006, surveillance cameras picked up Brian, Meredith, and Clint, riding up the escalator on their way into the Ugly Tuna. At 1:55 a.m.

Brian Shaffer can be seen on the security footage standing in front of the escalator in the foyer just outside the entrance to the bar, talking to two Ohio State students.

Still image from surveillance footage shows the very last sighting of Brian Shaffer.

The security camera angle does not show Brian entering the bar again, but he walked out of view of the camera. His friends Clint and Meredith, however, said that Brian did re-enter the Ugly Tuna because they conversed with him about calling it a night and going home.

Meredith and Clint last saw Brian as he headed toward the stage.

Just a few minutes later, when the bar closed, the crowd filed toward the entrance. It was at this point that Clint and Meredith realized that Brian was nowhere to be found and wasn’t answering his phone.

They assumed he either got a ride home with somebody else, called a cab, or walked home, so they left. Except Brian never made it home.

The Mystery

While Randy Shaffer and Alexis called Brian’s phone over the weekend, they were unable to contact him. When Monday came, and there was still no sign of Brian, Randy called the police to report his son missing.

Missing posters went up all over town, police searched dumpsters and even the sewers. Dogs were brought in, and while they may have hit on Brian’s scent at first, they were unable to follow it anywhere.

Brian’s car was parked at his apartment, nothing inside had been tampered with, and neither had anything in his residence. He had simply vanished.

Randy Shaffer and Meredith Reed both took and passed a polygraph test. And while Clint Florence originally cooperated with the police investigation, he eventually retained a lawyer who advised him not to take a polygraph test.

This made people feel as though Clint knew more than he was telling.

Police obtained the security footage for the Ugly Tuna Saloona and were able to account for almost everybody seen leaving the bar on that night, and Brian wasn’t one of them.

There was a service freight elevator that did not have surveillance cameras covering it. However, one of the businesses across the street had a camera that did cover the exit on the ground level. There was no sign of Brian leaving the building.

The Ugly Tuna Saloona.

Alexis called Brian’s phone every night, hoping he would answer.

One night, it rang three times before going to his voicemail. Police contacted the cell phone provider, who said that the system may have experienced a glitch that would have allowed Alexis to hear a ring, even though the phone wasn’t actually ringing.

The police were able to determine that the phone had pinged off the tower in Hilliard, Ohio, fourteen miles northwest of Columbus.

Theories And Conclusion

There are many theories regarding the disappearance of Brian Shaffer.

How did he go into a bar and never come out? The police theorized that Brian could have planned his disappearance and changed clothes or put on a hat so as not to be recognized when leaving the bar on the surveillance footage.

But why? If Brian planned to disappear that night, there is no reason for him to deliberately avoid the cameras. Being captured on video surveillance would not keep him from intentionally disappearing.

Aside from a planned disappearance, there is the theory that Brian committed suicide. Why study and work so hard to finish his finals if he was just going toend his own life? And if he did end his own life, where’s his body?

A third theory suggests that Brian was the victim of foul play. He might have decided to walk home if he realized that his friends had left the bar without him. Brian’s apartment was located just a half mile from North High Street.

Could he have been attacked on the way home? Did he engage in some sort of altercation with another person and was killed during the fight? If so, again, where is his body?

There is also the possibility that Brian, inebriated and exhausted, got lost on his way home and fell into one of the rivers in the area. There is also the possibility that he accidentally fell into a trash dumpster.

The dumpsters were searched, but had they already been emptied before the police got to them?

The last theory is that Brian never left the bar. Some believe he died in the Ugly Tuna, either by accident or possibly murdered, and then hidden somewhere within the building.

It’s not unheard of for people to fall down elevator shafts or, as in the case of Elisa Lam, wander up to the roof and drown in the water tank. But the building was thoroughly searched by the police and the cadaver dogs.

One theory is that Brian somehow left the building through a window or an emergency exit in the back of the building that emptied out onto a construction site, where he perished and was then accidentally covered by building materials.

Why Brian would feel the need to leave the building using anything other than the front exit is anybody’s guess.

Hilliard, Ohio, is only about a twenty-minute drive from where Brian was last seen. The cell phone tower and the town of Hilliard are surrounded by cornfields and several bodies of water.

If there has been a search of the area surrounding Hilliard, it has yet to be made public. The only thing that is known for sure in this case is that as of 2023, no trace of Brian Shaffer has ever been found.

There are links below with full descriptions of Brian and who to contact if you have any information.

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