‘We’re not giving up’: La Vista police still stumped by Ryan Larsen disappearance

WOWT 6 News Live at 10
Published: Jan. 3, 2022 at 10:30 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - It’s been just over seven months since now 12-year-old Ryan Larsen walked out of La Vista West Elementary School and was reportedly never seen or spoken to again.

La Vista police tell 6 News the investigation has slowed significantly, but it hasn’t completely stopped yet.

“It’s still an active investigation, and it’s been a long investigation, it’s taken us into 2022 obviously,” says La Vista Police Chief Bob Lausten. “We don’t know where he’s at.”

Ryan’s disappearance has confused community members and the police for months. He walked away from school on May 17, and shortly after, his umbrella was found near the dumpster behind his apartment complex.

This summer, experts were brought in to look into the possibility of Ryan falling into or being placed into a dumpster and being taken to a landfill, but found no evidence to support the idea.

“We’ve looked at all angles from day one and we haven’t ruled anything out. We don’t know if it was a walk away, if he was abducted, or if harm came to him intentionally,” he adds.

Lausten says his department is doing its best to avoid the case going cold, but there have been some roadblocks.

“From day one we’ve had challenges with this case, whether it be locating people, getting video in a proper amount of time, people not being forthcoming in their comments with us, so, it’s been frustrating, challenging but we’re not giving up in an effort to find him.”

Since 6 News last spoke with Lausten, he says local authorities have conducted more ground searches in the same wooded areas and water sources they searched in the early days of the investigation, near where Ryan went missing.

He also says they received compliance on subpoenas from Google, requesting information on cell data or phone numbers that may have been used at the time Ryan vanished.

“That’s been analyzed by numerous law enforcement partners so that information, that’s helping us somewhat, but again, anything we’ve had so far has not led us to where he’s at or who may have caused him harm if harm was caused,” Lausten says.

As the investigation continues, Lausten adds that the question of if something criminal happened hasn’t been set aside.

“As time goes on and you don’t find any leads, you start to wonder if there was some kind of nefarious element with this, so again we haven’t ruled anything out and we’ll look at all avenues to find out what happened and where he’s at.”

There has been one small, but successful, silver lining to everything Lausten’s department has learned since Ryan’s case, the department’s new ‘Take Me Home’ project that began in September.

“It’s a resource for families that have loved ones with disabilities, whether it’s autism, somebody with dementia, Alzheimer’s, you can go to our website and fill out a packet of information we load that into our records management system, so if we get a call someplace about a missing child, missing adult, we already have most of the info about that person loaded into the CAD system,” Lausten says. “So our officers can pull that up so responders would know areas where maybe this person was found before if they’ve wandered.”

So far, the program has been helpful.

“We’ve had two incidents where it actually came into play for us, and we were able to find an eight-year-old that had wandered.”

When asked if he believes Ryan could still be alive, he says it’s a difficult question to answer.

“You know I don’t know, hope would say that’s what our finality should be, we should be able to find him alive, but without a sign, without anything as it goes, there’s a reality that may come into play,” he says. “We hope for the best, the worst could possibly happen but our intent is to find him and find where he’s at, [find] what happened to him and if somebody did something to him, [find] who did it.”

Ryan’s family tells 6 News reporter Marlo Lundak that the holiday season without him has been hard, and they hope the community will continue to keep him in their minds while out and about.

“We’re hoping that Ryan is somewhere, he’s still out there and we’re going to try to bring him home,” Lausten says.

Lausten encourages anyone with any information on Ryan’s whereabouts or his case to call the Sarpy County Crimestoppers at 402-592-7867.

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