Ohio State student who disappeared from bar remains missing 18 years later

Ohio State student who disappeared from bar remains missing 18 years later

Ohio State student who disappeared from bar remains missing 18 years later

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Eighteen years ago, an Ohio State University student went missing after he was caught on camera entering a bar, but was never recorded leaving. Despite the frenzy of media coverage, one of the state’s most high-profile disappearances remains a mystery.

Brian Shaffer was a 27-year-old medical student in his second year at Oregon State University when he was last seen. Missing persons advocate Lori Davis has been working with Brian’s family since he disappeared.

“He had already gone through the White Coat Ceremony and was on his way to becoming a doctor,” Davis said. “They have said that about his personality, Brian was very funny, very charismatic, very outgoing. And I’ve even heard that sometimes he can be a little stubborn.”

  • An age progression photograph of Brian Shaffer, left, published in 2021.

On Friday, March 31, 2006, the beginning of spring break for students, Brian called his brother and asked if he wanted to join him for dinner. His brother had already made plans with his fiancée, so Brian ended up having dinner at a local steakhouse with his father, Randy, Davis said. Just a few weeks earlier, on March 6, Brian’s mother had died.

“They had a great time,” Davis said. “There has been speculation that there may have been an argument during that same dinner and that it was about Brian’s mother Renee’s life insurance policy. (Randy) never told me that, so I can’t say if it’s true or false.”

Randy and Brian left the restaurant on good terms, Randy told Davis. Later that night, around 9 pm, Brian went to the bar with his friend William “Clint” Florence. The two were shooting throughout the night, according to NBC News. Brian’s girlfriend, Alexis Wagoner, was unexpectedly out of town that weekend due to medical issues with a family pet, Davis said.

“He ended up calling that girlfriend,” Davis said. “I think it was around 10 or 10:30 that night, he left a voicemail, everything was fine on the voicemail. He seemed fine.”

Another friend, Meredith Reed, ended up meeting the couple that night. Around 1:15 a.m., the trio ended up at the Ugly Tuna Saloona, a bar where they had been earlier that night, according to NBC News. One of the multiple security cameras caught Brian entering the establishment.

“Over time, it became known that there were other medical students who were there that night at the bar,” Davis said. “Normally they just talk about the two friends, Clint and Meredith, who were with Brian. Many details that have come to light since then indicate that there were four or five other men who also met them there.”

Once inside the bar, Brian separated from Florence and Reed. Shortly after 1 a.m., Brian said he was going upstairs to see the band he was playing that night and walked away. While Brian’s friends said they thought he had gone to talk to the band, Davis does not believe Brian knew the band, despite a distant connection (friend of a friend) with one of the members.

The last time Brian was caught on video was at 1:55 a.m. leaving the bar, talking to two young women, and then apparently reentering. The police and Brian’s father have questioned these women. Randy “believed with all his heart” that the two women had nothing to do with his disappearance, Davis said.

At 2 a.m., the bar’s closing time, Florence and Reed were ready to leave and began looking for Brian, but couldn’t find him. They called him and left him a voicemail, then left a short time later, according to Davis. Cameras captured the couple leaving the bar; In one of the most baffling aspects of the case, Brian was never seen leaving through any entrance or exit again. Both exits from the bar were covered by cameras, as was the escalator leading to the street.

Davis discussed the case with a detective, who had repeatedly studied the video. That detective told him that the video haunts him, as he is 100% certain that every person who entered the bar can be seen on the video leaving, except for Brian.

The only exit without security camera coverage would have been through a service exit leading to a construction site with doors to the street. A Columbus police sergeant told NBC News in 2006 that the area was “intensely” under construction and it would have been difficult to leave, even sober. At least one of the cameras was not fixed and was rotating, Davis said, so there are small periods of time when Brian may have left without being captured.

The next day, Brian did not respond to multiple calls from Wagoner and Randy. The real worry began when Monday came: Brian and Wagoner were supposed to go to Florida for spring break, but she never heard from him.

Brian’s disappearance quickly garnered national media attention and remains hotly discussed online today. Davis said he’s “heard everything” about the case. Theories include that Brian was killed at the bar and taken out with the band’s equipment, dumped in a garbage chute, or that Brian dressed up and left alone.

Randy even made trips out of state in response to Brian’s “sightings.” Davis said a popular rumor was that Brian was homeless in Mexico, which was dismissed. Police and his family have received countless tips, none of which have led to a response.

In September 2008, Randy died without knowing what happened to his son. During a storm, strong winds hit the state and a tree fell, fatally striking him.

“There’s been a ton of speculation about what happened to Brian Shaffer that day, and unfortunately, 18 years later, I don’t feel like we’re any closer to really knowing what happened to Brian,” Davis said.

Brian’s tattoo (Photo courtesy of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office)

The police also do not appear to be any closer than in 2006 to discovering what happened to Brian. Columbus police said the case is reviewed “periodically,” but there are no new updates to provide at this time.

At the time of his disappearance, Brian was 6’2″ tall, weighed about 160 pounds, had brown hair and hazel eyes. He had a Pearl Jam tattoo on his upper right arm and a dot in the iris of his left eye. He was last seen wearing jeans, a blue or green striped T-shirt and sneakers.

Anyone with information regarding Brian Shaffer’s disappearance is asked to call the Columbus Police Department at 614-645-4545 or the Central Ohio Crime Stoppers anonymous tip line at 614-461-8477.