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Unsolved Ohio: The bizarre disappearance of Brian Shaffer from campus bar

Regina Fox

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How can someone go into a second-story bar and never come out? I’m talking about the disappearance of Brian Shaffer in 2006.

On March 31, Shaffer and his friend William “Clint” Florence went out to Ugly Tuna to celebrate the beginning of spring break. Shaffer was a second-year medical student and surely wanted to cut loose a bit after a stressful week of exams. The two then barhopped down High Street towards the Arena District, reportedly taking shots at every stop.

A little after midnight, Shaffer and Florence met up with a friend of Florence named Meredith, who gave them a ride back to Ugly Tuna. The three of them are seen on security camera ascending the escalator to the now-closed bar in the University Gateway around 1:15 AM on April 1.

Shaffer (circled), Florence, and Meredith ascending the escalator to Ugly Tuna

Later, the camera captures Shaffer outside the bar talking to two women around 1:50 AM and then re-entering the bar. At this point, Shaffer was separated from his friends. The bar was closing and after searching and calling for Shaffer, Florence and Meredith decided to wait outside the bar for him to come out. After a while, the two left, assuming Shaffer had gone home.

But, the 27-year-old has never been seen or heard from since.

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Ugly Tuna had one entrance at the top of the escalator. Anyone entering or leaving from this would be caught on surveillance cameras. Investigators acknowledge the possibility that the cameras could have somehow missed Shaffer, though think it’s unlikely. Another improbably scenario they’ve entertained is Shaffer disguising himself and/or hiding from the cameras before exiting the bar. After all, the quality of security cameras circa 2006 was not the highest.

There was only one other way that Brian could have exited the bar that night, and it was from a back service door. Not only was this a door used exclusively by staff members, but it also opened to a construction site that would’ve posed a dangerous situation for a sober person, let alone someone who had been drinking all night.

It’s also important to note neither Shaffer’s cell phone, credit cards, or bank account have been used since.

The young man’s disappearance sparked an international search effort. Possible sightings started flowing in from Michigan, Texas, and even as far as Sweden. Eddie Vedder, the lead singer of Pearl Jam (one of Shaffer’s favorite bands and motivation for a tattoo) even took time out of the band’s set in Cincinnati to put out a call for information that may lead to Shaffer’s discovery.

Shaffer received excellent marks from the university, was close with his family who lived in Pickerington, and had a good relationship with his girlfriend, Alexis Waggoner. He and Waggoner had a spring break trip to Miami booked—confirming plans with her over the phone around 9:00 PM on March 31. She, along with their families and friends, were convinced Shaffer would probably propose later that year or maybe even on their trip to Miami.

For months after his disappearance, Waggoner called his phone every night. It went straight to voicemail every time except one night in September when she heard the phone ring three times. There was no answer, but the call pinged a tower in Hilliard. There was hope for the first time in months! Unfortunately, the cellular carrier divulged that the rings were likely a glitch in the system, rather than Shaffer powering on his phone.

Everyone in Shaffer’s life agreed to take a polygraph test in order to clear them of any suspicion, except Florence. Reportedly, Florence refused the test because he felt he had told police everything he knew about the night Shaffer disappeared.

By all accounts, he was the All-American boy with everything to live for which is why his disappearance has been so troubling all these years.

 If you have any information regarding the disappearance of Brian Shaffer please contact the Central Ohio Crime Stoppers at 614-645-8477, if requested you will remain anonymous. 

Additional information: Prior to his disappearance, Shaffer’s mother Renee died of a rare form of bone cancer called myelodysplasia. And just after his disappearance, his father died in a freak accident involving a wind storm and a tree branch. The immediate Shaffer family is survived only by Brian’s younger brother Derek.

When I'm not weaving a beautiful tapestry of words, I'm likely digging through jewels and vinyls at an antique shop near you.

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Teens hijack hearse with casket in back, take joy ride in west Columbus

614now Staff

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Teenagers hijacked a hearse that contained a deceased person in a casket, and took it for a joy ride in west Columbus.

The vehicle was left running outside the Jerry Spears Funeral Home at 2693 W Broad St. when the teens jumped in.

According to ABC6, the person driving the hearse struck another vehicle on West Broad St., then drove to a nearby school parking lot to do donuts.

The teens fled the scene after they hit a utility pole. Police said they have made no arrests in the case.

Bob Spears, owner of the funeral home, vowed to pay for the damages to the vehicle struck by the hearse. He told ABC6 that the body in the hearse was scheduled for cremation. The casket is currently in the shop for repairs.

Spears added that the is appalled by the disrespect shown by the suspects.

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Alligator removed from Central Ohio basement

614now Staff

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Central Ohio basement issues can usually be chalked up to standing water, mold, or the occasional vermin. But recently, authorities responded to a much different problem.

Madison Township Police received a call reporting an alligator detained in the basement of a Groveport home.

Ohio Department of Agriculture confirmed that the homeowner did not possess a valid exotic animal permit, reports 10TV.

The 25-year-old alligator was removed from the home, and will be sent to an animal sanctuary in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

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Food & Drink

2 Columbus chefs in the running for top culinary award

614now Staff

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For the first time in eight years, Columbus chefs will vie for coveted honors from the James Beard Foundation according to Columbus Monthly.

Celebrating its 30th year in 2020, the James Beard Award is considered one of the culinary field's highest honors. Ray Rays Hog Pit owner James Anderson has been named as a semifinalist for the honor of "Best Chef: Great Lakes," while Spencer Budros, co-owner of Pistacia Vera, was nominated for Outstanding Baker.

The last time Columbus chefs were considered for an award from the foundation was 2012, when chefs Richard Blondin and Kent Rigsby were named semifinalists.

Finalists for the awards will be announced on March 25.

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