Tyler Davis case raises the specter of Brian Shaffer

Andy Downing
Brian Shaffer

In the months since Tyler Davis went missing in February, names like Brian Shaffer and Joey LaBute have resurfaced in public conversation.

LaBute disappeared from Union Cafe in March 2016; his body was discovered in the Scioto River a few weeks later and the case remains unsolved. Shaffer, like Davis, has yet to surface since disappearing from the now-defunct campus bar Ugly Tuna Saloona in April 2016.

In 2009, former Columbus Monthly associate editor April Johnston delved into the still-unsolved mystery.

The poster is still taped to the window in the sixth-floor lobby, where all who have business with the Special Victims Bureau can see it. In one photograph, Brian Shaffer is bearded. In another, cleanshaven. Detectives change the pictures every once in a while because, if Brian is still alive, it’s likely he’s changed, too.

But what hasn’t changed, not in three long years, are the words: Missing. OSU medical student. Last seen at the Ugly Tuna Saloona on April 1, 2006. Reward. If the poster could speak, its pleas would be getting desperate, its voice higher pitched.

The case always has been a tragic one, even for the detectives who are accustomed to investigating hardship. Brian’s mother, Renee, lost her battle with cancer only three weeks before he disappeared. The double loss sent her husband, Randy, into a tailspin. He spent the next two and a half years on a rabid, relentless search for his oldest son, sloshing along miles of river bank, fielding phone calls from psychics and making pleading, public pitches for help, until a freak accident during a September 2008 windstorm took him, too.

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