Ryan Larsen has been missing since May 17th, 2021. The 12-year-old was last seen at La Vista West Elementary School in La Vista, Nebraska. Ryan walked off the school’s campus between 11:55 AM and 12:05 PM. He never returned to the school or to his home, and he has not been seen or heard from since that day.
This was not the first time that Ryan ran from the school. He has autism and a history of running off—particularly while frustrated. In fact, reports state that local police were called numerous times about Ryan running out of the school unsupervised. Due to his history of running off, police referred to Ryan as “the king of hide and seek.” Police were able to successfully locate Ryan during these previous incidents, but this time around, they have been unable to find him.
On the day he vanished, Ryan had become frustrated with a math problem. He went to another room to calm down by himself. A staff member from the school was supposed to be in the room with Ryan, but he was left unsupervised for a ten-minute time period—during which he was able to leave the building. The school called 911 approximately 25 minutes later, and a search for Ryan began very shortly thereafter.
Throughout the investigation, it was revealed that a neighbor saw Ryan around 1:30 PM at the Southfield Apartment complex on 84th and Harrison. He was holding an umbrella outside of the apartment building. Ryan lived at an apartment in the complex with his mother and sister, but he did not have a key to the apartment at the time. His mother and sister were not home at the time, and their door was locked, so he would not have been able to enter the apartment. The umbrella Ryan was seen holding was found over six weeks later, behind a dumpster at the complex.
Before Ryan went missing, he reportedly made online searches about how to hide from police. Given his history of running away, these searches may not seem surprising; however, he has never been gone for this long. Police have not ruled out a criminal aspect in Ryan’s disappearance. On the one-year anniversary of Ryan’s disappearance, La Vista police Chief Bob Lausten told reporters, “We’ve had people that haven’t been totally forthcoming with us regarding information. We’ve had people that have lied to us about information, so it’s been frustrating.” While Lausten did not further elaborate on these people, he suggested that someone possibly was not speaking up out of fear of getting in trouble.
Ryan’s case remains open. If you have any information that could lead to his whereabouts, please contact the La Vista PD at 402-331-1582.
UPDATE (January 2023): Ryan’s mother Tammi Larsen has filed a petition to have Ryan legally declared dead. The law in Nebraska states that “a person who is absent for a continuous period of five years is presumed to be dead.” However, a missing person can be declared deceased prior to that five-year period if enough evidence is provided that the person is no longer alive.
The court documents state that Tammi intends to sue the Papillion La Vista school district for her son’s wrongful death, but a death certificate is required in order to do so. The documents also state that La Vista police told Tammi that Ryan’s case was no longer active in their department; the Omaha Cold Case Unit was handling it instead. La Vista police Chief Bob Lausten has denied these claims but did confirm that several agencies are investigating Ryan’ disappearance.
Tammi’s filing is currently pending, and Ryan’s case remains unsolved. Anyone with information that could lead to his whereabouts is encouraged to contact authorities.