Brandon Crisp found dead
VIDEO: Search for teen ends in tragedy
JIM WILKES/TORONTO STAR
Co-worker Pat Fergusson comforts Angelika Crisp, foreground, mother of Brandon Crisp, outside the family's Hickling Trail home in Barrie on Nov. 5, 2008.
Nov 06, 2008 04:30 AM
BARRIE–It was a heartbreaking end to a remarkable three-week search for a teen who had run away over an Xbox.
On the ground, hundreds of police and volunteers trudged through muddy fields outside Barrie, while in cyberspace police officers probed the virtual world of online gaming.
But yesterday morning, all hope of finding 15-year-old Brandon Crisp alive was lost when deer hunters found the body of a teen in a heavily wooded area. Police said the body, which appears to be Brandon, was found about two kilometres from where the boy's abandoned bicycle was found two weeks earlier.
"We're definitely all moved by this ... (it's) obviously a very tragic day. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family," said Barrie police Sgt. Dave Goodbrand. Later, OPP Const. George Silvestri assured residents they are not in any danger because, based on preliminary evidence, they do not suspect foul play. An autopsy will be performed in Toronto today.
Brandon's father Steve Crisp told CBC News yesterday the clothes police had described on the body matched what Brandon was wearing when he disappeared on Oct. 13.
Goodbrand told a news conference Brandon's parents were "obviously distraught" about the discovery of the body.
For more than three weeks, the parents had made almost daily pleas for the return of the boy whom they had described as being addicted to the popular video game Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
In fact, it was the video game that led to the boy running away on Thanksgiving Monday. Because the game was affecting his school work and social life, the parents confiscated his Xbox console.
When Brandon threatened to run away that day, his father helped him pack his knapsack and let him leave.
The father said he assumed his son would be back hours later or, at worst, the next day.
But the boy vanished.
Police and volunteers combed the Barrie area and eventually, computer giant Microsoft relaxed its privacy protocols to help police determine the online players Crisp had communicated with while playing the video game. But there were no clues.
The OPP received a call at 10:18 a.m. yesterday, reportedly from a group of deer hunters, alerting them to the discovery of human remains near the Fourth Line in Oro-Medonte Township, northeast of Barrie.
Crisp's parents and his school were notified immediately, Goodbrand said.
At the Crisp home on Hickling Trail, two police officers stood guard at the foot of the driveway, taking bouquets to the door and screening visitors.
"We're numb, absolutely numb," said Debbie Halikas, a co-worker of Brandon's mother at the Barrie Advance newspaper.
"It makes you want to go home and hug your kids," added colleague Pat Fergusson. "It's just so tragic."
Moments later, the women called out to Angelika Crisp as she spoke with police. They ran across the street and engulfed her in an emotional embrace.
Neighbours said they found the news extremely saddening.
"It's too close to home," said Kristina Dean, who has three teenaged sons of her own.
Students at Brandon's school, St. Joseph's High School, were told the grim news at a special assembly in the afternoon. Many of the 1,100 students were in tears as they left the school.
"It's been a very tragic and difficult day," said Diane Legg, communications director for the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board.
Brandon's death was particularly difficult for classmates who had joined the volunteer searches in rural Oro-Medonte.
"There was tremendous grief and sorrow," Legg said. "And yet, at the same time, as a faith community, we take strength in our faith and we said prayers for Brandon and his family."
In the woods where the body was found, police forensics specialists worked much of the day with the local coroner also at the scene. Just before 5 p.m., a funeral home car and two police officers on all-terrain vehicles removed the body from the bush.
Before yesterday's discovery, police said a woman had seen Brandon on two occasions along a trail several kilometres from his home on the night he disappeared, and she had noted the boy appeared to be having trouble with his bicycle.
His abandoned mountain bike was found in the area Oct. 20.
A week after his disappearance, the temperature dropped to minus 2C and snow fell while police continued a massive aerial, marine and ground search in the Shanty Bay area – about four kilometres from Brandon's home – near where the body was found. Hundreds of volunteers also aided in the search.
Brandon's disappearance prompted a huge outpouring of support from across the country, notably on the Internet where a Facebook group with nearly 22,000 members was created.
By 7 p.m. yesterday there were at least 42 Facebook groups dedicated to the teen. One group included a "virtual vigil" where members can light a "candle" in his memory.
Around noon yesterday, John Dwinnell, 56, who lives on the Second Line, saw an OPP helicopter circling a section of cornfield and suspected the worst.
"I had to come see for myself," he said, visibly shaken.
"It's just my daughter takes drama with his sister. It's depressing. It's terrible."
Early last night, hundreds of people gathered in a park around the corner from Brandon's home to hold a candlelight vigil.
"He became everyone's child," said one woman clutching a flickering candle as residents of the neighbourhood and parts of Barrie formed a giant glowing circle.
"We're all so devastated how this turned out."
- With files from The Canadian Press, Sunny Freeman and Christina Commisso
Edited by G-Money®, November 06, 2008 - 04:52 PM.