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Ryan Larsen search: Papillion lake area quiet, but authorities still looking for missing La Vista boy

Updated: May. 25, 2021 at 7:42 AM CDT
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PAPILLION, Neb. (WOWT) — The scene at Walnut Creek Lake was much calmer Tuesday than it’s been in recent days, with people out using trails, even fishing and kayaking.

6 News spent the day at the lake but did not see any crews out looking for Ryan Larsen, the 11-year-old La Vista boy who has been missing since Monday, May 17 — but that doesn’t mean the search is over.

Tuesday was Day 9 in the search for Ryan; it’s also National Missing Children’s Day. 6 News spoke with the Nebraska State Patrol who said that Ryan, unfortunately, joins a list of 400 other kids who are missing statewide.

NSP Capt. Matt Sutter said a missing child case falling on this particular day, for him, was unique.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever have been in the middle of one and had this day present itself, so that is coincidental,” he said. “It is of benefit because you look at any social media platform — NMCD is trending. And any information we can spread and gain traction on social media, that will help with this case.”

Authorities had no new information to share Tuesday on the search, but said they believe the park has been thoroughly searched.

But the community is still doing anything they can to help.

“We’ve taken the flyers that you’ve seen all over, we’ve laminated them now so that they will last longer in the rain, the wind,” said Ryan Wedekind, who has been involved in community search efforts since Day 1. He also started a Facebook group called #FindRyanLarsen

Since doing so, he’s connected with Ryan’s family.

“Ryan’s mom is extremely distraught,” he said. “She’s lost without her boy. ... She feels guilty for doing the simplest things, from laying in her bed to try to rest.”

Wedekind said holding onto hope that Ryan is still out there is vital.

“More important than the air that I breathe right now... I will go dead broke before I go back to work until we find Ryan or bring this to an end,” he said.

Previous developments

The water line at Walnut Creek Lake in Papillion was dropped by two feet in recent days to allow authorities to focus their search on the northeast side of the lake. Divers were intending to look in the lower waters, but as of Tuesday morning, Ryan still had not been found.

The Papio Natural Resources District lowered the lake over the past two days to allow for better search because the muck, silt, and seaweed was “really, really thick” where they most want to search, La Vista Police Chief Bob Lausten said an update Monday afternoon. Search crews still hope lower water levels there will allow them to scour that area more thoroughly.

Lausten said authorities have zeroed in on areas where K9 units had given three indications of a scent. Authorities previously blocked off all access to the Walnut Creek area starting Thursday night to discourage people from coming in and possibly scaring off Ryan if he was hiding there; but the area was back open Sunday.

The chief said multiple dogs have hit in the same areas of Walnut Creek — “one Friday, one Saturday, and one (Monday)” — so efforts have been focused there.

SEARCH COVERAGE: May 17 | May 18 | Wednesday May 19 | Thursday May 20 | Friday May 21 | Saturday May 22 | Sunday May 23 | Monday May 24

More than 35 agencies, including the FBI and FEMA, are assisting in the search. Crews have been searching by air, on foot, and in the water, Lausten said. Authorities have deployed drones and used sonar, rakes, and other search methods — “everything you can think of” — to look for Ryan. Lausten said search teams had multiple sonar hits at Walnut Creek, but thy turned out to be things like branches and tires.

The boy left school around noon Monday and is presumably without food or crucial medication to treat his autism. Police have looked into whether there was any available camera footage from schools and local businesses that might show Ryan walking, the chief said Monday.

Lausten also again reiterated the damage false reports on social media have been to the investigation, and urged the community not to get their hopes up unless the information comes from LVPD. He also asked the community not to become critical, noting how many outside agencies have been working hard to find Ryan.

Confirming again that authorities had found no reason to suspect Ryan’s disappearance was foul play of any kind, Lausten called some of the rumors floating around out there “absolutely disgusting.” He said the family is “extremely upset” and “distraught,” noting that one of Ryan’s sisters was taking his disappearance particularly hard.

What to do if you see Ryan

Ryan, a sixth-grade student, was last seen Monday leaving school. He is described as white, about 5 feet 8 inches tall, with brown hair and hazel eyes. At the time of his disappearance, he was wearing a black jacket, blue jeans, an Old Navy shirt, and was carrying a polka-dot umbrella.

If you see Ryan, authorities say not to call his name; instead, keep your distance and call 911. Anyone with information about his location should call Sarpy County Crimestoppers at 402-592-STOP (7867); or call 911.

Ryan Larsen, 11, has been missing since he walked away from his school in La Vista on Monday,...
Ryan Larsen, 11, has been missing since he walked away from his school in La Vista on Monday, May 17, 2021. He was last seen wearing this exact sweatshirt, La Vista Police said.(La Vista Police Department)

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