Mother, sisters of Ryan Larsen speak publicly for first time since boy’s disappearance
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - For the first time since his disappearance, the family of 12-year-old Ryan Larsen are speaking with 6 News.
It has been just over four months since the boy vanished after walking out of La Vista West elementary school on May 17th.
Although the outside world has changed, Ryan’s room has remained the same - drawers with Legos and army men, shelves of books and action figures, and local police baseball cards hang on his walls.
“Sometimes I actually come in here and sit just because it still smells like him,” says Tammi Larsen, Ryan’s mother.
Tammi and Ryan’s sisters, Taylor and Kayla, say he’s one of a kind. Funny, goofy, and a little awkward, too.
“He’s kind of shy at first if he doesn’t know you and once he gets to know you he’ll talk your ear off,” Tammi says. “But just a very, very sweet boy.”
“He’s hilarious, like, he doesn’t ever try to be but he’s so funny,” says Taylor.
Because of Ryan’s autism, his family says it’s not uncommon for him to run away if he gets frustrated. Just weeks before he disappeared, he walked out of school and was found a few blocks away at his grandmother’s house.
In the past, Ryan has always come home after an hour or two of hiding. But on May 17th, something was off.
“I knew within three hours something was different. He always pops up, he’ll move places when he hides and something just told me this was different,” Tammi says as she recalls the day Ryan left.
“This isn’t like before, he either pops up or he’s found within an hour or two tops and it was like this is not the same. Something else happened besides him just taking off from school,” says Ryan’s oldest sister, Kayla.
La Vista police have spent countless hours and resources on looking for leads that might lead them to Ryan, but a few weeks after he went missing, community tips slowed down significantly.
Now, his family is left wondering what really happened to him.
“I mean, police tell us they base everything off of facts and the only thing they can prove is he walked out of school. I think if he was stuck somewhere, they would have found him by now, but if I had to put a theory, someone took him,” Tammi says.
Tammi, Taylor and Kayla have remained positive and hopeful that Ryan is still out there and will come home. Support from the community has been overwhelming, especially during the early days of his disappearance.
“The first night or two when they [police] had me stay at home, I went out on my deck and I could see people everywhere,” Tammi recalls. “People I dont even know were out looking and stuff. That was amazing to know that that many people that dont even know us were out looking for our little boy.”
“I mean, there were some people out searching all hours on the night. Two, three o’clock in the morning and the fact that they’d be willing to give up their time out of their lives with their families to help us look for ours, I can’t even explain how thankful we are for that,” Kayla adds.
The Larsens say they want to keep the momentum going, and are asking people to continue to look for Ryan and not to forget about him.
“Somebody, somewhere around here, I dont know who, but I think somebody knows something and I wish they would come forward and they might not even think it’s significant, but it could be what brings him home,” Tammi says.
“We honestly believe he’s still out there and, you know, people need to keep looking in their everyday lives, not just, you know, think that the story is over and that he’s gone forever, because I dont think he is,” Taylor says.
The Larsens say they have felt immense amounts of community support, but they’ve also felt the judgment, criticism and read the accusatory theories and threads on social media.
“I think people need to realize that this isn’t a TV show, this isn’t something you watch with your family and then you get to see the happily ever after and go back to your life, this is real for us, this is something that we’re going through,’ Taylor says. “Ryan is still gone. I think it’s so easy for someone to sit behind a keyboard and type whatever they feel, but we do see that. . . it still hurts.”
The Larsens decided to speak publicly as Ryan’s case has slowed down, to remind and re-focus the community on the efforts to bring him home. In a Tik Tok video posted to her Facebook page, Taylor admits that cases like Gabby Petito’s, which has gained national attention, inspired her to be more vocal about Ryan’s case.
Taylor says that’s not the only reason, though.
“Social media has just gotten really out of hand, and at this point a lot of people aren’t even focusing on Ryan anymore, they’re just focusing on how they feel about us.”
“His story I feel is losing its focus and is fading away and we need to keep his name and his picture out there. He’s out there somewhere and we need to bring him home,” Tammi says.
Tammi says she, too, has seen the social media chatter surrounding Ryan’s case, and has read the accusatory posts and comments on Facebook about her.
“There’s a lot of ‘if it were me, if it were me,’ well, I really hope that, even the ones with all the hate, I really pray to god that it’s never them, because you dont know how you’re going to react until you’re in the situation,” she says.
“There was a lot of ‘why hasn’t the mom gone on camera?’ Well, this is something that I live every single day. These girls are here but most days I come home and I’m here by myself. So, for a while, it took everything to get up in the morning and get going.”
What to do if you see Ryan:
Ryan, a sixth-grade student, was last seen leaving school Monday, May 17. 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. LVPD is also urging the public to use its See It, Say It, Send It app to submit tips, but to also “be mindful of unsubstantiated rumors circulating on this case.”
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