Ryan Larsen’s mother seeks to declare missing La Vista boy ‘presumed dead’

Ryan has been missing since May 2021
The mother of Ryan Larsen has filed a petition to presume her missing son dead.
Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 4:56 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 24, 2023 at 5:04 PM CST
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PAPILLION, Neb. (WOWT) - The mother of Ryan Larsen is petitioning to have her son presumed dead in what may be an attempt to go after the school district.

The 11-year-old boy disappeared on May 17, 2021, after leaving La Vista West Elementary School. Tammi Larsen filed a petition on Jan. 10 in Sarpy County Court to have Ryan presumed dead because of the care he needed as a child with autism.

“The missing individual, Ryan Larsen, due to his autism diagnosis and other medical conditions, was exposed to a specific peril or tragedy resulting in probable death under circumstances that may be proved by clear and convincing evidence,” the petition states.

An affidavit from Ryan’s mother, notarized on Dec. 5, was also included in the filing. In it, she states that La Vista Police Detective Greg Carrico told Tammi Larsen in November 2022 that LVPD was no longer pursuing an active investigation and had handed the matter over to the Omaha Police Department’s Cold Case Unit, saying that any progress in the case at that point would be “recovery efforts.”

“No evidence was found that indicated the whereabouts of Ryan Larsen. Despite numerous searches and attempts to locate Ryan Larsen, his body has not been found. Since that time, Ryan Larsen has been without a suitable caretaker necessary to sustain his life,” the affidavit states.

But La Vista Police Chief Bob Lausten told 6 News that LVPD was still investigating the Larsen case.

“We were not made aware of any court filings by Ms. Larsen,” he said. “We have just learned about this today. We are still investigating the disappearance of Ryan Larsen.”

The petition also outlines fault for Ryan’s disappearance, laying the blame on the school and the district.

According to the petition, Ryan’s mother claims that a La Vista Elementary School employee saw him leave but that “no immediate action was taken by the school to prevent him from leaving school grounds” or retrieve him.

Larsen also states in the petition that she intends to file a claim against Papillion-La Vista Public Schools saying the personal injury and death were caused by the negligence or wrongful act of the school district.

“I think we totally understand where the family is coming from, I can’t imagine the trauma you would feel from having a child disappear, so our heart breaks for Ryan’s family and it has since it first happened and it continues to. I think as far as who’s responsible, I think that’s really for the courts to figure out,” says Annette Eyman, the spokesperson for Papillion La Vista Community Schools.

Eyman says since Ryan’s disappearance, the school district has gone to great lengths to ensure something like this never happens again. They’ve updated protocols, and the district has added cameras to every elementary school - something they didn’t have before Ryan went missing.

“We had processes in place prior to Ryan’s disappearance but i think this just made us all rethink, reevaluate and say ‘are there things that we could’ve done or should’ve done different?’” Eyman adds.

A hearing on Tammi Larsen’s petition to declare Ryan “presumed dead” is scheduled for Feb. 21.

Assistant News Director Cassie Crowe, Reporter Marlo Lundak, and Digital Director Gina Dvorak contributed to this report.