The Disappearance of Brendan Santo

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UPDATE: Brendan Santo’s remains were recovered from the Red Cedar River in East Lansing, Michigan on January 21, 2022. Foul play is not suspected in his death.*

EARLY LIFE:

Brendan Thomas Santo grew up in Rochester Hills, Michigan, where he graduated from Rochester Adams High School. While in school, he was an avid hockey player and member of Rochester United, a team made up of students from Rochester Adams and Rochester high schools.

According to his aunt, Dawn Brewer, Brendan had a kind heart and was known for helping those in need, especially young children who needed a mentor. He also had a “zest for life”, which he showed through his quick wit and love for making people laugh. As such, he had many close friends.

Brendan was an intelligent and athletic young adult who loved playing lacrosse and hockey. At the time of his disappearance, he was a freshman at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan, with hopes of getting into cyber surveillance or a computer-related career field.

LEAD UP TO DISAPPEARANCE:

Brendan was visiting friends at Michigan State University over Halloween weekend 2021. He’d planned to attend the football game between the school and the University of Michigan, which was scheduled to occur on October 30.

According to his friends, Brendan had been hanging out at the campus dorms in Yakeley Hall on the evening of October 29. At around 10:30pm, he decided he wanted to head back to East Lansing’s Brody neighbourhood, where he was staying. He proceeded to leave Yakeley Hall and began the half-mile trek on foot.

DISAPPEARANCE:

At around 11:00pm, Brendan sent a Snapchat to a friend, saying he was lost and wasn’t sure where he was. According to cellphone records later obtained by investigators, he was last on Beal Street, near Michigan Avenue, which is not far from Yakeley Hall. His cellphone then lost power.

Brendan never returned to the Brody neighbourhood residence at which he was staying. Given the amount of people on the MSU campus that weekend, his friends assumed he’d gone to stay at a different dorm room.

The next day, Brendan was reported missing by his friends, after they were unable to make contact with him. The MSU campus police then contacted his parents, Brad and Wendy Santo, who were immediately worried, as it was unlike their son to go somewhere without first informing someone of his plans.

SEARCH:

The MSU campus police have interviewed everyone who last spoke or had contact with Brendan on the night he went missing. According to his friends, he appeared to be in good spirits and texts sent from his phone didn’t hint at any issues.

A search for surveillance footage in the area Brendan was last known to be came up empty, as the cameras were not functioning at the time. During a virtual town hall discussion following his disappearance, MSU’s Vice President, Vennie Gore, explained the school had been notified over the summer that the computer chips within their surveillance cameras had been made by an international company that had been added to “the banned list by the federal government”. As such, their intention was to install around 300 new cameras on campus by Thanksgiving.

Brendan was carrying a set of car keys belonging to his friend, and it was later found that both his own vehicle and his friend’s hadn’t been moved during the weekend. His pickup truck was located on campus, where he last parked it.

Searches for Brendan have been conducted on foot, via drone and helicopter, with K9 units, and with boats with sonar equipment and certified divers. The official police investigation has focused on the Red Cedar River, as it was in close proximity to his last known location. The search of the river has included divers from the Macomb, Wayne, Oakland and Washtenaw county sheriff’s offices, but thus far nothing of interest has been located.

There have also been two civilian searches conducted by more than 800 volunteers, including rock climbers. However, as with the police searches, nothing related to Brendan’s disappearance was uncovered.

In an effort to raise awareness about the case, Brendan’s family has been putting up posters across Michigan and the surrounding states. They’ve also created a host of social media profiles:

According to Dawn, those helping in the search have been dubbed the “Bring Brendan Home (BBH) Warriors”. Those interested in spreading word about the case have been asked to use the following hashtags: #WeLoveYouBrendanSanto, #BringBrendanHome4Xmas, #RaiseAwareness4BrendanSanto, #BBHWarriorsRock and #BringBrendanHome.

There hasn’t been any financial activity on Brendan’s bank accounts since the evening he went missing. There’s also been no unusual activity noted on his social media.

There are currently a host of fundraising campaigns dedicated to raising money for the volunteer search and other related expenses. The family set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise $75,000, which has since surpassed its goal. As well, Painting with a Twist Rochester Hills has been raising money for the search, as has Ring True, which allows those purchasing items on their website to use code “Brendan” to donate 25% of their purchase to the cause.

Rochester United also held a charity game to raise money for the GoFundMe campaign. Each winter break, the team’s alumni players return to play a game against current members, and Brendan was scheduled to play this year’s matchup. Organizers had missing person flyers with pre-stamped envelopes available and set up a 50-50 draw.

The hockey team has also collected money at each home game, with all the funds being donated to family’s GoFundMe fundraiser.

A $20,000 reward is being offered by Crime Stoppers of Mid-Michigan to anyone able to provide information that leads to Brendan’s return.

The search for Brendan continues to be an active investigation and includes MSU campus police, the FBI, East Lansing police, Grand Valley State University Police, the Oakland County sheriff, Michigan State Police, the Michigan Attorney General and the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office. At present, investigators do not suspect foul play to be involved, and they have found no evidence to suggest Brendan was impaired at the time he went missing. They have followed up on numerous tips, including possible sightings from as far away as Oklahoma, but none have been fruitful.

Brendan’s family continues to ask those who visited East Lansing over the Halloween weekend to check any pictures or video, in case he might be in the background.

CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:

Brendan Thomas Santo went missing from East Lansing, Ingham County, Michigan on October 29, 2021. He was 18 years old, and was last seen wearing a black t-shirt, grey sweatpants with a zipper back pocket, white CONVERSE X COMME des GARÇONS hi-tops, a black Detroit Red Wings “Yzerman” baseball cap and a gold necklace with a cross. He was also carrying an iPhone 12 in a blue case with no screen protector, a set of car keys and a dark brown wallet. At the time of his disappearance, he stood between 5’8″ and 5’10” and weighed 160 pounds. He has brown hair and hazel eyes.

Currently, the case is classified as a missing person investigation. If alive, he would still be 18 years old.

Those with information regarding the case are asked to contact the official tip line at 1-844-996-7873. Tips can also be called into Michigan State University campus police at 517-355-2221 or Crime Stoppers of Mid-Michigan at 517-483-7867.

Image Credit: NamUs

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