The search for missing Grand Valley State University student Brendan Santo has expanded beyond the Michigan State University campus and into student neighborhoods.
The search occurred before Harrison Road and farther west, as far back as Beal Street.
“The bare facts are: Brendan is missing, needs to be found and brought back home,” Dawn Brewer, Santo’s aunt, said in an email to The State News. “Brendan basically vanished. In the area his phone last pinged, the campus cameras were not working.”
The Santo family has conducted multiple civilian searches of the MSU’s campus with more than 800 volunteers.
“After weeks of searching the Red Cedar River that runs through campus," Santo’s father said on the “Bring Brendan Santo Home” Instagram page, “There has been no sign of Brendan. We found no sign of Brendan or his belongings. Civilians and students continue to search the campus on a daily basis and have been posting flyers all over campus and beyond.”
Michigan State University Police and Public Safety has also expanded its partnerships with local, state and federal agencies to assist with the investigation. Oakland County and Grand Valley State University agencies are now assisting the investigation.
In addition, multiple K9 teams were used early in the investigation, including cadaver dogs.
“We have had multiple cadaver dog indications on the Red Cedar River near Brendan’s last known location,” MSUPD inspector Chris Rozman said.
This, combined with Santo’s digital footprint, has led investigators to continue their focus on the Red Cedar River.
“Our investigators have been diligent in this investigation,” Rozman said. “They’ve interviewed everyone who last had contact or spoke with Brendan, and they’ve reviewed surveillance cameras. They’ve also utilized advanced investigative techniques. They’ve reviewed cellular telephone data, smartphone data, GPS data.”
MSUPD is working with East Lansing Police Department, Grand Valley State University Police Department, Ingham County Sheriff’s Office, Michigan Department of Attorney General, Michigan State Police, Oakland County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI.
Brendan’s credit card has not been used since the evening of Oct. 29. The cameras around the area Santo went missing were not operational at the time.
Brendan did not intend to harm himself, MSUPD confirmed.
“Our investigative work has been reviewed by our local, state and federal partners, and we still have no reason to believe foul play is involved,” Rozman said in a Jan. 12 email to The State News.
“The police state there is no evidence of foul play, there is no evidence suggesting there wasn’t foul play, so it cannot be ruled out,” a Jan. 7 Instagram post said. “No one knows because we haven’t received a tip that someone saw him after he left Yakeley Hall; that has been verified.”
There have been no confirmed sightings of Brendan since he was last seen. No items of interest or Santo’s personal property have been located.
Santo was last seen on Oct. 29, leaving Yakeley Hall shortly before midnight. It is possible Santo planned to walk approximately a half-mile to the Brody Neighborhood, according to a Nov. 1 MSUPD news release.
Yakeley Hall is located on the north end of MSU’s campus, near Michigan Avenue and Grand River Avenue.
In a Jan. 7 Instagram post, Santo was said to have made it farther down Michigan Avenue, crossing back farther down from Beal Street and towards Brody.
Santo was not a student at MSU and was visiting friends. However, there is no indication he left the East Lansing area. Santo’s vehicle was left in the last location it was parked.
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He was last seen wearing gray sweatpants, a black T-shirt, a black baseball hat and Converse shoes. Santo is five feet, 10 inches and 160 lbs.
Investigators have used sonar, canines and other underwater technology as part of the river search to identify areas of interest in the water.
Rozman said, “The water search is complex and challenging and remains ongoing.”
Areas of interest have been searched with divers. However, it’s not possible to search the entire river with divers.
“Challenges of searching the river are the current, depth, visibility, obstacles present, as well as other underwater entanglement hazards,” Rozman said.
MSUPD has consulted with engineers and water experts to determine the search operations’ next steps. Search efforts have since moved downriver to the west, with professional and volunteer search teams.
“We have received hundreds of tips,” Rozman said. “Our investigative team looks at each individual tip and evaluates what follow-up investigation can be conducted and then performs that follow-up as necessary. Some are just suggestions and not actually tips.”
Since Nov. 9, the GoFundMe organized by Melissa Corsi for Santo’s family has collected more than $120,000 in donations.
The funds will be used to hire private entities to help increase search efforts, print flyers, help with family costs incurred due to absence from work and traveling between East Lansing and home, feed volunteers and notify additional publications to get the word out about Santo, including billboard signs.
“We are in constant contact with the Santo family and are doing everything we can to support them during this difficult time,” Rozman said. “It’s important that when we do our jobs, we always carry a level of hope and not make any assumptions. We are doing everything we can to find Brendan.”
If you have any information, call MSUPD toll-free at 844-99-MSUPD or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact Crime Stoppers of Mid-Michigan at 517-483-STOP.
There is also an award of over $20,000 managed through Crime Stoppers of Mid-Michigan through MSUPD’s toll-free tip line and tip email.
For resources, the MSU Counseling and Psychiatric Services, or CAPS, is available 24/7 by calling 517-355-8270. The MSU Employee Assistance Program, or EAP, is also available by calling 517-355-4506.
Students at Grand Valley State University can also contact their University Counseling Center at 616-331-3266.
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