The Search Continues

More than a week after the disappearance of Franco Garcia, police officers continue to search throughout the Boston College area for any clues about his location. Since his disappearance last Tuesday, the BC community and four separate police departments have searched tirelessly for any sign of the Woods School senior. No evidence relating to his disappearance has been found, police say.

Search efforts over the past three days have been focused on the stretch of land between Mary Ann’s, the bar in Cleveland Circle where Garcia was last seen, and the BC campus–with the most energy going into a full-out search of the Chestnut Hill Reservoir.

In an attempt to aid police efforts, over 40 members of the BC community joined Garcia’s family in an on-foot search of the area on Monday afternoon. Fourteen teams of two to five people met at the reservoir and took shifts in the hours before sundown searching the area between Lake Street, Washington Street, and Beacon Street.

“We are looking for anything that might lead us somewhere else,” said Rachele Reis, a friend and bandmate of Garcia and A&S ’12. “If he dropped his phone, wallet, glasses, the Mardi Gras beads he was wearing–anything suspicious or helpful in dumpster areas, trash cans, and alleys.”

The police’s investigation of the reservoir also began on Monday, as divers were brought in to scour the body of water with the help of sonar equipment.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, divers were dragged slowly through the water column to search for clues, according to Reis. They searched for anything floating in the water below the surface that they would not have found when searching the reservoir floor.

“They found nothing on the [reservoir] bottom that would be considered in any way relevant to this case,” State Police spokesman David Procopio told The Boston Globe.

“By the time we got here they had already found a dead duck so it speaks well to the fact that the sonar is pretty powerful that they can find something as small as a dead duck,” said Joe Mahon, also a friend of Garcia’s and A&S ’12.

Procopio said that divers would be back in the reservoir on Friday for a final search, skipping Thursday due to anticipated bad weather.

The underwater searches were accompanied by overhead helicopter searches using heat cameras. On-foot searches by the State Police Emergency Response Team and K-9 Units covered the wooded area surrounding the reservoir, as well as the vacant Cleveland Circle movie theater. More than 100 police officers from four different police departments have been involved in the search.

Yesterday evening, Newton and State police expanded the search to Garcia’s home in West Newton, hoping to find information that could help them locate the missing student.

Despite the intensity of the searches, no evidence has been found regarding Garcia’s whereabouts.

Garcia disappeared after a night out with friends at Mary Ann’s bar in Cleveland Circle last Tuesday. He was last seen wearing a blue and white striped button-down shirt, blue jeans, a black Northface jacket, and glasses.

Garcia’s friends say they saw him walking toward the direction of the door, but never saw him exit the bar.

“It’s possible, we think, that he may still have been in the bar sitting somewhere,” Mahon said.

Their phone call to his cell phone at 1:17 a.m. was not answered, but the ping from the cell tower indicates that Garcia was headed away from Cleveland Circle back in the direction of campus, where his car was parked.

“It doesn’t make much sense to us that he would be coming back to his car, unless he was going to try to get back into Edmond’s if he could have somebody let him back in and go up to the room. He wouldn’t have been driving anywhere,” Mahon said.

Garcia’s friends said it is unusual for Garcia not to let them know if he made it home safe after a night out.

“Normally if he doesn’t stay after, he texts us on Wednesday and says ‘made it home, I took a cab’ or ‘I’m fine,'” Reis said.

Despite the unusual circumstances, police have found no evidence to suggest involvement by another party.

“It remains a missing persons case,” Procopio told the Globe. “There is no evidence to indicate foul play but foul play has not been ruled out.”

“There have been surprisingly few [leads],” Mahon said. “The thing that is really unsettling about this is that you rule out the accident, you rule out the reservoir, and there’s no evidence of any struggle or anything like that–this is speculation, mind you–but the unsettling thing is that after six or seven days with absolutely no sign or no word and no clues, no evidence, nothing in the reservoir, ‘What could have happened, where could he have gone, where could he be right now?'”

Despite the disappointment of the searches, Garcia’s friends and family remain hopeful for his safe return.

“They haven’t turned up anything and we’re taking that as a good sign because that means he’s not there,” Reis said. “We can take that possibility away and focus on that he’s out there safe somewhere.”

“Every day that passes without anything is more likely that he’s actually alive somewhere and for some reason can’t get into contact with us,” Mahon said.

Along with their physical searches, Garcia’s friends and family have turned to social media to reach out to as many people as possible, both in and outside of the BC community. They have focused particularly on celebrities, news stations, and local businesses and have received support from many, including Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, Doug Flutie, and Bruce Springsteen.

“Help find Boston College student Franco Garcia. Last seen 2/22/12 in Brighton, MA. Call 617-796-2100 with any info,” Springsteen tweeted.

In addition to the Facebook group and the Twitter hashtag #findfranco, Garcia’s friends have created a Twitter account @findfranco to spread the latest information and share news reports.

“There’s only so much we can do in actual search efforts, but the best thing that we can have anybody do is to spread the word,” Mahon said. “The more publicity that we can get, the more information comes in. We’ve had information coming in from various different places, a lot of it doesn’t mean anything, but you never know when something can actually help.”

Garcia’s friends have worked tirelessly over the past week to promote awareness about his disappearance.

“We’re kind of taking it one day at a time now just because we’re a little exhausted,” Reis said. “There’s about eight or nine of us that are kind of coordinating everything and we spend most evenings each hosting a little conference, we all sit at our computers and share, no one really wants to be alone right now, for emotional support for each other.”

Along with numerous students, University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J. and Campus Minister Rev. Don MacMillan, S.J. have both reached out to the Garcia family to lend their support.

“The Boston College community remains hopeful that Franco will be found safe, and are offering all our prayers and masses for him, his family and many BC friends. The Marching Band, Symphonic Band and Pep Bands all are affected by this occurrence and are pulling together in solidarity and prayer for Franco and for each other,” MacMillan said. “We are profoundly saddened by the ordeal of the Garcia family and their friends, and want them to know that the entire BC community cares very much for Franco and hopes for his safe return. Boston College is a community at prayer.”

Campus Ministry has organized daily masses this week to pray for the safe return of Garcia, and to offer support for his family and friends. A mass is scheduled for Thursday at noon in Cushing Chapel and in St. Joseph’s Chapel at 10 p.m. Masses will be said at St. Mary’s Chapel Thursday and Friday at 8 a.m., 11 a.m., and noon.

“Everyone at Boston College remains hopeful for a positive resolution,” said University Spokesman Jack Dunn. “We will continue to do whatever we can to assist the Garcia family and the four cooperating police departments as they deal with this most difficult ordeal.”

“My hope is that soon we will be able to contact him,” Reis said. “We’ll know or someone will tell us something that will allow us to know that he is safe.”

Anyone with information that may be helpful to the investigation is asked to contact the Newton Police at 617-796-2100.

February 29, 2012
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