UPDATE: After an extensive search, the Michigan State University Police recovered a body believed to be Brendan Santo in the Red Cedar River on Friday, January 21, approximately 1.5 miles downriver of where Brendan was last seen. Positive identification is still pending. The MSU police have stated that it is an open and active investigation, but that “we still have no reason to believe foul play is involved or that Brendan intended to harm himself.”
As the search for 18-year-old Brendan Santo enters its third week, his family is hoping for a break in the case as they plead for help from the public.
“If you were at the Michigan game that weekend, look at your photos, your videos,” Brendan’s father, Brad Santo, implored of the public as he spoke with Dateline on Monday. “Look at the pictures we’ve posted… Does my son look familiar? Do you remember seeing him?”
The Rochester Hills native and Grand Valley State University student has not been seen or heard from since he went missing while visiting friends at Michigan State University on Halloween weekend.
According a news release, Inspector Chris Rozman, Public Information Officer with MSU Police and Public Safety, said Brendan was last seen just before midnight on Friday, October 29, 2021, as he left Yakeley Hall on the campus of Michigan State University and headed in the direction of the Brody neighborhood.
Brendan’s parents told Dateline that he was at the university that weekend for the big football game between Michigan State and the University of Michigan. The night before, Brendan was hanging out with friends when he decided he wanted to head back to the dorms. But he never made it.
Brendan’s father told Dateline that there were so many people on campus that weekend, many of whom were visiting, that when his friends returned, there was some confusion and they thought he just ended up in a different dorm room.
But the next day, Brendan was nowhere to be found and his cell phone was dead. His vehicle was located in the same spot he had parked it in when he arrived at campus for the weekend.
The next day, Brendan’s friends reported him missing to the MSU campus police, who contacted his parents, Brad and Wendy Santo. They immediately made the hour drive to join the search.
Since that weekend, tens of thousands of dollars have poured into a search fund; two massive volunteer searches have been held and the reward for information on Brendan’s whereabouts has increased to $11,000.
“The community has given us tremendous support during this time,” Brad Santo told Dateline. “We’re not even close to giving up. We just need to keep going… and for people to call the police if they see something or remember seeing something from that weekend.”
According to a report released by the MSU police on November 12, the effort to find Brendan has included searches by foot, drone, helicopter, and boat and has utilized canine units, divers, and civilian volunteers. The investigation has used advanced techniques to review cellular, smart phone, and GPS data. Investigators continue to review and follow up on tips as they are received.
Brendan’s disappearance has also brought attention to security cameras on campus, some of which were not operational the night he was last seen.
On November 12, MSU President Samuel Stanley released a statement that he had learned that the camera at the entrance of Yakeley Hall was not operational the night Brendan was last seen.
“I have directed MSU Police and Public Safety to order and install more than 300 new cameras throughout our campus,” he stated. “Those cameras should be here in about a week and crews will begin installing them immediately.”
The case has since prompted other law enforcement agencies to get involved, including the FBI and the Michigan State Police Department.
A task force consisting of local, state and federal agencies, has been formed to assist with the investigation moving forward.
“We have been collaborating with our local, state, and federal partners for several days, and this arrangement formalizes and expands our team while making additional expert resources and personnel available to assist us in bringing Brendan home,” Inspector Rozman stated in the release. “We particularly appreciate the continued help and support offered by Grand Valley State University and Oakland County, who have been providing investigators with direct contact to those close with Brendan.”
Along with the update released on November 12, police posted photos of Brendan with a necklace, keys and cell phone case to help further describe him. MSU police have focused their search on the Red Cedar River on campus, but the search is not limited to the river and investigators are asking the public to keep an eye out for any information that could lead to Brendan.
Brendan’s parents, who have been part of two civilian searches, one of which was held over the weekend, told Dateline they are also looking for things belonging to Brendan, like his necklace and the hat he had been wearing the night he went missing.
They stressed that Brendan, who had just started his freshman at Grand Valley State where he’s majoring in cybersecurity, was not depressed or unhappy with his home or school life.
“He’s a funny, quick-witted kid who always has a smile on his face,” his father, Brad, told Dateline. “He has a lot of friends and was looking forward to college life and his future.”
A Facebook page “Bring Brendan Santo Home” has been created by the family to spread awareness of Brendan’s disappearance and to release updates on the case.
“Our hope is to get the word out about our son,” Brendan’s mother, Wendy, told Dateline. “We just need to find him.”
Brendan is described as being 5’8” and weighs 160 lbs. He was last seen wearing gray sweatpants, a black t-shirt, a black baseball hat, and white Converse high-tops.
Anyone with information on Brendan’s whereabouts is asked to call the MSU Police and Public Safety tip line at 844-99-MSUPD or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Tips can also be submitted anonymously by texting the word MSUPD, along with the message, to 274637.