EAST LANSING, Mich. – The body of a teen who went missing while visiting Michigan State University last October was reportedly recovered from a river on Friday after a planned search of that area was executed sooner than expected.
Grand Valley State University student Brendan Santo, 18, was visiting MSU’s East Lansing campus when he went missing on Oct. 29, 2021. Authorities focused their search on the Red Cedar River, which runs through the campus, as the teen was last seen walking near it the day he went missing. The river’s height was higher than usual then, authorities said.
Still, despite relentless searching for nearly three months, investigators were not able to locate Santo -- until Friday, when police received information from a private investigator of his possible location.
Michigan State University Police inspector Chris Rozman said in a statement Saturday that a private investigator working with the Santo family believed he spotted what looked like Santo’s body submerged in the river, caught at a logjam, while looking at an underwater camera. That area of the river was of particular interest to law enforcement, and a search of the area was planned for Jan. 24, officials said.
Private investigator Ryan Robison reportedly notified police of his findings on midnight Thursday, and authorities were “in the water at first light to begin the recovery process” on Friday, Rozman said. A body believed to belong to Santo was recovered from the river at about 12:30 p.m. Friday, about a mile and a half west of where the teen was last seen.
That particular area was reportedly filled with debris, like trees and brush, that had gathered and needed to be cleared for police to safely get a boat in the water.
Officials do not suspect foul play at this time. An autopsy is currently pending.
Several law enforcement agencies reportedly came together to assist with the recovery of Santo’s body on Friday.
MSU police say the partnership between the Santo family, Robison, law enforcement and the community “was essential in our effort to find Brendan.”
Inspector Rozman revealed more details and thanks in his statement Saturday -- you can read it all below.
“We wanted to provide some additional information on the search operation yesterday. The spot where Brendan was located in the logjam had been an area of significant interest for law enforcement, search teams, and the Santo family. The Santo family was aware of a complex law enforcement search operation planned for that specific area of the river the week of January 24th that would involve clearing logs and debris to make it safer for divers and get a boat in the water.
“At approximately midnight on January 21st we were notified by Ryan Robison, a private investigator working with the Santo family, that while reviewing underwater video he saw something completely submerged in the water at the logjam that he strongly suspected was the body of Brendan Santo. Ryan proceeded to the Santo residence to share the findings with the Santo family. Following this, Ryan contacted the 911 centers in both Ingham and Oakland counties sharing the photo and location. This information quickly resulted in the gathering of multiple dive resources to explore the specific spot where Brendan was suspected as part of our continued search operation. Within the hour of notification, resources from MSU Police and Public Safety closed off the area around the logjam. Dive teams and multiple resources were in the water at first light to begin the recovery process.
“Immediately after Brendan was located, we were not sure if Ryan or the Santo family wanted this information known publicly. Our original news release said that we have worked collaboratively with the Santo family and their supporters, and that partnership was essential in our effort to find Brendan. Not only is that statement true, we cannot thank Ryan enough for his relentless efforts. Ryan shared with responders that morning that he was in awe of the totality of the response on January 21 from divers and rescue teams from multiple departments. We are grateful for the tireless dedication of the Santo family and all of their supporters throughout this investigation. We wanted to state this publicly now that we have received permission from the family.
“It was never our intent not to give proper credit to all those involved; this was about providing closure to the Santo family, Brendan’s loved ones and friends, and our community. Each of our partner agencies, including Ryan, offered important information and resources that led to yesterday’s discovery. Again, we thank them all.“Chris Rozman
Grief services available
“We know this news may be difficult for those within our campus community and beyond,” police said in a release. “It’s important to remember that the grief some individuals may be experiencing is normal and there are a number of ways in which individuals can seek support, including talking with friends, family and colleagues to process this.”
- MSU Counseling and Psychiatric Services is available 24/7 by calling 517-355-8270.
- The MSU Employee Assistance Program is available by calling 517-355-4506.
- Students at Grand Valley State University can contact their University Counseling Center at 616-331- 3266.
Michigan State University statement
Michigan State University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. and police Chief Marlon C. Lynch released a statement that reads, in part:
“Brendan’s disappearance on Oct. 29, 2021, impacted many across our university community. While the news today may bring some closure to such a tragic incident, our hearts ache for the Santo family, Brendan’s loved ones and friends. We kindly ask our community to respect the family’s privacy during this difficult time.
“We want to thank everyone who has contributed in some way to the search efforts to date, including our campus partners, the volunteers who posted flyers across our community and joined the search efforts with us and the Santo family, and every law enforcement agency who dedicated time and resources to bring Brendan home. This entire effort was a collaboration between many law enforcement groups, the family and their resources and countless volunteers.
“We know this news may be difficult for those within our campus community and beyond. It’s important to remember the grief some individuals may be experiencing is normal and there are a number of ways in which individuals can seek support, including talking with friends, family and colleagues to process this. Additional resources include MSU’s Counseling and Psychiatric Services for students and our Employee Assistance Program for employees. Our Residence Education Staff are also available to listen and support our students during this process.”President Stanley