Voice Platform and Support Network for Families of Missing and Victims of Crime
By Denise Crosby firstname.lastname@example.org January 14, 2012 7:24PM
Updated: January 15, 2012 2:35AM
It wasn’t long after the massive and emotionally draining search for her son began that Sue Olsen looked at one of her friends and sighed. “I can’t imagine,” she said, “doing this two years from now. Or five.”
Unfortunately, she is.
Friday will be the fifth anniversary of the disappearance of Brad Olsen, who, at age 26, was last seen looking for a ride home from a bar in DeKalb.
Dozens of news articles have been written about the Maple Park man who went missing Jan. 20, 2007. Hundreds of billboards and fliers were posted. Thousands of man hours — from police, family, friends and strangers — have been logged in the ongoing search that has included planes, helicopters, all-terrain vehicles, horses, canoes, canine units and psychics.
So much has happened, yet so little. In the five years since, there have been no arrests and no clues as to what happened to Brad Olsen — who lived with his parents — on that cold winter night. Still, his mother refuses to slow down, much less concede defeat. The DeKalb police say they are still “aggressively pursuing” leads, and Olsen prays for a break in the case that has haunted her dreams and defined her life.
Even more than an arrest or conviction, she wants to be able to bury what is left of her son, who was declared legally dead in March 2010.
“If I got one or the other, I would be satisfied,” Olsen says. “But I would rather find Brad’s remains and not have his killer brought to justice than to have somebody convicted and never find his remains.”
The harsh winters of the last few years have rendered that task more difficult. But this mild season, at least until the first big snow, has made it possible to “get out a lot,” looking in areas that otherwise were inaccessible. Twice in the last week, Olsen went with “my canine group,” which includes eight to 10 teams of volunteers and their dogs trained to sniff out cadavers. “The creeks are so low, it’s an opportune time to search the banks,” she says.
There are other things Olsen can do to keep the search alive. Last week, before the snowstorm, she took advantage of the balmy weather to replace worn and missing posters with another 50 or 60 signs in the DeKalb, Sycamore and Elburn areas. On Friday, she was in the snow hanging banners at the intersection of County Line Road and Route 38.
Olsen also maintains close contact with missing persons groups and data banks; and routinely Googles words like body and remains and skeletal, “hoping for something” to pop up. Some days she gets as many as 100 alerts.
And Olsen makes it a point of speaking regularly to DeKalb police, whose efforts she describes as “awesome.” While the investigation is still active, and tips continue to come in, “a case this old becomes much more time-consuming,” says Lt. Gary Spangler. “We are doing as much as we can. Whether any of these tips pan out remains to be seen.”
At this point, Olsen admits, there is little else to go on except hunches — and their memories. In November, the family held a memorial service for Brad at the local Methodist church. On Friday, there will be a simple gathering for a few close loved ones to remember the young man “who loved life and lived it so fully.”
But searching for closure means searching for his body.
In addition to helping oversee the rental property she and husband Bill own, Olsen spends time with her surviving children and grandchildren, including Brad’s young daughter. Even then, she can feel guilt pulling at her for taking time away from finding the remains. More than Bill, who tries to steady the emotional roller coaster they’ve been forced to ride for five years, this quest now defines her new normal.
Olsen said the night Brad disappeared, she had a dream while on vacation in Mexico. Someone was beating him badly, a vision that was clear enough for her to identify general features of the assailants.
The next morning she tried desperately to get in touch with her son. By then, he was already gone.
“I’m not giving up,” Olsen says. “I am determined ... hopeful that something will break.”
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