Father of missing SDSU student breaks his silence - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Father of missing SDSU student breaks his silence

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By David Gotfredson

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) - The father of a San Diego State University exchange student who remains missing in Spain broke his silence Sunday on the search for his 22-year-old son, Austin Bice.

Larry Bice, 55, is vowing not to leave Madrid until his son has been found. The father also set the record straight on several aspects of the ongoing police investigation during a half-hour interview with News 8 via Skype.

"Lots of people are throwing information around and I don't know where that information came from," Bice said from the living room of the apartment in the Madrid district of Chamberí, where Austin had been living since mid-January.

The SDSU senior disappeared in the early morning hours of Feb. 26, after being turned away from the La Riviera discotheque on the banks of the Manzaneras River.

Initial reports indicated Austin was denied entry to the nightclub because he appeared intoxicated. Friends said Austin planned to walk home alone.

"We do know he had a few beers before he got there," said Bice, who told News 8 it remains unclear why the doormen refused to let Austin in.

"At discotheques guys get turned away for wearing the wrong color shoes," said Bice. "So, it could be he had been drinking or it could have been anything. So they said, ‘You're not coming in.'"

Austin and a group of fellow students from the Carlos III de Madrid University had met up at a private home and taken the subway to the La Riviera neighborhood.

"There were five others, a total of six of them, and I do not believe any of them were U.S. citizens. They were other international students who go to school with him," Bice said. "They all met at someone's place and they went from there to the nightclub."

Bice has no doubt his son would have attempted to return home on foot, even though it was past 1 a.m.

"It took us 45 minutes. It's probably a couple miles," Bice said. "There are a couple different ways he could have gotten home. He would have been familiar with the area both ways because he walked everywhere all the time."

Austin was carrying two cell phones at the time of his disappearance, but his father said police have not revealed any information to the family about when the cell phone signals stopped transmitting.

"We know he had two cell phones; one is an iPhone through AT&T. He never used it for voice or text messages here (in Madrid). He only used it when he was in Wi-Fi hotspots. That's how he used his iPhone here," said Bice.

"He had a Spanish cell phone that he used for phone calls and texting. Both phone numbers have been given to the Spanish police and we've also given the American cell phone number to the U.S. authorities in case the Spanish authorities could not get access to the records for the American phone."

Bice said media reports that one cell phone is still pinging appear to be unfounded.

"I think the (Spanish) phone is off – whether it was turned off or the battery ran down – I think it's off now. I don't have that much information on the American phone as to what the activity is, or has been, on it," said Bice.

"We were hoping that if the cell phones were giving signals off it would give an indication which direction he went and we don't even know the answer to that. (Police) haven't provided that answer," Bice said.

In addition, Police apparently have not conducted any sweeps of the area with search dogs.

"As far as I know, we have not provided any clothing to (police) for dog searches," Bice said. "We have a meeting with the police tomorrow and that is one question we are going to ask them. My understanding is that (using search dogs) is not as commonly practiced here as it is in the United States."

Asked whether he is considering bringing in a private team of search dogs, Bice responded, "We're trying to work with the police as much as we can on everything."

Bice said search crews already have scoured the area where Austin disappeared, including the Manzaneras River.

"The river is not like the Mississippi River. It's a fairly shallow, controlled body of water. They have dragged it and confirmed that he is not there."

Bice confirmed police asked him to review surveillance video from a nearby subway station to see if the image resembled Austin.

"We did look at one picture and it was not him. So, we do know they are looking at things like that, which is good and we're happy about that."

The family is cooperating fully in the police investigation, Bice said, including answering questions about Austin's mental health.

"That's the first thing the police asked us, ‘Does he have mental issues? Are there problems at home? Are there financial issues?' All those questions were asked and the answer is, ‘No, he loved it here.'" Bice said. "He's here somewhere and why he's not showing up is probably beyond his control."

The Bice family has even done a bit of its own detective work.

"We know he hasn't used his credit cards. We asked. We found out from the credit card company ourselves. So, we passed that information on to the police," Bice recalled.

"There are certain aspects of the case I don't believe should be talked about and I think (police) would not want us to talk about them. But they are just little bits and pieces. It's not significant information. I think (police) are keeping anything significant to themselves right now until they follow up on it," said Bice.

On Saturday, Bice and dozens of volunteers staged a search and public information campaign to distribute posters along the route Austin may have walked that night.

"We walked the streets at night and we felt comfortable at night walking them. Madrid is a good place," Bice said. "Madrid is a big, big city and Austin has a Metro card that allows him to travel around pretty freely over large areas. We're just working on educating the public that he's still here and they're the ones who are going to find him."

Meanwhile at SDSU, the Agape House, a campus ministry organization, scheduled a candlelight vigil from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Monday on the campus's Free Speech Steps.

While Larry Bice remains in Madrid, his wife Pam is coordinating efforts from their home in Carlsbad.

"We appreciate the outpouring of support from San Diego. It's just amazing," the father said. "It is hard. I mean every day we hope to wake up and he's found. We walk around the streets and we hope to see him. We have a lot of faith around here."

And, News 8 has learned that a San Diego based security firm called the Halo Corporation is now assisting the family and is organizing a search mission in Madrid.

Austin's mother Pam Bice said Halo is donating its services but Austin's friends are soliciting funds to support the mission through a Facebook page.


Read AP's earlier story below


MADRID (AP) — Police, family and friends have stepped up a search for a San Diego State University exchange student who went missing after visiting a nightclub in Madrid more than a week ago.

Friends said 22-year-old Austin Bice was last seen outside Riviera concert venue and discotheque in the early hours of Feb. 26. The family he was staying with laid a plate for him at lunch later in the day and raised the alarm when they realized he was not in his bedroom.

Friend Maria Garcia said Bice and his friends had been drinking at an apartment before going out to the club. A doorman suggested he rest a while before going in because he looked unwell. A friend stayed outside with him until Bice said he was going home.

"He had left his credit cards and passport in his room, and had not taken a winter coat, so we're concerned because it was very cold that night," said Garcia.

Larry Bice, the student's father, from Carlsbad, California, told The Associated Press he had flown to Madrid to help search for his son and that "the police are doing a great job, they have been very active."

Posters with recent photographs of Bice have been placed around the city seeking information.

Bice's father said his son was physically fit, tall — six-foot-four (195 centimeters) — and had recently climbed Mt. Whitney with his father.

Garcia said Bice had only been in Madrid for a month and a half, so was not yet fully acquainted with the area. She said that police and later friends had carefully combed the area around the club and found no trace of Bice.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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