COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Julie Holly considers herself a “Columbus mom” to her nephew, Joey LaBute, Jr., whose parents live in Cincinnati.
When LaBute, 26, didn’t answer her text messages Saturday, she knew something was wrong.
“When he didn’t respond, that’s not usual,” Holly said. “If it’s not immediate, it’s close. He will answer me.”
Kyle Reigle, LaBute’s cousin, said he was out with LaBute and friends Friday night in the Short North at Union Cafe on High Street.
“We were just having fun, kind of hanging out, and then he disappeared,” Reigle said.
Reigle said he wasn’t sure what time he last saw his cousin but believed it was sometime between 11 p.m. Friday and 1 a.m. Saturday.
“We were blowing up his phone,” Reigle said. “His other friend that was with us was blowing up his phone, texting him. [I] didn’t hear anything and so the next morning, when I still hadn’t heard anything, is when I really started to worry.”
LaBute’s car was found where he left it at an apartment complex on Thurber Drive, according to his aunt. Family found the car Sunday morning.
Sam Schisler, the marketing manager at Union Cafe, said his staff is worried and that some of them are friends with LaBute.
“We’re not taking this lightly,” Schisler said. “If anyone wants him found, it’s us in the community.”
Schisler said the restaurant has about 12 hours of surveillance footage from 14 different cameras that it is turning over to Columbus police.
“You never know when you’re going to catch a glimpse or go, ‘Oh, I might have seen him,’ or even walking down the street,” Schisler said.
Reigns said he hopes LaBute is “OK, and that he just shows up and that we embrace him and we all go back to normal.”
Elsewhere on High Street, some businesses are joining in the effort to find the missing man.
“I don’t remember anything this kind of strange and mysterious happening to somebody, just like they disappeared off the face of the earth,” said Duff Lindsay, owner of Lindsay Gallery. “It really is unnerving.”
Lindsay said the neighborhood is much safer than it used to be when he first moved his gallery to High Street about 15 years ago.
“We like to think of it as a really safe place,” Lindsay said. “Something like this really shakes up the residents and the merchants.”
Columbus police said they were busy Tuesday, collecting possible evidence and talking to people who might have seen LaBute this weekend.
Anyone with information or tips is asked to call detectives in CPD’s Missing Persons Unit directly at (614) 645-4624.