Parents facing almost a week since missing man last seen

Community members are planning a search on Saturday for Joey LaBute, Jr.

Liz and Joe LaBute talk to NBC4's Olivia Fecteau. Their son, Joey, has been missing for almost an entire week.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Nearly a week after their son was last seen, Joe and Liz LaBute said Friday they couldn’t believe he was really missing.

“Today has easily been my worst day, for sure,” Joe LaBute said.

Joey LaBute, Jr., 26, of Gahanna was last seen late last Friday night or early Saturday morning at the Union Cafe on High Street in the Short North. His cousins said he was out with them and some of his friends.

On Friday, Columbus police said surveillance video from the bar did not yield clues. A spokesperson for the department said the video was poor quality and that, while detectives had reviewed hours and hours of video, they couldn’t find him in the crowded bar.

His relatives and friends are confused, shocked and worried.

“You see this happen—it’s not as though it’s rare—but whenever you see it happen, you think, ‘Jeez, how do they go through that?'” Joe LaBute said. “Now here we are in that position.”

Joe and Liz LaBute said they’ve been coming back and forth most days between Columbus and their home near Cincinnati. On Friday, after speaking with NBC4, they said they planned to meet with Columbus Division of Police detectives.

“You wake up every morning and think, ‘Oh OK,’ and then it hits you that, wait, he’s still gone. This is real,” Liz LaBute said.

Liz LaBute, who has been Joey’s stepmother since she married his father in 1999, said she knows there must a reason he can’t come home. She said he would never put the family through this.

“I’m not his biological mom, but I’ve been his mom since he was ten years old, and just like my sisters [Joey’s aunts], he’s our boy and we want him home,” Liz LaBute said.

Joey LaBute, Jr., works at Morgan Stanley near Easton, according to his family. His father said the last time they spoke, about a week before his disappearance, his son was talking about going back to school.

“He made the point that, well, he never does anything, he’s got all this free time on his hands, he might as well do something, right?” Joe LaBute said.

His son is a graduate of The Ohio State University.

“To my dismay, by the way,” Joe LaBute said, laughing. “I’m from Michigan and I did not want him to go there.”

Asked what he would say to his son, Joe said, “We love you and we’re trying to get you back.”

Sam Schisler, a manager at the Union Cafe, said community members are planning a search on Saturday for Joey LaBute, Jr. Anyone who wants to come is asked to come between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. for registration at the Stonewall Columbus at 1140 North High Street.

Volunteers will go through orientation and training before splitting up into groups at 9 a.m. Schisler said Columbus police are aware and are helping organize the event.

Anyone who cannot be there between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. may come later and go out with smaller groups. Schisler said the groups will cover the Short North, Victorian Village, Arena District and Italian Village.

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