Austin was 26 years old at the time of his disappearance in June 2007 when he took a taxi ride that ended at Jax Jewelry and Pawn Shop at the intersection of 103rd Street and Blanding Blvd in Jacksonville, FL around 12:30pm. Police have confirmed that Austin bought a shotgun there, and according to the clerk, put the gun in a duffle bag and left the shop on foot. Austin had been battling depression, and we believe that is what led him to purchase the gun. Leads have been followed but none have panned out, and there has been no access of personal accounts or cell phone use since that day. We also later learned that he never cashed his last paycheck from work. Austin left all personal belongings behind including a laptop and backpack that he never left home without.
Austin was our second child, almost five years younger than his sister Anita. Growing up, Austin was a wonderfully social child, loved people and was never fearful of making new friends,
or talking with adults. Teachers always said what a charming young man he was and that he’d do well. As he grew, he continued to make us proud of the man that he was becoming, making the mistakes that we all make, but finding himself and a direction for his life. Austin learned to cook as a young man and was good at it, working at a well known seafood restaurant chain as he studied to be a computer technician. He loved fixing us a favorite dish, or conferring on the best seasonings to use while grilling, or suggesting different ways to cook something, that part of him always surprised me a little, but in the best possible way. Austin’s quiet sweetness is something I miss more than I can ever express, especially the times he’d come to me and say Mom can we talk….and he’d share parts of himself with me.
As a child, Austin loved the holidays, with dreams of Santa, family gatherings, decorating, baking and more. One of our favorite Christmas traditions was joining family in West Virginia at a state park with several cabins filled with generations of family. The largest cabin would be the gathering place for family talent shows, gift wrapping contests, traditional Christmas readings and carols, and roaring fires. Outside, there was often snow falling and deer coming in close to feed. The kid’s first snowman there was so memorable; it was truly a wonderful time of family. There were also many years of Christmas in Florida, no snow, but lots of fun and tradition even without the winter wonderland. One of our favorite memories was when Santa brought a go-cart and we all laughed a lot as Austin plowed through the outdoor decorations hurting nothing other than the lights.
The older Austin got, the less excitement he showed at all the Christmas lights and decorations, but when his sister and I would look at lights he’d always go with us…sometimes with an occasional grumble, but we knew he enjoyed it. Though he didn’t get caught up in all the trappings that go along with the holiday season, he always was thoughtful and caring about the gifts he would choose. Many times as an adult, his sister or I would enlist his help in a gift, whether it was putting it together, setting up the programming of a new computer or just making the pickup from a store…he was always willing to help.
This Christmas will be our third since Austin has been gone and I yearn to reach out and touch him, relive some of my favorite memories that I can see so clearly before my eyes - the smiles, the warmth, the family gatherings, and the last weekend we spent together. I wish loved ones did not have to leave us too young. I wish that tragedy never haunted a single soul. But I know that sometimes life breaks your heart, as it has mine. This year, close to Christmas, Austin will have a brand new nephew (Ben) born, who will only know his Uncle Austin from the stories we share. I hope that as time passes and Christmases come, we’ll be able to share stories with him and laugh together over memories.
My hope is always that we find Austin. Whether we find him alive, or find his remains, I want to bring him home. I pray in the upcoming year that someone somewhere knows something that could lead us to him and is brave enough to come forward and say, I know where he is…or I saw him that day, and this is what happened.
One person can make the difference to our family, and can be the difference between never knowing what happened, and being able to bring a loved one home.
Our story submitted with loving memories, and hope.