Burlington mom returns to California to search for missing son

Every week, Tracy Beeso-Robichaud makes calls to hospitals, mental institutions and morgues throughout Orange County, California, in search of her son, Ryan Robichaud.

It 'could happen to any one of us,' says mom after son's mysterious disappearance

Ryan Robichaud, 23, of Burlington, Ont., had been missing since January in a bizarre case that involves a car crash and phone calls talking about "voices." His mom has spent time in California looking for him. (Tracy Robichaud)

Every week, Tracy Beeso-Robichaud makes calls to hospitals, mental institutions and morgues throughout Orange County, California, in search of her son, Ryan Robichaud.

Every day, the Burlington mother responds to strangers online after viewing photos they took of homeless people that kind of resemble her 23-year-old son. Each time she receives a potential lead, her heart soars with hope. But when she looks at the photo and realizes it's not him, her emotions come crashing down again.

"It's a roller-coaster ride," she said. "I need that because otherwise I start to feel numb and I feel empty and desperate because I feel like nobody's looking."

Ryan Robichaud went missing from his Burlington home in mid-January and ended up in California after a strange run of events that involved cryptic phone messages, a mysterious baptism and a case of identity theft.

In April, Beeso-Robichaud spent a week in Huntington Beach, Calif. searching for her son with the help of local volunteers, but was unable to locate him.

Possible sighting

The most recent lead came in the form of a photo posted on May 13 to the Help Find Ryan Robichaud Facebook page.
Seen through the back window of a vehicle is a man who resembles Ryan Robichaud, the missing Burlington man who went missing in January of this year. His mother suspects the missing 23-year-old is somewhere in Orange County, California.

"That one there, I couldn't get out of my head," Beeso-Robichaud said of the photo online. "I can't see his face but his profile is in the shape of Ryan."

When she travelled to Orange County in April, she spoke to many homeless people and told them the story of how her son went missing. She told them how he must have hit his head in a car crash on Dec. 31, 2015 because he hasn't been the same since that night and left home two weeks after the incident. 

"As soon as I tell this story, some of them have cried," she said. "Some of them have called their parents right then and there, (saying) 'my mom must feel the way you feel.'"

Beeso-Robichaud said she fears that malnutrition and a rough life on the streets may have caused Ryan to forget his home phone number.

"We don't know what condition Ryan is in. He's not from that kind of culture," she said.

'This could happen to any one of us'

On June 4, Beeso-Robichaud will host a fundraiser at Gator Ted's Tap & Grill in Burlington to raise money to fund the search for her son. She plans on going back to California in June to spend another week looking for Ryan.

"Everybody's a parent, a caregiver of a loving person, and this could happen to any one of us," she said.

When she gets out there, she won't be alone in her search. Jeanene Jones, a member of Huntington Beach First Christian Church where Ryan was mysteriously baptized earlier this year, has been connecting with Beeso-Robichaud since first reading about her story and has rallied a group to continue the search for Ryan.

Jones said she has an 18-year-old son and the day after reading about Ryan, her son rolled his car and walked away without a scratch. His friend, who was also in the vehicle, now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, she said.

There's no reason to point that he's not here, but we don't have anything concrete to say yes he is.- Jeanene Jones, Huntington Beach volunteer

"I just immediately connected with her, that 'oh my gosh, you're right, it could happen to anybody's son.'"

'It's just so heartbreaking'

Jones said she has been trying to help find Ryan by getting the word out there and putting up flyers around the Huntington Beach community. Everyone she comes across knows of his story, she said, but no one has come up with any real leads as to where he might be.

The last "real sighting" was on February 20 at an outreach centre, Jones said. But since then, the trail has gone cold.

"There's no reason to point that he's not here, but we don't have anything concrete to say yes he is," she said. 

Jones said the last time Beeso-Robichaud was there, the search was very hard on her. She talked to a number of homeless people who said they knew where her son was staying, but it always led to a dead end. Jones said Beeso-Robichaud gave them money and attention but those people just told her what they knew she wanted to hear.

"It's just so heartbreaking."

Beeso-Robichaud says anyone looking to help in the search can reach out through the Help Find Ryan Robichaud Facebook page. A Go Fund Me page has helped fund the search, with about $10,000 in donations being raised so far.