Right now, a red Vans tennis shoe is the strongest lead that Tempe police have in the case of missing Arizona State University student Jack Culolias.
Culolias, 19, a freshman at ASU, was last seen being escorted by a bouncer off the grounds of Cadillac Ranch at Tempe Marketplace during a Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity-sponsored event at about 11 p.m. Friday, according to police, and hasn’t been seen or heard from since.
On Tuesday, a day after Culolias’ stepmother, Renae Culolias arrived in Arizona from Yorba Linda, Calif., to assist in the search for her son, she found the shoe near the banks of the Salt River north of Tempe Marketplace after she began searching in the rugged desert area on her own.
She believes the show belongs to Jack, as it was tied in a way that he ties his shoes and witnesses said it was the kind of shoes Jack wore that night.
A Tempe police spokesman said on Wednesday that the shoe is being tested for DNA as police are continuing to search the rugged desert area north of the shopping plaza where Culolias was last seen.
In the meantime, authorities are hoping someone who saw or knows something comes forward, perhaps with an anonymous tip.
In a case Jack’s family members say has been mired by conflicting stories and time lapses before Tempe police took charge of the investigation, investigators do know this:
Culolias used a fake ID to get into Cadillac Ranch to drink where about 200 other people were inside at the time, and that he had expressed concerns to his stepmother and twin brother about being “scared” about his initiation into the SAE fraternity going into pledge week, which also is known as “hell week.”
“Do you want to know my gut feeling?” Renae Culolias asked following a crowded press conference in the parking lot of Tempe Marketplace on Wednesday. “Somebody has seen or knows something. Jack was not a kid to just run off.”
Police, assisted by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office’s Diving Team, also searched the Salt River for any signs of Culolias’ body using radar equipment, but no evidence that would lead investigators to believing his body was in the water were found, according to Sgt. Michael Pooley, a Tempe police spokesman.
Pooley said Culolias’ fellow fraternity members he was with Friday night have been questioned, and officers say they’ve gotten conflicting information and are continuing to question those who last saw him.
Nobody has been arrested, and nobody has been detained in connection to the case, Pooley said.
“At this point, we are just trying to find Jack Culolias so he can return home,” Pooley said.
Culolias had left his wallet and cell phone at the restaurant, which police also are reviewing for any other possible leads.
Police also reviewed video surveillance from the bar that they said shows Culolias being escorted out of the bar. But where he went afterward is not certain.
He was kicked out of the bar for urinating off a balcony, according to Culolias’ step-brother Alex, who was not with him that night.
“I just want my brother home, man,” Alex Culolias said. “I just want him home.”
Renae Culolias initially called Arizona State University’s Police Department Sunday afternoon after she had not heard from her step-son over the weekend, and after they were unable to locate him, she called Tempe police about 4 p.m. on Monday, police said.
Monday marked the first time Tempe police became aware of the missing ASU student, and after Tempe asked if they could be of any assistance, ASU police declined, Pooley said.
However, once it was discovered that Culolias disappeared from Tempe Marketplace and not the campus, police became involved, raising more concern from Culolias’ family.
“It’s just been way too many days,” Renae Culolias said. “We need the FBI involved. I know he (Jack) was a student at ASU, but the incident happened in Tempe. ASU police have limited resources, but they should have reached out to Tempe police sooner."
ASU police could not be reached for comment.
Tempe Police also said they still are sorting out the facts of the case as there have been conflicting stories and time lost in the case as bar employees told police that Culolias had been escorted to a “party bus,” when a party bus or van was not in the lot at the time.
“Where were Jack’s big (fraternity) brothers?” Renae Culolias asked. “They shouldn’t have let him leave on his own.”
Witnesses said there was chanting at the bar as Culolias was being led out.
A manager at Cadillac Ranch was not available for comment on Wednesday.
Fraternities and sororities at Arizona State University are meeting at 2 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7 at the university’s Memorial Union building to offer support to Culolias’ family. The Memorial Union is located at 301 E. Orange Mall in Tempe.
If anyone has any information about the case, they can call Tempe police at (480) 350-8311 or Silent Witness at (480) 948-6377.
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