Page 3 of 6
In the days before he vanished, Fuksa concealed his haphazard plan well. He spent the night of July 14 with a woman he was dating. Then he told his roommate that he was spending the next night at his parents' house. (They were out of town at the time.) Instead, he took the gun from his parents' home and, while he was there, transferred $800 from their bank account to his. He also found time to casually text his mother about his dad's choice in movies, then collect the transferred $800 in cash from a bank drive-through. By July 16, the day he was due in court, Fuksa was in Wyoming, and nobody knew it. He had been gone four days before his parents realized anything was seriously wrong.
Thompson says he is fairly certain that the theft charge is why Bradyn Fuksa left the area and cut ties with his family. Still, while discussing the young man, Thompson makes it clear that the search is a missing-persons case, not a criminal manhunt. During an interview at the Olathe Police Department, Thompson hoists a 4-inch binder, with Fuksa's "missing" flier slipped under the plastic on the front cover. The binder overflows with documents — leads and other bits of information that Thompson and the Fuksas hope will lead to finding the missing man. The department wouldn't put this much work into chasing a suspect over a simple theft charge, he says.
A large reason that Thompson's binder is dictionary-thick is Fuksa's parents. Starla and Todd are experienced at sorting through tips and knowing which ones are good and which are bogus, after a year and a half of methodically blanketing just about every truck stop, Salvation Army store and Catholic church in Wyoming, Colorado, Montana and parts of southern Canada with missing fliers. And Starla says she has learned to keep her emotions in check when she follows new leads.
The leads tend to be disappointing. There was the time that a man from the Northeast called Thompson after seeing a poster of Bradyn, which included two photos of him with different haircuts. The tipster was positive that he had seen "the boys" at a truck stop. It took a few minutes before he grasped that there were two photos of one person. Sightings that appear to be legitimate offer both optimism and heartache. "It's a horrible, horrible cycle," Starla says.
"You can't pin everything on one phone call," she says. "It's going to be the one phone call that helps us, but there are going to be hundreds in between there that don't."
Bradyn Fuksa's family began to think that he had committed a form of lifestyle suicide. No more scraping rent money together by making sure no one shoplifted shotgun shells or camo-print boots from Bass Pro's climate-controlled wilderness. It was time for the real outdoors. After all, he knew how to survive outside.
When Fuksa was a senior at Olathe East High School, Todd and Starla wanted to buy him a class ring, just as they had for his two older sisters. Fuksa didn't want a sentimental piece of jewelry, though. Instead, he asked for a lifetime hunting license. His parents obliged.
Bradyn, his parents say, loved nothing more than being outdoors and hunting and fishing. "He got his first gun when he was six months old — a Colt .22 pistol," Starla recalls. Between receiving the firearm and growing hands large enough to hold it, the boy accompanied Todd on hunting trips. Bradyn's BB gun was a kind of teething ring in the gun-owning Fuksa family. By age 10, he had mastered gun safety.