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The disappearance of Ricky Thomas in the late fall 1997 was one of the first big stories I covered after coming to The News that summer. Ten years later, the mystery surrounding the Bristow teen's disappearance remains. What happened to the 13-year-old boy last seen about 1 p.m. Nov. 6 on Oak Ridge Road? If alive, Thomas would be 23 years old today.
Over the past 10 years, I've listened to plenty of theories - enough to fill a small book, had I written them all down. Some came from police officers during conversations, on and off the record, neighbors and members of the community. Sadly, most everyone believes the boy fell prey to foul play and died that day or shortly thereafter. Who might have caused that and how and why it happened are questions that remain to be answered.
I have no doubt someone knows exactly what happened to Ricky Thomas that day. Secrets are hard to keep. Some eventually slip out. Others go to the grave. Thus far, the secrets surrounding Ricky Thomas haven't been spoken.
I remember that Saturday afternoon in Bristow as searchers near and far began their hunt for Thomas. An even larger-scale effort followed a couple of days later. Some of the police officers I first met that day have become good friends.
Will the truth ever come out about what happened to Ricky Thomas? That depends on the person - or people - who hold the secret.
Why bring up the story of the missing Bristow boy? Perhaps it's worth reminding ourselves that after 10 years, the mystery hasn't been solved. Another reason is a notice I received from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that included a photo of Thomas as he appeared in 1997 and how he might look today as a 23-year-old.
If you know anything about the disappearance of Ricky Thomas, call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at (800) 843-5678. Then do the community a favor and call the Indiana State Police at (800) 742-7475.