Authorities in Texas did not immediately suspect something may have been terribly wrong when police were first notified of an abandoned, totaled car on Salt Flat Road in Luling last week. A county sheriff’s department is now playing catch-up as multiple investigative agencies are sharpening their focus on different aspects of the case.
The car belongs to 21-year-old Texas State University student Jason Landry, who has not been seen since last Sunday, December 14, when he left the San Marcos campus to spend the Christmas holiday break in Missouri City with his family.
Landry never made it to the Houston suburb where the pastor’s son spent much of his childhood, and attended Ridge Point High School. His family learned early the morning of December 15 that a passerby had come across Landry’s totaled, abandoned car just north of Luling–about 30 miles from San Marcos and more than two hours from Houston–and contacted the Texas Department of Public Services (DPS). Landry’s father has said he believes his son may have swerved off the road to avoid a deer after being led off-course by a faulty navigation app.
Authorities reportedly believe that Landry walked away from the single-car wreck on the gravel road surrounded by oil fields, but what happened after that remains a mystery. Investigators found some of Landry’s possessions, including his wallet and cell phone, at the crash site, but it remains unclear if the personal items were inside or outside the car. An extensive, multi-agency search of the area has not yet turned up any sign of the missing young man.
Caldwell County Sheriff’s Sgt. William Miller told CrimeOnline that investigators were not immediately concerned about Landry’s safety just after the discovery of his vehicle, because of how frequently police receive reports of abandoned cars in the remote area of central Texas.
“That happens all the time,” Miller said. Much more often than not, the owner will reclaim the vehicle after a day or two, having left it to seek help for car trouble, or in some cases, because they got into a DUI crash and did not want to call police to the scene. Miller reiterated earlier police statements that there is no indication alcohol or drugs contributed to Landry’s wreck.
Late last week, Miller said, Texas DPS turned over the missing persons investigation to the Caldwell County Sheriff’s office, while DPS focuses on the crash investigation.
“There were certain things that weren’t done” in the first hours after the discovery of Landry’s abandoned car, Miller said. “We weren’t conducting a true missing persons investigation.”
With that investigation now in the hands of the Caldwell County Sheriff, “we are more focused on where was he, what he was doing” before he vanished, Miller said. He said his department has been working around the clock to reach friends and associates of Landry’s who may have been in communication with him around the time of his disappearance. Miller also said investigators are working to confirm Landry’s cell phone carrier and determine whether he would have had a signal at the site of crash, which the sergeant described as “some real back country.”
Over the phone, Miller walked me through the route that may have led Landry onto Salt Flat Road, demonstrating that one navigational misstep could have easily taken the student in that direction by following the natural slope of a highway. Asked about earlier reports of dogs picking up a scent at an abandoned home near the crash site, Miller said canines brought in to search the area were “going back and forth” between the abandoned house and a pond that was later drained and searched, without finding Landry. But investigators are not certain the canine was picking up on Landry’s scent, because a deputy and a trooper had checked the same house just after the wreck was discovered.
Texas DPS has not responded to a request for comment.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, two teen brothers who were student-athletes at Ridge Point High School were fatally shot execution-style on December 12 while parked outside a home in a town neighboring Missouri City. Police have not named any suspects, but have reportedly detained one individual for questioning, ABC 13 reports. There has been no suggestion of any connection between the killing and Landry’s disappearance, or any indication that Landry knew the victims, who would have started high school after Landry graduated.
Miller said on Monday that the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office was unaware of the double homicide near Landry’s hometown, and said that his department would be following up on any and all leads.
“Our main focus is: Where is he?,” Miller said.
Anyone with information is urged to call the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office at (512) 398-6777 or Texas Equusearch at (281) 309-9500.
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