(NewsNation Now) — It’s been 318 days since 21-year-old Jason Landry left his college apartment at Texas State University on his way home for Christmas.
On a long gravel path called Salt Flat Road in Luling, Texas, Landry’s car was found wrecked. The key was in the ignition and the headlights were still on, but there was no sign of him.
Nearly a year since the wreckage was discovered, his family still seeks answers.
Search teams including Kent Landry, Jason’s father, have been combing through the crash site in search of clues.
“The thing is, as a parent, you visualize your child walking down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere not knowing anyone, looking for help,” he said. “And that’s the part that hurts. That stays with you.”
The only thing his family knows for certain is that Jason Landry is missing. They know that he may be dead, but they also acknowledge that with so little evidence, anything is possible.
At 2 a.m. Dec, 14, 2020, Kent Landry awoke to the sort of phone call every parent dreads — his son’s car was found wrecked, but his son was missing.
In the dead of night, he drove to the crash site. Kent Landry was a defense attorney before becoming a pastor. What he saw shocked him.
“I’ve been to plenty of crime scenes and I was expecting police and searchers,” he said. “There was no one.”
The elder Landry found a pile of his son’s clothes, some bloody, strewn across the road.
“I could tell it was Jason’s clothes because he wears crazy socks — bright yellow, Spongebob — and I knew those socks,” he said.
But with temperatures near freezing that night, clothes would have been a lifeline.
Based on cellphone data, investigators know Jason was using the Waze app, Instagram and Snapchat during his drive. They also found rolled marijuana joints in his backpack at the scene, leading detectives to believe he may have been under the influence and distracted behind the wheel.
Still, three thoughts flooded his father’s mind: Why on earth was his son on this road so far off the main highway? Where was Jason now? And why was no one looking for him?
Capt. Jeff Ferry of the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office is the lead detective on the case and admitted that early on, things weren’t done perfectly.
“There is no inventory conducted. The trooper does not go into the vehicle. The trooper does not place a hold on the vehicle,” he told NewsNation.
It’s those first hours that haunt Kent Landry to this day, still wondering why law enforcement didn’t react more urgently.
Eventually, search parties did arrive at the crash scene, blanketing the nearby woods and farmland, checking abandoned homes and outbuildings for miles.
Since Jason’s disappearance, there have been seven large-scale searches involving hundreds of people, K-9s, horses, drones — and not one confirmed sign of Jason Landry.
Just this month, people trained with Texas Search and Rescue fanned out using artificial intelligence and nearly a year’s worth of drone images to check 86 points of interest where computers thought Jason might be.
The search uncovered bones, but none of them were human.
Ferry says he has no evidence a crime occurred.
“And there’s no definitive information proving one thing or disproving another,” Ferry said. “We’ve heard drug cartel theories, we’ve heard aliens, there is just nothing that takes us out of here.”
But the family isn’t sold.
“We just don’t have enough to know,” Jason’s mother, Lisa Landry, said. “So I don’t like to think there was a criminal, but then I don’t like to think he was just wandering off and something happened, either.”
Jason’s mom doesn’t often talk publicly about the case. She says she often imagines her son walking through the door, or getting a phone call with answers.
“I guess I don’t expect a phone call from him. But sometimes I do imagine him coming home, so who knows?” she said through tears. “I think it’s just more for a way for me to have him close by.”
It’s a mother’s intuition telling her she’ll one day have the answers she needs to be at peace. Until then, the couple is leaning on each other and their faith to guide them through the unknown.
Every now and then, Kent Landry returns to Salt Flat Road alone to search for his lost son.
“As a dad, that’s the hard part,” he said. “You spend your life trying to take care of your kids and then you can’t. That stays with you.”
There is a $10,000 reward put up by Jason’s family and friends for any information leading to either his safe return or his body’s recovery.
The family is preparing for a hard holiday season with an empty seat at the dinner table. As Kent Landry reflected on his son’s disappearance, one thought came to mind:
“I wish I’d never heard of Salt Flat Road.”