Chris and Randa Reiger came home from Ecuador without their son, August.
More than two months after the 18-year-old valedictorian went missing while on vacation, his parents made the agonizing decision to return to Oklahoma City without knowing their son's fate, said Christi Reiger, August's aunt.
“I'm sure it's the hardest thing they've ever had to do in their lives,” Christi Reiger said. “It's hard to imagine leaving your child somewhere not knowing if they are safe.”
Authorities in Ecuador believe August Reiger was kidnapped. There have been a few credible sightings, but no ransom demand and no indication of when the Reigers might see him again.
August Reiger graduated from Classen School of Advanced Studies last May, and his parents took him and his younger brother on a trip to Ecuador in June. The family was staying in Banos, a mountain resort town considered safe for tourists.
The family went hiking June 16 on a mountain trail near their hotel. August Reiger hiked a little ahead of the rest of the family, not more than a few minutes, his father said. When they got to the meeting point, he wasn't there. He also wasn't at the hotel when they got back.
The mountain was searched thoroughly with no sign of Reiger. Family members said he would have been found if he had fallen or gotten lost.
Kidnappings are common in much of Latin America, but no one had been kidnapped in that region recently.
Authorities settled on a kidnapping as the logical cause of August Reiger's disappearance, in part because there were no other reasonable possibilities. He had no money or passport and went missing only with the clothes on his back.
“Not knowing is torture on the family, and I'm sure on his friends, as well,” Christi Reiger said. “We don't know what to think or where he is or what his circumstances are. You feel totally helpless.”
Reiger's parents stayed in the area for more than a month as the case became a national story in Ecuador and both local and national law enforcement officials made it a priority. Family members repeatedly have praised the Ecuadorean government for their handling of the case and the resources they have put into the search.
“They have done everything possible,” Christi Reiger said.
Three credible sightings have been reported, she said — two by the same person on the same day and a third nearby along the coast.
Witnesses gave similar stories about the people who were with him, although authorities have not said whether they think any specific group is responsible for his kidnapping.
Chris and Randa Reiger recently returned to Oklahoma City. Their younger son returned to school for his freshman year.
The Reigers have friends in Ecuador who are working with the government, and officials have kept the family in the loop as the search for August Reiger continues.
In the meantime, August Reiger's family will do their best to carry on without him, Christi Reiger said.