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Parents Plead for Information in Disappearance of 19-Year-Old From Royalton

  • DeAunna Claflin, of West Lebanon, N.H., takes a moment to collect herself while talking about the disappearance of her 19-year-old son, Austin Colson, of Royalton, Vt., on Jan. 25, 2018, at her home in West Lebanon, N.H. Claflin said she thinks that someone out there knows more about the whereabouts of her son but is not speaking up. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Austin Colson and his girlfriend Katie Grizzaffi in an undated photograph. Colson was last seen Jan. 11, 2018. (Courtesy Katie Grizzaffi)

  • Some of the scrap metal Austin Colson was believed to have collected on the day he disappeared on Jan. 11, 2018. Authorities are asking for the public's help in identifying where the scrap came from. (Vermont State Police photograph)

  • Austin Colson and his girlfriend Katie Grizzaffi in an undated photograph. Colson was last seen Jan. 11, 2018. (Courtesy Katie Grizzaffi)



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, January 25, 2018

Royalton — Somebody knows something about Austin Colson’s disappearance, his distraught parents said on Thursday.

The utility trailer Colson was believed to have been using on Jan. 11 to collect scrap metal was found on a rural road in Sharon a few days after he went missing.

“How did it get there?” his father, Dana Colson questioned in a telephone interview on Thursday.

His son drives a small sedan, and it doesn’t have a tow hitch. In addition, that car stayed in Dana Colson’s driveway for most of the day and night on Jan. 11, he said.

“There had to be someone else driving a vehicle,” Dana Colson said, “and they are not talking.”

The 19-year-old Colson left the Royalton apartment he shares with his girlfriend, Katie Grizzaffi, around 11 a.m. on Jan. 11, Vermont State Police have said. His family believes he traveled to his father’s house on Route 14 in Sharon, and was supposed to be meeting up with somebody with a truck that could haul the trailer, Dana Colson said.

“I drove by the house on my return from Manchester between 1:40 p.m. and 1:45 p.m. and I saw the car there and no trailer,” he said. “I didn’t think anything of it because he had asked to borrow the trailer.”

At 4:30 a.m. on Jan. 12, Dana Colson’s phone rang.

It was his son’s mother, DeAunna Claflin, asking if he had seen Colson because he never returned to his apartment.

“I thought it was odd, but that maybe he was just being a kid,” Dana Colson said. “Well, now we know it appears to be much more serious. Two weeks today he has been missing.”

While sitting at her kitchen table on Thursday morning, Claflin began to cry.

She hasn’t slept in days and can barely eat.

“He is either safe somewhere or not safe. At this point, I really don’t care who was involved. I just want to know,” said Claflin, of West Lebanon. “That is the hardest part — not knowing. Someone knows something.”

Other family members say they are trying to stay positive but, at this point, are preparing for the worst.

“I would hope that we could bring him back home safe,” his aunt, Plainfield resident Kim Colson McBride, said. “But my better judgment tells me that that is not going to happen. It is heartbreaking. It is just a tragedy.”

Grizzaffi, Colson’s girlfriend, declined an interview, but gave a handwritten note to Claflin for publication.

“I just want him to come home. I’m sick of this empty and broken feeling that will never go away if I don’t find you,” Grizzaffi wrote in part. “I love you. Please find your way home to me and all of us that are scared waiting.”

Grizzaffi and her mother, Lori, as well as McBride and other family members and friends have tried several different ways to discover his whereabouts over the past two weeks.

In addition to pinning up posters around the Upper Valley and engaging in social media campaigns, they have physically searched for Colson.

Over the weekend, Vermont State Police did the same. Detective Lt. John-Paul Schmidt, who is a member of the Bureau of Criminal Investigations, said officers conducted a search and rescue, but declined to say where or otherwise provide details about the investigation.

The officers used dogs, and one of the areas they searched was off Downer Road, Claflin said, which is the road where the trailer was found.

The trailer was partially loaded with scrap metal, police have said. Most of the scrap likely was collected during the day on Jan. 11 from places in Royalton, Sharon and neighboring towns.

Police are asking the public to help the investigation by identifying where the scrap items came from.

Just providing information about the vehicle used to tow the trailer might further the investigation, Dana Colson said.

Social media posts have indicated that Austin Colson was possibly seen in the Newport and Claremont area since he went missing, DeAunna Claflin said.

One of several Vermont State Police fliers that were distributed indicate that Austin Colson has ties to Massachusetts. He has no family there, but some receipts police found in his vehicle traced him to the western part of that state, Claflin said.

Family members on Thursday asked residents in the Royalton area to examine their property and see if anything looks out of place. If they stumble upon something that appears suspicious, Dana Colson asked that “they don’t disturb it.”

“We need ... we want some answers,” he said. “We need a few extra pieces (of evidence) that might shed some light on what’s going on here.”

The 19-year-old Colson had been doing well for himself recently, his parents said.

Over the summer, he started his own painting business — A and C Painting — and had been working toward receiving a GED diploma.

He recently had requested advice from his dad on the ins and outs of running a small business, something his dad knows well: He owns a welding supply business.

The onset of cold weather meant fewer painting jobs, so Colson tried to earn money in other ways, his dad said.

One was collecting scrap metal and selling it.

He also made soaps and candles and sold them for a small profit, skills his grandmother taught him.

“He was a pretty good kid,” Dana Colson said, acknowledging that his relationship with Colson had been strained during some of his son’s teenage years.

He recalled receiving a card from his son recently that made light of that.

“He had come quite a ways in the last year or two,” Dana Colson said.

Colson had a strong relationship with his older brother, Dakota Sawyer, and with his 10-year-old sister, who is taking the situation hard, Claflin said.

Colson grew up in his mom’s care at Romano Circle in West Lebanon, which is where she returned to live this November. He attended elementary and middle schools in Lebanon before attending Hartford High School, where he excelled at soccer.

Anyone with information about Colson’s whereabouts is urged to call Vermont State Police at 802-234-9933.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.