OGDEN — Ryan’s away at college.
That’s how Tina Ross and her family talk about the unexplained death of her son Ryan Bush, who would have turned 24 on April 9. Ross recalled asking her teenage daughter how she was dealing with it.
“She said, ‘Oh, you mean Ryan being in college?’’ Ross said with a laugh. That’s how she deals with it, too.
Ross has been living in the space between denial and acceptance ever since she reported her son missing on April 20, 2013. Before then, he’d never not come home or not called her, not even when he was high on methamphetamine.
That day, when she was on the phone with the Ogden Police Department, Ross insisted that something wasn’t right.
“(The police are) like, ‘Druggies, you know, they go on binges, they go away for days,’ and I said, not my son. I know my son. I’ve never gone a day without talking to or seeing Ryan,” she said.
On April 28, 2013, two Los Angeles Police Department officers were dispatched to Potential Industries Inc., in Wilmington, California. The commercial waste facility sorts garbage and recycled materials for processing, but that day, the conveyer belts jerked to a stop. Employees had discovered a dead man amidst the trash.
The body was unidentifiable — “severe decomposition,” the police report said — but while searching the man’s pockets, investigators found a Weber County Inmate Record for a woman locked up at the Weber County Jail. The LAPD detective got the woman on the phone and described tattoos on the dead man’s body. The woman told detectives that the dead man was her ex-boyfriend.
Back in Ogden, Ross was still in the dark, but word of Ryan’s death spread from the Weber County Jail. Ross said she was leaving her house to go to work when a car pulled up and a guy she’d never seen before told her, “Sorry for your loss,” and drove away. Ross didn’t know what to make of it until the detectives came to her house to tell her that her son’s body had been found.
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Police believe Ryan died in Ogden, then was dumped in a bin at the Weber County Transfer Station, which ships waste to California.
Ross arranged for the Los Angeles Coroner’s Office to return Ryan’s remains to Ogden. They offered cremation, but she declined.
“I didn’t understand what ‘decomposing’ meant,” Ross says. “I didn’t know the severity and I didn’t understand it.”
At Leavitt’s Mortuary, the funeral director only let Ross see a glimpse of Ryan’s body — a tribal tattoo. It didn’t help Ross accept the truth.
“Still two and a half years later I was still looking for him because I had no proof, just what they were saying,” Ross said. “I saw the little piece of tattoo, but I see tribal on everybody, most people. So I was like, ‘No, that ain’t good enough.’ I finally got so psychotic, down at the police station, that they finally let me see the photos.”
“It was the worst,” Ross continues. “But it helped me from not looking for him any more.”
Since the discovery of Ryan’s body, Ross has heard nothing but rumors about his cause of death; rumors that Ryan and a friend got a couple hundred dollars worth of meth and instead of selling it, they used it. That someone was driving around with Ryan’s body in their trunk.
She went to see a psychic in Ogden who told her she could hear Ryan, and that Ryan said to tell her, “Quit going down to the police station and acting like a crazy person,” and that “They’re not going to do anything about it, there’s going to be no justice in this physical world.”
These days, Ross feels like the police just blow her off. Like Ryan’s been forgotten.
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The case is classified as a death investigation, not a homicide, said Ogden Police Department Lt. Tim Scott. He said interviews have been conducted locally as recently as this year.
“We know there are some people, local to the Ogden area, who know how he died,” Scott says. “They are not cooperating, but interviews by us and by the LAPD lead us to believe that there are people who know the circumstances of his last moments, last hours, last day.”
Ross still feels Ryan’s presence. She misses how he loved making bets with her, and how he’d almost always lose. The winner got a foot rub. Sometimes he’d rub her feet until she fell asleep.
“I just want people to remember,” Ross said. “Maybe someone will be like, ‘I remember this, someone told me about this.’”
She wants people to know her son wasn’t garbage.
“I just try to think that he’s in college and he’s going to come home, but then something will trigger and remind me that it really happened.”
Anyone with information into the death of Ryan Bush is encouraged to contact the Ogden Police Department at 801-395-8221 or firstname.lastname@example.org