More than two-and-a-half years after Ohio State medical student Brian Shaffer vanished from Ugly Tuna Saloona, a new clue has reinvigorated the investigation. A guest book comment posted in response to his father’s online obituary has stirred speculation that Brian is alive and in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Brian Shaffer’s father was killed during the Sept. 14 windstorm when a tree fell on him outside his home. He had devoted the past two years to the search for Brian and other missing persons through his involvement in Central Ohio Crime Stoppers.

The death has indirectly provided investigators with a clue in the disappearance of Brian, which occurred in the early hours of April 1, 2006.

The Columbus Dispatch published an obituary for Randall online and linked it to a guest book. One comment immediately attracted the attention of Don Corbett, a private investigator hired by the Shaffer family. The comment said, “Dad, I love you. Love, Brian (U.S. Virgin Islands)”

The Columbus Division of Police subpoenaed the web host’s records to determine the precise geographic origin of the comment. On October 7, detectives determined that the guestbook comment originated from a public computer in Franklin County. Police continue to investigate the identity of the sender.

The news media and police in the Virgin Islands have also been notified of the clue. Many local newspapers have featured Brian’s story and photograph, and advertise an anonymous hotline. No substantial clues have been received yet.

However, Corbett has not been satisfied with the Columbus police’s investigation into Brian’s disappearance. The deputy chief in charge of the case repeatedly refused to allow him, and the late Randall Shaffer, access to all of the evidence and case files. Corbett expressed his concern that police have missed critical evidence that could solve the case; he has filed an application for a writ of mandamus to compel the police chief to provide him with records from the investigation.

A representative from Columbus police was not available for comment.

“People ask, ‘Do you believe he’s deceased or is he still out there?'” Corbett said. “If we knew, there wouldn’t be anything to investigate.”

Any information about the disappearance of Brian Shaffer can be directed to the Central Ohio Crime Stoppers at 614-645-8477.

Abigail Miner can be reached