Cold Case: Family still looking for college senior after six years

Cold Case

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — After six years of looking for their son, Reny Jose’s parents say, “they will never stop searching.”

In March of 2014, Reny Jose, 21, had the world at his feet. He was a mechanical engineering senior at the prestigious Rice University with a 4.0 GPA.

Jose’s sister, Reashma Jose, said her brother was very excited about his future.

“He had all of his suits ironed and they were hanging up on his bed rails and they were ready to go,” said Reashma Jose. “He had all his resumes, business cards, and everything all on his desk.”

But before Jose could ascend into his next chapter of life, he needed one last hurrah as a student. So on March 1, he and 22 other students drove from Houston, Texas to Panama City Beach, Florida for spring break 2014.

Two days into their stay, Jose disappeared.

Reny Jose and his sister Reashma Jose

According to police, Jose went missing around 7 p.m. on March 3 but it wasn’t until 11 a.m. on the following day that his friends finally called the cops.

Jose’s mother, Sherly Jose said she was driving home from work around 4 p.m. when she received the call.

“After that, I don’t know how I got home,” Sherly Jose said.

By the time Jose’s family landed in Florida on March 5, 16 of the 22 kids had already packed their stuff and left town.

“There were two girls and four boys left,” Sherly Jose said. “Two of them didn’t even want to talk to us.”

Sherly Jose said those who did talk, said very different things.

“One was saying: I don’t now where Reny went, the other one was saying: I went to Walmart, the other one saying: I was sleeping, then the other one said: he went for a walk,” Sherly Jose said.

One of the roommates gave a statement to the police that Jose’s family says in uncharacteristic of his personality.

According to the incident report, on the evening he went missing, Jose took LSD and even spoke of killing himself.

Sherly Jose said her son was a happy boy and excited about his future. With everything he had going on, suicidal thoughts seemed unlikely. She also said the drug allegation doesn’t add up.

“They didn’t find any drugs in the house,” Sherly Jose said. “Where did it go? What happened to the drugs?”

“They’re kids, they’re on spring break,” Reashma Jose said. “I just think it’s strange that they like portrayed him as a drug addict. They are acting as if he’s sitting in a corner doing it by himself. Take more responsibility for your actions, if that was the case. Again, there were no drugs found in the house.”

Reashma Jose said if her brother was using drugs, it seems unlikely that he was the only one.

“The rest of them are what sitting quietly in a corner, hanging out by themselves, that’s strange,” Reashma Jose said. “We know one of the kids was definitely doing drugs that weekend, we know that for sure. Because he admitted it and we asked him to take a drug test and he said no.”

Sherly Jose said another strange clue from her son’s disappearance was the time of day his friends found his clothes — at 11 a.m.

“Every morning, the cleanup crews, clean the beach at 6 a.m. and they didn’t find his clothes. I think somebody put his clothes there,” Sherly Jose said. “His clothes — one pair of pajamas, two socks — everything was on the railing.”

According to his friends, another batch of clothes was located near the trash can.

“His cell phone and his shorts and underwear and everything were half hanging on a garbage can,” Sherly Jose said. “Until then, they didn’t call the cops because they said they thought he was going to come back,” Sherly Jose said.

Sherly Jose said it didn’t seem like her son had planned his disappearance because his wallet, laptop, and suitcase all remained inside his room at the beach house.

Besides the clothes turning up, police had one clue to pursue — the testimony from his friend that said Jose had likely gone into the water while high on drugs. Sherly Jose said the cops focused on this detail — searching the gulf for his body as if he’d already drowned.

Jose’s body was never found and the 16 students who fled after his disappearance were never questioned by police. Sherly Jose said her family hired multiple lawyers hoping to get some answers, but no one would talk.

“We couldn’t force them to talk,” Sherly Jose said. “Half of them wouldn’t even take the phone calls.

Some of the kids even went as far as to hire a lawyer of their own and one of the two girls that stayed behind in Florida, refused to speak with Jose’s family when they showed up that day.

“The day that it happened, she didn’t want to speak with the family,” Reashma Jose said. “I just find the whole thing strange because her friends said she went to Starbucks when we showed up there looking for Reny. I don’t know, I just thought it was disrespectful.”

Jose’s family said it took Reashma making a post on Facebook begging his friends to speak that finally resulted in a conversation with the girl who refused to talk. But she wouldn’t talk without a lawyer present.

“This girl was his close friend. So we went to California to talk to her to try and find out some information about what happened — she didn’t give us anything,” Sherly Jose said.

Reashma said this girl wasn’t the only kid who hired a lawyer.

“There were more kids that got lawyers,” Reashma Jose said. “My mom still tries to contact these students on a regular basis. Most people will just be like my lawyer told me not to talk to you and hang up.”

Sherly Jose said, she still believes that her son is still alive. Everywhere she goes, she looks and hopes to find him one day.

“Somebody took him, that’s what I’m thinking,” Sherly Jose said. “I’m just hoping, they could just tell me the truth — he really went missing.”

“If anybody knows anything, if anybody thinks of anything that they didn’t think about or know about back then, anything would be helpful to us at this point,” Reashama Jose said.

Sherly Jose said that time has not made the situation any easier on her, or her family.

“I’ll be looking for him forever. Our family is torn apart because of this,” Sherly Jose said. “Every day I sit here and cry. “

“There are so many variables, there are people who are telling everything stories,” Reashma Jose said. “It’s a little disheartening sometimes becasue you are trying to piece everthing together and it just doesn’t make any sense.”

Sherly Jose has a plea for all 22 of the kids who were on vacation with Reny.

“The kids don’t want to talk to us, you think the parents want to? And they are the ones who hired the lawyers,” Sherly Jose said. “I want all the kids to know, if this happened to their mother, what do they think? They never think that. At least just tell me the truth.”

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