Finding Lucius 

Inside the search for a missing friend

Page 2 of 5

No, Not Me

When Robbi left Horseshoe Bend, he drove off with two bright orange kayaks strapped to the top of his 1997 Subaru Outback. Only a few days after his disappearance, I took my dog for a hike in the Boise Foothills. The night before, I had driven back from Missoula, where I also studied at the University of Montana and, like Robbi, came back with two orange and red kayaks on top of my black Subaru Outback--a 2001.

As I descended my usual trail, I saw a police car parked alongside my Subaru, the light bar blinking. My heart started pounding and my face felt hot. Who was in an accident? How did they find my car? What did I do wrong?

My dog hopped into the back while I kept my eyes on the patrol car.

"Jessica?" the officer said from inside. I leaned into the open passenger-side window.

"What's wrong? What happened?"

"No, everything is OK," he said. "It's just that someone saw your car and called it in as the car that fits the description of a missing person."

"Oh, you mean that kid going to Montana," I said.

It dawned on me that the pictures floating around on Facebook of his missing car looked a lot like mine. The officer and I talked for a few minutes about his disappearance, both of us speculating on what could have happened--both of us at a loss.

I drove home, thinking about Robbi, feeling guilty for giving anyone false hope that he was here in Boise. I was stuck on someone mistaking me for the missing man, a man only a few years younger than me. A kayaker like me. A student at the University of Montana, like I was.

And he was lost on a road that I have driven countless times after four years of traveling between Missoula and Boise. I took the boats off my car as soon as I got home.

The rest of the day, I spent unfocused on work, following a Facebook group called Finding Lucius, instead. When I joined, it hovered around 200 members. Within 24 hours it reached almost 2,000. As of press time, it surpassed 3,300. The page played an integral role in providing leads for Robbi's whereabouts, suggestions of where he might have gone and connections between volunteers searching for him.

One thing was known for certain: Robbi left Cascade Raft and Kayak in Horseshoe Bend on Tuesday, Aug. 19, around 2 p.m. Aside from being mistakenly identified as Robbi during my morning hike, no one had seen any physical trace of him since.

'Just Waiting to Say Goodbye'

Robbi, of Orleans, Calif., worked as a raft guide at Cascade Raft and Kayak for the past two summers. During those summers, he lived at a private campground with the other raft guides along the bank of the Payette River. He spent his nights in a sleeping bag and became part of the tribe of 20-somethings that guide every fork of the river.

"They're a pretty tight-knit group," said Krista Long, who helps run Cascade Raft and Kayak with her family. "They all camp together, they all live together for the summer. The locals even get together for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's not just summer camp."

Long was possibly one of the last people to see Robbi before he disappeared into part of Idaho's vast mountain wilderness. On that Tuesday afternoon, she recalled checking some folks in for a raft trip.

"And Lucius was standing nearby," she said, "So I said, 'Oh, Lucius, do you need something?' And he said, 'No, I'm just waiting to say goodbye, so finish up what you're doing.' He was waiting, just so he could give me a hug and say goodbye. That's the type of person he is."

The type of person he was, according to his friends and family, was a genuine person. Someone who made friends with everyone. A goofy guy with a streak of responsibility uncharacteristic for most 21-year-olds. He had just finished junior college and talked for years of living in Montana. He was schedule-driven, paid his own tuition and planned to study his passion in life: outdoor recreation.

That's why it was so strange when he never checked in with his new landlords in Missoula on the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 20. It was even stranger when he missed the school's orientation the following day. Stranger yet when his professors marked him absent the first day of classes.

Sydnee Korell, another employee at Cascade and a close friend of Robbi's, started worrying Wednesday night when he never called.

"Lucius is the kind of person who, if he says he's gonna call you, he's gonna call you," Korell said. "So I kind of started making jokes like, 'Oh, Lucius hasn't called me yet. He probably, like, got axe murdered in Montana or something.'"

Jake Gillis (left) pours over maps with Robbi's anxious friends in Stanley. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • Jake Gillis (left) pours over maps with Robbi's anxious friends in Stanley.

When Thursday rolled around and still no word from Robbi, Korell and other guides started voicing their concerns.

"Sydnee had been saying for a few days that it was weird he hadn't called her," said Robbie Alder, another guide. "I didn't think anything of it. I was like, 'Oh well, he's busy. He just didn't call you.' But then the cops showed up."

On Friday, Aug. 22, an officer from the Boise County Sheriff's Office paid a visit to Cascade Raft and Kayak, asking for details on Robbi and his departure, prompted by a missing person's report filed by his parents earlier that day.

"My stomach dropped. I thought I was going to throw up," Korell said.

"Because in that moment, something was wrong," Alder said. "It was an 'oh shit' moment."

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