DeKALB — Every spring, Sue Olsen travels across DeKalb County to refresh signs and billboards about her son Bradley, who was last seen in 2007 in DeKalb trying to find a ride home to Maple Park.
She communicates on the Internet daily with other mothers of missing children. She also visits three benches, one of them dedicated to Bradley, at Memorial Park in the Heritage Hills subdivision in Maple Park. The park was aptly named three months ago.
"It's incredible how many people contact me from time to time, or friends of Brad's that hear something," Sue Olsen said. "I refer them to the police. Talk is golden."
Police insist that Bradley Olsen's disapperance is not a cold case. The active investigation involves K-9 searches about three to five times a year. Any time police receive a tip of someone saying they think Bradley Olsen was buried in a certain location or seen in another location, they check it out.
DeKalb police detective Lt. Bob Redel, now the lead investigator on the case, has been involved since the beginning. He believes Bradley Olsen is dead and wants to know how he might have died. There are many people of interest in the case, though Redel declined to specify how many there are and why they are designated as such.
"We need the right person to call us that either saw something or heard something that's going to lead us to where Brad's at," Redel said.
Bradley Olsen, then 26, was last seen the night of Jan. 19, 2007, at Bar One, which is now Molly's, 1000 W. Lincoln Highway, DeKalb. At the time, he was working for the family construction business, William Olsen and Sons, and had five unrelated criminal charges pending against him, including allegations of violating an order of protection, battery, and reckless driving.
His parents were on vacation the night he was last seen. They returned Jan. 24, 2007, and reported him missing a week later. Before long, massive searches were organized: On Feb. 24, 2007, about 140 people helped search DeKalb and parts of central DeKalb County for clues. A few weeks later, Naperville police divers searched the pond at the South Annie Glidden Road entrance of The Knolls subdivision, which is about three-quarters of a mile from the bar.
A judge directed Coroner Dennis Miller to issue a presumptive death certificate for him in March 2010.
Olsen was a white man with blue eyes and brown hair. He was 5-foot-8, weighs 175 pounds and had tattoos of a palm tree on his left ankle and a sun on his back. Those who last saw him said he was wearing a black, short-sleeved collarless shirt with blue jeans, a brown leather coat and black lace-up boots.
In more recent years, police have not found evidence when dogs have searched different areas in the county. Sometimes a dog alerts police to something that may be a clue, but it turns out to be nothing.
"Dogs aren't perfect," Redel said.
As times goes on, the investigation gets tougher since memories aren't as sharp and relationships change, Redel said. The only key witnesses in the case are the group of about 15 to 20 people who last saw Olsen at Bar One.
"Progress is not where we want it to be, but we're optimistic," he said. "His name's being talked about. His mom is putting posters up. People are still calling."
To give families of other missing people support, Sue Olsen helps search for many missing people who live within a 30-mile radius of her Maple Park home. She recently went to Chicago to search for a missing person and has also been involved with searches in the high-profile cases of Stacy Peterson and Lisa Stebic.
"Everybody needs support," Olsen said. "Unfortunately, not everyone that has gone missing has gotten the same treatment. Some people have gotten little help. It's a sad, sad thing."
Still, Sue Olsen has faith that police detectives will be able to solve the mystery of what happened to her son. The $50,000 reward family and private donors gathered years ago is waiting for the person who provides information leading to her son's remains; she'd like to give him a proper burial.
"Someday we're going to be on the news when we find Brad," she said.
• News Editor Jillian Duchnowski contributed to this story.
How to help
Bradley Olsen, 26, was last seen the night of Jan. 19, 2007, at Bar One in DeKalb, which is now Molly's, 1000 W. Lincoln Highway, DeKalb. Anyone with information is asked to call the DeKalb Police Department at 815-748-8400 or DeKalb County Sheriff's Office at 815-895-2155.