There is a law in thermodynamics that states that energy cannot be destroyed, it simply does not just disappear.
So how could two boys seemingly vanish into thin air? There has to be more to their story.
In 2005 Mark Degner and Bryan Hayes were seen leaving Paxon Middle School around 1:30 p.m. on February 10.
“One made a disturbance so the other could get out of class and the two simply walked out of the school and out of the baseball grounds,” says Mark’s Aunt, Angie Campbell.
The boys were never seen after that.
It has been 12 and a half years and it seems that Mark and Bryan disappeared into thin air. But people don’t just disappear.
Sgt. Dan Janson with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Unit says this case is unique. Though it is considered cold, it is a missing persons case, not a homicide.
“We hold onto hope, just like the families that these two boys will one day be found alive in some kind of care,” Sgt. Janson says.
It’s hard to fathom, but Mark and Bryan are no longer boys, rather men in their 20s. They were said to be funny and love animals, Mark was said to have spoken with a thick southern drawl and Bryan loved flowers.
But they could very easily be different people now.
There is one thing that hasn’t changed: both families want their boys home safe.
When Mark did not come home on February 10, 2005, his mother reported him missing.
Bryan lived in the Daniel House, a group home. He is bi-polar and his mother described him as a few years younger than his age in his mental capacity. She did not find out he was missing until the following day when his caseworker called.
“We really miss him at Christmas time because he was the one that always wanted to decorate the Christmas tree and he did a beautiful job of it,” says Bryan’s mother, Alene Hayes. She added that Bryan's brothers have also missed him deeply and the family still thinks about Bryan often.
For 12 years the cold case unit has followed tip after tip in an attempt to locate Mark and Bryan and reunite them with their families.
“We are going to treat this like a missing persons case until we can’t treat this like a missing persons case,” Sgt Janson says.
They even traced a reported sighting of one of the boys to South Florida. Detectives drove down but didn’t pan out.
With the recent arrest of Ron Hyde, who is charged with the 1994 murder of Fred Laster, came a tip.
Hyde had worked at the Jax Beach Sanctuary and there was a connection there with the boys, but like the other tips, this one did not pan out either.
“We just hold on to hope like they [families] do and are hoping for a safe recovery someday,” Janson says.
Angie has hope, but fears the boys are in a bad situation.
"I honestly believe in my heart if Mark and Bryan had the ability and the free will to let us know they are okay, there is not a doubt in my mind they wouldn’t do so,” she says. “So unfortunately the reality sets in that they are very likely being held against their will.”
Both families want Mark and Bryan to know it is okay to reach out to the families or law enforcement. Mark and Bryan are in no trouble, all parties just want to know they are safe and be reunited.
If you know anything about where Mark Degner or Bryan Hayes could be, please call JSO at 904-630-0500 or CrimeStoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS