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What Happened To Ryan?

By Starla Muhammad -Managing Editor- | Last updated: Jul 11, 2017 - 12:57:32 PM

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A young man’s death, a mother’s grief and her fight for answers

Ryan Singleton shown in the top photo with his mother Iris L. Flowers disappeared in 2013 while traveling near Baker, Calif. His body was found two months later in the desert missing organs. His mother has been desperately trying to find out what happened to her son but has received few answers from the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department which is handling the case.

In the four years since the disappearance of Ryan Singleton, a 24-year-old aspiring actor and model, whose body was eventually discovered in the desert near Baker, Calif., with several of his internal organs gone, the mystery of what happened to the young man remains.

His mother Iris L. Flowers is still searching for answers. “I just want to find out what happened to my baby,” she told The Final Call during a recent telephone interview from her home in Atlanta.

What is known is that on July 9, 2013 Ryan called a friend in Los Angeles to pick him up from Baker after his rental vehicle broke down driving to Las Vegas. However, upon arriving in Baker, the friend was unable to find Ryan, drove back to Los Angeles and filed a missing person’s report the next day. 

According to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Coroner’s report, two months later on September 13, 2013 Ryan’s remains were found by two men who had been hiking in the desert. “Most of the ribs on the left side of the body had been moved away from the body and it appeared that the thoracic organs were missing along with the thoracic musculature,” noted the coroner’s report. No internal organs of the chest, abdomen or pelvis were present, secondary to animal activity, the three-and-a-half-page report continued. The coroner noted the cause and manner of death as “undetermined.”

On or near July 9, Ryan had reportedly been found walking along Interstate 15 by two highway patrolmen who then dropped him off at a convenience store in Baker after first driving him around to try and locate his rental car which could not be found. After making a purchase, Ryan walked out of the store and disappeared.

Getting the runaround?

Ms. Flowers said there are many unanswered questions and things that do not make sense regarding her son’s case. She does not rule out the possibility Ryan could have been the victim of some sort of crime like being targeted for his organs.

Ms. Flowers is adamant some sort of foul play was involved. She said authorities told her Ryan was seen on a surveillance video making a purchase at the store and walking out. 

“Now this is about 2:20 in the afternoon and he walked out the door in Death Valley or Baker, Calif.? There’s nothing there but desert, there’s no trees like there is here in Georgia. So, no one claims to have seen him? He just vanished, just walked out the door and vanished? My son was six-foot-five and he was chocolate and he was a lifeguard before he left Georgia to go to California for the weekend so I don’t understand. You’re telling me that no one saw my child? Nothing?” asked Ms. Flowers.

Baker, a town with a population of 735 people in San Bernardino County, is approximately 200 miles from Los Angeles and is a common stop for travelers heading to or from Las Vegas which is only 94 miles away.

Situated in the Mohave Desert and the southern end of Death Valley, temperatures in July average triple digits and can reach 120 degrees or higher.

When Ryan was reported missing, law enforcement in nearby Barstow was originally assigned to the case but when his remains were found, the San Bernardino Sherriff’s Department took over the investigation, said Ms. Flowers.

As far as she knows any and all information from Barstow was turned over to San Bernardino.

The Final Call contacted the San Bernardino Sherriff’s office by telephone and was informed by Public Information Officer Cindy Bachman to email questions about the case. The Final Call received no response to its email inquiry. The Final Call contacted the Barstow Sheriff’s Station and spoke with a representative who said the case did not sound familiar and to contact the San Bernardino Sherriff’s Department. The Final Call also called the Barstow Police Department and was also told any cases in Baker are handled by the sheriff’s office.

“San Bernardino won’t close the case because once they close the case that means that everything that they have, the FBI has to come in and take over and investigate,” said Ms. Flowers.

When asked if she wanted federal intervention in her son’s case, Ms. Flowers was direct in her answer. 

“I want anybody brought in that can get any answers and get to the solution of what happened to my son. I just cannot believe that some animal came to my son’s body and opened it up very precisely and removed just the eyes, heart, lungs, liver and kidneys and his whole body was remarkably intact when he was found,” she explained.

Ryan still had on his shoes, socks and shorts when he was found, said Ms. Flowers, a fact confirmed by the coroner’s report. 

“There’s just a lot that needs to be answered and taken care of and whoever has the power to do so stopping short of God himself humanly able to do so, needs to do so,” said the grief-stricken yet determined mother. 

“I’ve gone through this forevermore and it’s ridiculous. San Bernardino was not a big help to me at all. I had to call and literally beg them just to find out just if anything even happened. They would give me the short end of the stick … I had a rough time trying to get a death certificate,” she added. It took her over three and a half years to even get a copy of the coroner’s report and only after a local Atlanta television station intervened, aired her story and got a copy for her, she added.

She accused one person at the sheriff’s department of asking why she keeps asking questions and inquiring because her son “is not coming back.” Ms. Flowers said she has been told several different things by the department including: Her son’s case is a “cold case,” it is not a top priority since there were no witnesses, that other cases are priority and that there is not enough manpower to allocate to the investigation.

“We have a lot of questions as well,” said Sheryl McCollum, founder and director of the Cold Case Investigative Research Institute in Atlanta. Founded in 2004 the group is comprised of a network of volunteer forensic experts and students at various colleges and universities across the country that study, research and try to solve or come to conclusions on “unsolved” crimes or “cold cases.” Ms. Flowers reached out to the institute for help in finding out what happened to her son.

“When we first started looking at Ryan’s case what bothered me as much as anything is that his mother still has so many questions, it blew my mind,” said Ms. McCollum. “What I told her in the very beginning is that we’re going to help you get answers. Whether or not we quote ‘solve the case’ I don’t know. But I know we’re going to be able to answer some questions for you,” she said. 

Unanswered questions

 From day one, even when she was carrying Ryan in her womb, they had a spiritual connection, said Ms. Flowers. He was a quiet, sweet, loving and respectable from birth, she shared. “He was a big baby, he weighed 10 pounds, seven ounces and he was 21 and a quarter inches long when he came out and I’m like, ‘you are a unique person, why are you here?’ He defied all methods of birth control I used to get here,” she said with a laugh.

A few months prior to his disappearance Ryan had moved back to Atlanta from New York where he was allegedly in a short-lived marriage prior to then leaving for California to continue his career pursuits. There is some speculation Ryan could have also been targeted because of his sexual orientation. He was gay.

Before he left Atlanta for what would be the last time she would see her son alive, Ms. Flowers recalled their conversation in which she shared her hesitancy with him on him going to California.

After assuring his mother he would be fine, he left. “At six five and 24-years-old and strong, you’d think that would be okay. But I don’t know what happened, I really don’t know. I think that it may have been some kind of illicit team or organization in that city and to me it felt completely like Ryan walked out of that store, somebody took him and hit him in the head and put him in the back of a truck against his will and he was still in that city. That was the first thing I felt when the detective called me and said Ryan was a missing person … so that’s what I felt at that time,” said Ms. Flowers.

Ms. Flowers pointed out several other concerns: the coroner’s report stated no tattoos were found on Ryan but he had tattoos; the report does not mention the names of the highway patrolmen that reportedly picked him up and dropped him off; she has yet to see a police report and she has yet to see the surveillance video that allegedly shows Ryan at the convenience store before his disappearance.

His rental vehicle was also reportedly found the day after he was reported missing but had been wiped clean of fingerprints and his phone and backpack were inside. Another cell phone and his wallet were found with his body, she said.

She had to view what was left of her son’s body after his remains were finally sent home to her. But before she buried him in late 2013 she paid an independent medical examiner, who she did not wish to name, to perform another autopsy. She was alarmed when she said the same medical examiner called her on June 27, 2016 to pick up her son’s remains.

“I’m like what are you talking about? You sent me his body and I put it in the ground and so what are you saying come pick up Ryan’s remains because you had nowhere to store it?” She said the medical examiner told her he was retiring and “washing his hands of this.”

Since she did not, at that time, have a copy of the original autopsy report she would not have to pay any additional money but could come pick up what the man said were Ryan’s remains. She said she then called a mortician who retrieved from the medical examiner a body bag with remains as well as hundreds of autopsy photos but no results.

“People fail to realize what I’m going through in addition to my son being found dead with no organs and no answers, now I have him autopsied here in Georgia, now I don’t know the results of the autopsy or if my son’s remains are even buried. I’m trying to raise money to get that taken care of as well.”

Ms. McCollum stated it is not unusual for animal activity to scavenge human remains but that her organization hopes to help Ms. Flowers find answers to her many questions, including if it is confirmed that Ryan was seen on video at the convenience store. 

“The problem I have is that Iris has not been given the information in a manner which she can accept. Well that’s not okay. So, either those bones have got gnaw marks from an animal or they don’t. Either his clothes were ripped or they weren’t,” said Ms. McCollum.

“If her child went out in the desert, had some type of medical episode and fell down and died, she should be able to understand that. If her child had car trouble and was kidnapped and hurt and left for dead in the desert, she should know that. She doesn’t know what happened to him and that’s the part that’s not okay. If his organs were removed by animals then explain it to her.”