VERO BEACH, Fla. – Don Ryce, who has championed a mission to helping police find missing children since his son Jimmy was abducted in 1995, has died.
Ryce, who became a dedicated advocate for abducted and missing children and co-founded The Jimmy Ryce Center for Victims of Predatory Abduction with his wife, Claudine, died at the age of 76 from natural causes. He had been in hospice care as of Friday night.
His death was not coronavirus-related, according to a statement from Mark Young, director of the Jimmy Ryce Center.
Jimmy Ryce was nine years old when he was abducted from a South Miami-Dade School Bus stop on Sept. 11, 1995. It took three months for investigators to find the boy’s body. Juan Carlos Chavez, 28, was executed in 2014 for the kidnapping, rape and killing of Ryce.
“We take comfort in knowing that he is now with his beloved wife, Claudine; son, Jimmy; and daughter, Martha,” Young said in statement.
Young said Don Ryce’s last words were “Keep the Jimmy Ryce Center going.”
He is survived by his son Ted, 43, from Miami Beach.
Claudine died in 2009 in Miami Beach at the age of 66. Don Ryce had said of his wife: “Her message was always to teach your kids the ways they can protect themselves. Never give up. Keep fighting.”
The Ryce family established the Jimmy Ryce Bloodhound Network. Those close to them say that they were sure that Jimmy might have been found alive if police had dogs available to search for him.
The Jimmy Ryce Center has donated over 600 bloodhounds to law enforcement agencies around the world to assist in the search of missing children and adults.
Funeral plans are pending, according to the center’s director.