'Nightmare' since son vanished

by Margaret Fosmoe

SOUTH BEND ? When they head back to Wisconsin, Steve and Jane Sharon will take home the Notre Dame sweat shirts their son bought as Christmas gifts for relatives shortly before he disappeared.p. The sweat shirts are a tangible link to their only child, a University of Notre Dame freshman who mysteriously vanished Dec. 12.p. Chad Sharon, 18, of Pelican Lake, Wis., has been missing since he walked away from a student party at a house at 520 Corby Blvd. Despite an extensive search, Chad hasn’t been seen or heard from since.p. ?We’ve been living a nightmare for 36 days now,? Steve Sharon said Thursday.p. The Sharons visited South Bend and talked in person with the local news media Thursday for the first time since their son disappeared.p. While they cling to hope that Chad will return or be found safe, each day is more difficult. The hardest thing is not knowing, the Sharons said during a somber news conference and a Tribune interview.p. The couple believe that if Chad is able to contact them, he will.p. ?This is totally out of character,? Jane Sharon said. ?If Chad is out there, this is totally against his will.?p. Steve Sharon urged anyone who has any information about Chad to call.p. ?Someone, we feel, knows something or saw something that maybe at this time they don’t feel is significant,? he said. Even if it seems insignificant, ?please talk to the police or us.?p. The Sharons said they chose to stay in Wisconsin through the holidays to provide emotional support to other relatives and because they hoped Chad might call or show up at home. The couple praised the local police investigation and said they are sure investigators here have done everything possible to locate their son.p. During the university’s winter break, there was no point in coming to town because students were gone and most of the campus was vacant, Steve Sharon said. Classes resumed Tuesday.p. “If we didn’t feel they were doing a competent job, we would have come down (earlier),” Jane Sharon said.p. Chad went home twice during the fall semester, for a week at October break and for a few days at Thanksgiving. When friends and relatives asked him how he liked Notre Dame, he answered “I just love it,” his father said.p. Also Thursday, the Sharons met with Notre Dame Security Police investigators and the Rev. Edward A. Malloy, university president.p. The couple’s hopes briefly rose Thursday morning when they were contacted about an unidentified young man who was being treated at a Florida hospital.p. A LaPorte woman visiting Florida called the Sharons on their cell phone to alert them to a news story about a hospitalized young man whose identity was unknown. With the help of police, the Sharons quickly contacted the hospital and obtained a photo of the young man. It was not Chad.p. Besides meeting with residents of Chad’s hall during their visit, the couple also hope to talk to other students and local residents who know Chad or have any information about him.p. The Sharons met with some of those people in a meeting room at Fisher late Thursday night before a 10 p.m. Mass across the hall in the dorm’s chapel. It was standing room only in the chapel, which seats roughly 75 people. Most in attendance were Notre Dame students.p. Malloy addressed those in attendance before the Mass began.p. “We would like to welcome two parents who are suffering great pain as they are missing their son,” Malloy said. “Perhaps it is the uncertainty that makes this so distressing…We pray for Chad’s safe return and we pray for consolation and strength as we wait for his return.”p. The Rev. Robert Moss, rector of Fisher Hall, presided over the Mass. Moss pointed out that Chad would attend Mass in the chapel Sunday nights with other Fisher residents.p. The homily was said by the Rev. Richard V. Warner, director of campus ministry.p. “We pray God listens to our prayers and continues to give us hope,” Warner said. “Chad is and always has been a beloved son of God.”p. The Sharons describe their son as rather shy and never outspoken. Chad is a generally cautious person who is not a risk-taker, according to his father.p. He is “studious, well-mannered and loving,” his mother said. Chad has no known medical problems and was not on any prescription medication, according to his parents. He has no history of depression, they said.p. Although an outdoorsman, Chad is unlikely to have taken a walk in a wooded area or near the river at 4 in the morning, Steve Sharon said. The family lives on a lake and Chad is a competent swimmer, according to his parents.p. Chad has always been an excellent student. In high school, he was president of the student council, the National Honor Society and his senior class. In the yearbook, his classmates named him “Most Likely to Succeed.”p. Attending Notre Dame had been Chad’s dream for several years.p. He got the idea because his cousin, Jim Frank, graduated from the university in 2000. The cousin earned a full-ride academic scholarship to Notre Dame, and Chad aimed for and earned the same academic scholarship.p. His mother said Chad kept in nearly daily contact with them while he was at college, usually on the computer via instant messaging. The last computer chat they had was Dec. 11, which was the last day of classes before exams and the eve of his disappearance.p. Chad said nothing unusual in that electronic chat, according to his mother. He wrote that he had finished classes and felt almost like he was on Christmas break, although he knew he had to study for exams.p. He didn’t mention plans to go out that evening. That apparently was a spontaneous decision he made later when some friends announced they were going to the party, his mother said.p. Earlier, Chad had told his mother about the sweat shirts he bought and stored in his dorm room to give as Christmas gifts.p. The couple said they wish the FBI would become involved in the search.p. The Sharons have hope Chad will be found alive and well, and they don’t plan to give up that hope.p. What would they like to say to their son?p. “We love you. If you can hear me right now, just call us,” his mother said. “If you need our help, get in touch with us.”p. While in South Bend, the Sharons saw the house where the party was and retraced the route west along Corby Boulevard and south on Niles Avenue that Chad is believed to have walked that night.p. The last known contact with Chad was a brief conversation he apparently had about 4 a.m. Dec. 12 with a security guard at Madison Center for Children, 701 N. Niles Ave. The guard told investigators a young man matching Chad’s description asked him directions to the nearest convenience store.p. The guard told investigators he pointed the young man toward the 7-Eleven store at Niles and LaSalle avenues. The store clerk told investigators no one fitting Chad’s description visited the store.p. The couple tentatively plan to return home to Wisconsin late today.p. Chad is about 5 feet 10 inches tall, 140 pounds, with short blond hair and blue eyes. He was last seen wearing jeans, a white sweater and a red jacket.p. The university is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information regarding his disappearance.p. Anyone with information is asked to call Notre Dame Security Police at (574) 631-5555 or leave an anonymous tip on a special tip line: (574) 631-8000.p. Tribune Staff Writer Gwen O’Brien contributed to this story.p. January 17, 2003

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