The Missing: Mother still searching for her son who vanished 16 years ago from Pasadena

In FOX 26's latest edition of "The Missing", we bring you the story of a 17-year-old who went to play basketball and never came home. 

Gloria Esparza has been searching for her son, Ryan Jacob Esparza, since June 14, 2007. He was 17-years-old when a friend called him and asked him to come to shoot hoops at Highland Park in Pasadena, not far from his home. When the sun set and Ryan still wasn't back home, his family said they knew something was wrong.

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"The next morning my stomach hurt, and I just had this eerie feeling that something had happened," Esparza said. 

On June 15, the very next day, Gloria called the Pasadena Police Department and reported Ryan missing. She also reached out to the childhood friend who had invited him to come to play basketball. 

"I pleaded with him if he knew anything, please come forward and let us know," she said. 

She tells FOX 26 that friend told her that Ryan got a phone call and walked away from the park. When we asked her if she believed that she replied, "No, not anymore, because nobody else said he was at that park, so I don't know if he even made it there."

Texas Equusearch combed through a 5-mile radius near the park with no luck. Eventually, as months passed, his mother started hearing rumors through the grapevine.

"I've heard stories. I've heard that him and another buddy stole drugs from a friend, one of the friends. What kind of drugs? Marijuana," she said.

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When asked what kind of drugs, she said marijuana was stolen from another childhood friend and not believed to be a large amount. She also says the police investigation into those rumors and Ryan's disappearance never turned up any leads.

"I just want to bring him home. I know he's not on this Earth anymore," said Esparza. 

However, Ryan did leave something behind, something that gave his mother joy and strength to keep pushing forward, his girlfriend was carrying his child. 

"She was six months pregnant when Ryan went missing, and I honestly didn't have a clue," Esparza said. 

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She continued, "I thank God every day that we have little Ryan, because I look forward to seeing him as a grown man. Because I didn't get to see my son grow up to be a man," she explained. 

Esparza recalled trying to explain to little Ryan at just 7-years-old why his father wasn't around.

"I said Ryan, we're looking for your daddy, we're going to bring him home," she recalled. 

Ryan Jr. is now 16-years-old with no recollection of his father. His family still doesn't have the slightest clue of what happened to him, and their only hope now is that someone out there with information will come forward.

"God knows my desires and my heart, and that he is going to soften somebody's heart, and they're going to tell where he's at, just so I can bring him home. My husband says when he goes, he's going to make a marker for Ryan next to him, because Ryan did exist on this Earth, and because we've never actually done a memorial," she said. 

If you know anything about the disappearance of Ryan Esparza, call Pasadena police at (713) 477-1221 or Crime Stoppers at (713) 521-4600 

You can follow this link for a look at an official record of long-term missing persons throughout the state of Texas.