Five years after an Indiana University student went missing, a retired FBI agent who's been working the case says he thinks he's on the verge of cracking it -- and giving the missing girl's long-suffering family closure.
Lauren Spierer, a native of Greenburgh, New York, went missing in the early morning hours of June 3, 2011. She was 20 years old at the time, and friends and witnesses told authorities Spierer was drinking with friends off campus and at a local bar before she went missing.
The last image of Spierer was captured by a CCTV camera, showing the sophomore walking alone the morning she went missing, looking healthy with a smile on her face. She was never heard from since.
Spierer's disappearance drew the interest of Brad Garrett, a retired FBI agent known as "Dr. Death" for his work on infamous missing persons and homicide cases. Garrett, who solved the 1997 triple slaying at a Georgetown Starbucks, and worked the 2001 case of missing congressional intern Chandra Levy, told ABC News that he was drawn to the case because he "thought we could maximize the use of social media to potentially solve it."
Noting Spierer's age, and how virtually all college kids use social media to communicate, Garrett said social media is an underutilized tool in criminal investigations. Describing himself as a strong advocate for involving the public in missing persons investigations, Garrett said he believes a 20/20 special on Spierer's disappearance will yield the final tip that helps break the case.
While acknowledging that most missing persons cases involve someone in the victim's "immediate circle," Garrett said he thinks there are people who know more than they've shared.
"The real key is going to be that they watched this 20/20 piece, and then they go, 'You know, there's another piece of information I've never shared with anybody,' and they come forward," Garrett said. "Because I think that's how close we are at this point in solving the mystery about what happened to Lauren."
For the Spierers, Garrett's efforts have been a welcome addition to their own search. The family, dissatisfied with the official police investigation, has hired private investigators, maintains a Facebook page and website dedicated to Spierer's disappearance, and has repeatedly made public pleas for more information.
Charlene Spierer, Lauren's mother, echoed the words of many relatives of missing persons when she told ABC that the worst part is not knowing what happened to her daughter.
"I start my everyday hoping that today is the day," Charlene said. "I go to sleep every night knowing that I have failed and that I haven't done enough."
Spierer's circle of friends at Indiana University lawyered up quickly, and Rob Spierer -- Lauren's father -- said that created a "wall of access" that prevented his family and police from getting more information from the last people to see Lauren alive.
Bloomington Police have logged more than 3,500 tips and dedicated more than 2,500 hours of overtime to the case, according to a profile in People magazine. A statement from the department said Lauren's disappearance "has never been considered or labeled a 'cold case,'" and said the investigation remains active with detectives working the case daily.
The 20/20 episode detailing Lauren's disappearance is scheduled for 10 p.m. on June 24.
On the website FindLauren.com, visitors are greeted with a message from the family that bemoans the lack of cooperation from Lauren's college friends.
"Imagine learning one of the most important people in your world has disappeared and there is not enough information available from friends and acquaintances to find them," the message reads. "There is no reason to think the people Lauren was last with, wouldn’t do everything in their power to help us find her. But, alas, there is deafening silence."