Nearly two years after her son vanished, Debbie Estes still searches daily. She wears only “Billywear.” Her Jeep is plastered with missing posters and her son’s smiling face. Facebook pages, YouTube videos, benches and posters in local businesses also show William DiSilvestro, who was last seen on Feb. 8, 2011.
“I want people to see Billy’s face everywhere they go,” Estes said. “I have to find him.”
It was bitter cold during the early morning hours when “Billy D” left a Rossville neighborhood house after a night of partying and was never seen again. DiSilvestro was 28 when he was last seen the day after the Super Bowl in the 200 block of Ross Avenue. He left his cellphone at a friend’s house and had no money or medication, according to his family.
By law enforcement standards, the missing person case is a cold one, but Butler County Sheriff’s Detective Jason Rosser begs to differ.
“It’s hot on my desk,” Rosser said with a smile. “And it will be until I stop hearing rumors or getting tips.”
During the past 23 months, Rosser has received hundreds of tips, but none have turned up DiSilvestro, dead or alive.
“I thought we had him early last year,” Rosser said, noting bones turned up along the river in Indiana. It looked promising, but DNA proved it was not the Hamilton man. The same thing has happened over and over when bones are found.
In July, Rosser and a rescue team spent two days in the murky canal water on Joe Nuxhall Boulevard searching. An inmate passed a tip that DiSilvestro had been killed, put in a barrel and thrown in the water. But the search only turned up hubcaps and discarded furniture.
Four months ago, a retire Chicago police officer called Rosser after seeing DiSilvestro’s face on a missing ad in a trade magazine.
“He said he saw him at a gas station holding a sign that said ‘Need money. North on 75’,” Rosser said. However, the tip came weeks after the sighting and the man could not pinpoint where the gas station was between the Florida state line and Tampa.
Rosser said he “has hope” that DiSilvestro is alive. There is no evidence, he said, that DiSilvestro is alive or dead.
“Debbie is a wonderful individual,” Rosser said. “She is a help to others because of what she lost. We would bring closure to find him.”
The 54-year-old mother is realistic. She said she no longer believes her son is alive, because her son would try to contact her if he was “living and breathing.”
“He wouldn’t do his to us,” Estes said. “I truly believe he is gone. I just have to find him.”
Before her son’s disappearance, Estes was an avid gardener, a competitive pool player and a bartender in Hamilton and New Miami. Now she has trouble concentrating on anything other than finding her son and helping the families of other missing people.
“It is hell. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone,” she said.
It has driven her to become very proactive. She and an army of friends have knocked on doors, staked out the Lindenwald neighborhood where a rumor surfaced that DiSilvestro was spotted, walked railroad tracks and river banks and even dug up locations in Millikin Woods.
“I won’t be stopped,” she said.
Estes latest effort is three benches in the area picturing DiSilvestro and offering a $5,000 reward. One of the benches also features Katelyn Markham, a Fairfield woman missing for more than a year. Fundraisers and donations have helped pay for the efforts.
“I have been out searching for anyone missing,” Estes said. “If I found Billy … I would still continue fundraising for other families and searching anytime anyone needs help.”