Let’s talk about it: Bryan Hayes and Mark Degner

I find the disappearance of best friends Mark Anthony Degner and Bryan Andrew Hayes puzzling and troubling. They’ve been missing from Jacksonville, Florida since February 1, 2005 — twelve years, nearly twelve and a half.

At first the circumstances of the boys’ cases look pedestrian enough: they were living in a group home, told friends they were going to run away, and apparently did just that. They were even sighted in Holly Hill, a small town south of Jacksonville on the Florida coast, two months later.

And yet.

The boys, at just twelve (Mark) and thirteen (Bryan), were extremely young to have been gone this long. Bryan had run away before, but never for longer than a day, and Mark had no history of running away. Furthermore, they were developmentally delayed, functioning on the level of seven- to ten-year-old children, and both suffered from bipolar disorder.

How could they have remained off the map this long? Did the boys meet with foul play? If they’re still alive, why haven’t they resurfaced and who’s helping them stay hidden? Were relatives investigated? Were some member or members of the boys’ families unhappy that they were living in a group home? Or is it possible they fell victim to sex trafficking? Due to their disabilities. I should think they would have been extremely vulnerable to any kind of exploitation — even more so than most runaways.

The case reminds me of Clayton Lynn McCarter and Rodney Michael Scott, who ran away from a Bowling Green, Kentucky children’s home three and a half years ago and still haven’t been found. They were almost the same age: fifteen and thirteen. Clayton was developmentally delayed and had psychiatric issues, just like Mark and Bryan, and there’s a good chance Rodney had similar problems though I don’t know that for sure. I’m not suggesting McCarter/Scott disappearances are related to Mark and Bryan’s, though, given the distance in both time and space.

So what do you think happened to Mark Degner and Bryan Hayes? Let’s talk about it.

20 thoughts on “Let’s talk about it: Bryan Hayes and Mark Degner

  1. Julie June 8, 2017 / 1:54 pm

    I can’t believe you posted this case as a Let’s Talk About It – it’s the number one case in all the years I’ve been following missing persons that has always stayed with me/had me the most puzzled. I’m very interested to hear what people think.

    • Rose Roberts February 9, 2018 / 5:43 pm

      Bryan is my brother and there are a lot of errors in this article. Bryan and Mark went missing on February 10th, 2005. They left school together. And have never been sighted again after that. The boys sighted in Holly Hill were not Bryan and Mark. My parents had it check out. They saw the boys and would recognize their own son. This has been agonizing for our family. We don’t have any clues as to what might have happened to either boy. We suspect they were taken and that they did not run away. They didn’t take any clothes or money with them. They would not have gone without it unless someone was helping them.

      • Meaghan February 9, 2018 / 5:49 pm

        Thanks for the info. I’ve updated the cases and removed the part about the sightings.

      • Todd February 10, 2021 / 5:30 pm

        Wasn’t one if them seen getting into a car outside the school? I just read that online.

  2. marsyao June 8, 2017 / 2:07 pm

    As we know they at least survived 2 months on the run, how did they make their living ? so I just want to know a little bit more detail about their condition when they were last seen, did they look hungry ? Whether they dressed in clean cloth? Were they with someone? etc. These information may give us some clues

  3. Jennifer Cook June 8, 2017 / 2:29 pm

    Would love for the investigators to give it some media attention…….

  4. Vision Jinx June 8, 2017 / 6:03 pm

    I always question sightings well after the disappearance. I don’t understand how some sightings are verified. What exactly makes them verified? Anyways, in my opinion, if the sightings are true I see a Shawn Hornbeck or Stanley Staynor situation. Both cases were young boys kidnapped by sexual predators and kept alive for years. Although, 12 years seems like a stretch. Their disabilities would make them extremely vulnerable. 2 months on their own? Not likely, someone had to have been taking them in.

    • Vincent June 8, 2017 / 7:36 pm

      Steven Staynor.

      • Vision Jinx June 8, 2017 / 8:07 pm

        Thank you! Going off memory.

    • Julie June 12, 2017 / 2:41 pm

      I have always been curious how this sighting was verified also

  5. Medea June 8, 2017 / 7:34 pm

    Maybe they didn’t stay together and meet different fate in totally different places and time. I think a demise linked to their untreated condition is more likely then a kidnapping scenario. Extremes risk taking, self medication, maybe violence or suicide.

  6. Jaclyn June 9, 2017 / 12:22 am

    I will give you some very good feedback on this since I work in the same office of an agency that gives most everything a homeless or less advantaged person needs to survive, sometimes housing (but their is often a long waiting list for this). My husband works for a drop-in homeless persons center that does the same. In California, especially on the coast, there are numerous homeless people that also have mental illness. It does not get that cold at night here, so there are places they can sleep, then they show up at the drop in centers and get breakfast and lunch, showers, wash their clothes, etc. Every night of the week a church serves a dinner, so their is that option as well. At the job where I work, (not my job directly, but one in the same office as mine) men and women alike are given all the the personal hygiene items needed, food, temporary shelter, and more.
    Some of these people, particularly the men, go up and down the coast getting free services. They also get transportation cards to use for buses, sleeping bags, blankets, clothes, suitcases, etc. Like I said, many of these people deal with mental illness, and they are protected from anyone that would force them to contact a relative because they are adults and have been given a legal right to remain autonomous from anyone that might try and take their freedom away. All of the services are confidential, so some of these people remain off the grid by choice.

    • Medea June 11, 2017 / 10:10 pm

      It’s the same here in Montreal, a lot of homeless person suffer from mental illness, sometime very severe cases. They manage to live, or to survive in the streets anyway.

      • Meaghan June 11, 2017 / 10:15 pm

        I didn’t see any homeless people in Poland — none that I could tell, anyway — and only one beggar. She didn’t act at all like the beggars in the US, who mostly stand there at heavily trafficked street corners with signs soliciting money. She was an old, dark-skinned woman silently kneeling on the sidewalk, staring down, her hand out, palm up, to accept whatever was offered.

    • Julie June 12, 2017 / 2:43 pm

      However, if they were two young boys coming in for these services, I would assume that the employees would have some obligation to notify law enforcement, no?

  7. Jaclyn June 9, 2017 / 12:24 am

    typo correction *there, not “their”

    • marsyao June 9, 2017 / 7:23 pm

      According the link you posted here, LE do not find anything

  8. Kat June 11, 2017 / 10:06 pm

    All I’ve seen article wise is the dig came up empty. Shame, it would have been nice to have her case solved, too…..

  9. Ally Michelle January 30, 2018 / 10:40 am

    Hi guys,

    I know this post is months old- however, I stumbled upon it by a simple Google search, and wanted to see what people thought about this case more recently, since it has been so long.
    Mark is my best friend’s nephew, and the anniversary of their disappearance (2/10) is approaching. This is a very difficult month for their family because they typically contact media outlets to put their commemoration on the local news, in order to keep the hope alive that they will be found. While the publicity is great for doing that, it is very difficult for Mark and Bryan’s family because the reality is that their loved ones are still missing, and rehashing their ordeal emotionally drains them.

    I am relieved to know some of you have the same questions I have, because I have felt that they were valid and good questions- yet, it doesn’t appear they have been answered. Such as-
    What constitutes a sighting being “verified”? Are we talking security camera sighting? Did they tell someone who they were or where they were from? If it was in fact, confirmed- someone most definitely provided them the necessities of life for 2 months, and assisted with their transportation from Jacksonville to Holly Hill. Which means they may have provided for them afterwards, as well. They could still be doing so.

    Homeless shelters should have an obligation to report children unattended by adults, but sadly, it does not mean that everyone does their due diligence as members of society. I know I most certainly would! But I can tell you that I was living on my own at a very young age, and never once did anyone question me about why I wasn’t in school or where my parents were, so it is unfortunately more common than we would all like to think.

    With all due respect, I did need to correct the statement about both boys living in a group home-
    Bryan may have, although I was under the impression he lived with his grandparents. Mark, however, lived with his biological mother here, although he had only recently moved here after living with his dad in another state. So they did not live in a group home, and Mark had never lived in one previously either. Perhaps it may seem to be a minute detail, but I think it just proves how quickly information can be incorrectly conveyed, depending on the sources you receive it from.

    I plan on doing all I can to help my best friend get answers about these boys this year. I believe we are going to re-canvas the neighborhood they went missing from by the school in the hopes that perhaps anyone who may have seen something that day that was too young and scared — they may not be afraid to come forward anymore. We also plan on sending the missing flyers to homeless shelters all around the state, as well as the surrounding states in the event they are somehow living off the grid, and somebody knows them.

    It is important that we continue to put their faces out there so we can one day bring them home. We believe they are still alive, and just unable to return home for some reason. We also have to remind the public that they are no longer 12 and 13 anymore- Bryan is 26, Mark is 25. We are now looking for full-grown men.

    Forums like this with people like you all who have that sense of curiousity help all of us keep the hope alive that someday, someone will find them and return them home. Thanks for your support, your questions, and your desire to know the answers- you may be more helpful than you know! 🙂

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