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Dinner at the Vu residence in Point Breeze is served in traditional Vietnamese style. Plate after plate of rice, fried fish, chicken stew and tripe are placed on newspapers spread over the cherry-stained wood floor. Praying before each meal has gained a painful new meaning for the Vu family. There has been one less member joining them for dinner since Christmas Eve.
Jason Vu, 14, evaporated from sight on the morning of December 24.. His family members describe Jason as a quiet, introverted boy who spent most of his time locked in his room on his computer. He made honor roll at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School and stayed out trouble, but his family said Jason had also shown signs of disturbing behavior since last summer.
“His whole computer screen would be taken up by the Ouija board, Satanism, things about finding new religion,” said Anthony Vu, 16, brother of Jason. “He relates to the occult and thinks he believes in this new religion.”
His family had to remind Jason to break away from his computer to eat meals. Jason refused to eat meat when he joined them, claiming it was poisoned.
“He closed his eyes all the time and said he was psychic, said he could read people’s minds,” said Kim Le, Jason’s mother.
Then Jason expressed his desire to drop out of school, believing everybody would die in 2012 anyway.
“I told him ‘if you die, you'll die a smart boy',” Le said. “Don’t worry about who dies, that’s God’s job.”
His father, Thuan Vu, recalls telling Jason to limit his computer time and socialize with other kids. His son always answered yes to and seemed to listen, Vu said, but it was hard to read such a quiet boy.
Jason’s last meal with his family on December 23 seemed happy enough to his mother. He ate fried chicken with carrots for dinner. It had been one of Jason’s favorites. Then he ran upstairs and fell asleep early, Le said. The next morning he waved good bye to his four-year-old sister, Diamond, and walked out the front door.
“I want Jason to come back,” said Diamond Vu. “I want Jason here now.”
Of the numbers of missing children reported each year in the United States, only seven percent remain missing for over a month, according to a 1999 study by the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrownaway Children. But the faith of Kim Le and her family remain unshaken in the face of such odds. They still attend the Vietnamese Mass at Saint Thomas Aquinas Church every Sunday, where a prayer is said for Jason each week.
The Vu family is offering a $10,000 reward to the Citizens Crime Commission for information leading to the Jason Vu’s whereabouts. He is 5-foot-4 inches tall and weighs around 120 pounds. He normally wears glasses and has spiky black hair. People with information on Jason Vu may call 215-456-TIPS. Anonymous sources are protected.