It’s been two decades since Lisa and Wayne Yuen received a call that would change their lives.
Their 16-year-old son, Daniel, was missing.
Daniel’s parents, Lisa and Wayne Yuen, discuss Daniel with NCMEC, 2024.
Two decades, 7,305 days, 240 months, 20 years. No matter how you quantify the time, for the Yuen family, not a day has gone by where they haven’t thought about Feb. 8, 2004.
That morning, Lisa and Wayne received a call from CEDU, a private school in San Bernardino, California, where they had recently enrolled their 16-year-old son, Daniel. When they answered, they were met with the news that Daniel had left the school and never returned.
“We picked up the phone and they just said that Danny ran,” Lisa said. “We were speechless. We just said, ‘What? How can this happen?’”
Just two weeks before the call, Daniel’s parents had ventured from their home in New Jersey to drop Daniel off in California. His parents say that although he was a happy and friendly child, he began to struggle with depression during his sophomore year of high school. Despite their multiple attempts to find help for Daniel in New Jersey, they began to look for outside solutions, which ultimately led them to CEDU. The school seemed like the solution they had been searching for.
It wasn’t until later that they would discover that CEDU was not all that it seemed. The San Bernardino Sun reported in 2009 that students often ran away from the school and that it faced multiple lawsuits. According to the newspaper, the school filed for bankruptcy in 2005 and closed.
When Lisa and Wayne received the call on Feb. 8, they discovered that Daniel had left the school without any of his belongings. So, just two weeks after they had returned home to New Jersey, the Yuens got back on a plane to California to search for their son.
“At that point in time, our minds were not thinking about whose fault this was, or what had happened,” said Wayne. “We just wanted to find Daniel.”
They had no idea that they were beginning day one of a 20-year search for their son.
Daniel prior to his disappearance.
Over the years, the Yuen family has received numerous tips regarding possible sightings of Daniel. People called from all over the area, saying they had seen Daniel on the bus, at parks, gas stations and drug stores.
Nearly each time, the Yuen family packed their bags and flew back to California in hopes that it would finally be the tip that could bring Daniel home to them. Yet, each time, the tips and sightings seemed to go nowhere.
According to Daniel’s parents, the most recent possible sighting of Daniel came in March 2019 from a hairstylist who saw an age progression image created by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
So, as they had done so many times before, the Yuen family booked a ticket to California, hoping that this would lead to answers.
Sadly, they were only left with more questions. The man, who the stylist thought may be Daniel, never came back to the salon and the stylist didn’t know anything more about him. Lisa, Wayne and their daughter, Daniel’s younger sister, were heartbroken once again.
But not without hope.
Daniel and his sister prior to his disappearance.
Today, two decades after their search began, the Yuen family just wants to know if Daniel is alive. After all this time, they’re hoping that somehow, he is safe and healthy.
“I hope my phone will ring and it’s Daniel calling,” Wayne said. “That’s our hope. We know it might be difficult, but we have to have hope. That’s the only way to move forward.”
They hope if Daniel is out there somewhere that he’ll find a way to contact them. They want him to know they’ve never forgotten him and miss him each day.
“We love him,” Lisa said. “We will always love him.”
Today, Daniel is 36 years old. He may go by the nickname Dan or Danny and he may be wearing glasses. Forensic artists at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children created this age progression image of what Daniel may look like now.
An age progression of Daniel completed by a NCMEC forensic artist.
If you have any information on Daniel or his disappearance, please contact the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST or the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office at 1-909-387-8313.
You can view Daniel’s Missing Poster here: https://www.missingkids.org/poster/NCMC/982363/1.