Ontario Town in Mourning After Body Found

Ontario boy addicted to Xbox ran away after parents withheld gaming system.

November 4, 2008, 3:53 PM

Nov. 6, 2008— -- As Canadian police planned an autopsy on a body found in rural Ontario believed to be that of missing teen Brandon Crisp, the community of Barrie was reeling form the loss of a boy who met a tragic fate.

"We wanted to see a happy ending, " Barrie Police Service Sgt. Dave Goodbrand told ABCNews.com today.

A deer hunter yesterday morning found the body of a young boy believed to be 15-year-old Crisp, who ran away from home more than three weeks ago after his parents took away the video game system they say he'd become addicted to.

Crisp's father, Steve Crisp, told ABC News yesterday that his son was dead and "it's over."

The focus at St. Joseph's High School in Barrie, where Crisp was a 10th-grader, was more about grieving than classes today as police officers and counselors worked with grieving students.

Diane Legg, director of communications for the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board, said students were told of the discovery during an assembly yesterday.

"Today was even more difficult," she said. "The reality was setting in for the students."

Sergio, another 10th-grader at St. Joseph's, told the Toronto Star that he'd known Crisp since fourth grade.

"It's a shocking mood," Sergio told the Star. "Really, everyone expected that Brandon would come back."

Legg said many students stayed home today, especially those that were close to Crisp and his two sisters. For those that were there, the gym was opened up to give students a sports outlet and the library was open for reading or studying. The school chapel was also used by many to pray and reflect on Crisp's life, Legg said.

The school's morning prayer service was lengthened today and dedicated to Crisp, and students have been filling a book of condolences that will be given to the Crisp family.

"We hope that every day will lead us to getting back to normal," Legg said.

Goodbrand said police are still looking into whether Crisp's death was a homicide or the result of the teen being exposed to the cold Ontario fall weather. An autopsy is scheduled for tomorrow at the Center of Forensic Sciences in Toronto.

"You have to assume the worst and scale back from that," he said. "It's too early to rule out foul play."

The Ontario Provisional Police, which has jurisdiction over the area where the body was found, is now heading the investigation.

Provincial police Sgt. Pierre Chamberland told ABCNews.com today that dental records would be used to help identify the body during the autopsy, but that residents had no reason to fear for their safety.

"We don't have any suspicion of foul play," Chamberland said.

Crisp left home on Oct. 13 after his parents took away his beloved Xbox, and aside from two sightings by area residents that day, police had no leads on his whereabouts.

He apparently took off on a well-traveled trail on his bike, which was found later that day by a passerby. The bike wasn't turned over to police for several days until the person realized who belonged to.

The body was found several kilometers away from where the bike was found, "in a rural area that was both field and a wooded area," Goodbrand said.

Before the body's discovery, Microsoft Canada had chipped in $25,000 Canadian toward a reward for help finding Crisp. The Microsoft donation matched the $25,000 Canadian raised by local organizations. The reward totaled $41,776 in U.S. dollars.

Goodbrand said that since his disappearance Crisp had become somewhat of an unofficial poster child for missing children in Canada. People flooded police and a Facebook site dedicated to the search with comments and well-wishes.

"He's touched everybody across this country right now," Goodbrand said.

Legg said Crisp was a quiet teen, but a good student who was well-liked and enjoyed the school's computer and technology courses.

He had once been a competitive hockey player who enjoyed video games with his friends, his father told ABCNews.com Tuesday, and his disappearance on Canada's Thanksgiving holiday left the family sick with worry.

When the family signed up about a year ago for a subscription to Xbox Live, which allows players to interact with gamers all over the world, Crisps' hobby turned into an obsession that ultimately led to his fleeing his Barrie home after his father took away the system for good, his father said.

"We'd be asleep and he'd be up at 2 or 3 in the morning, playing this thing," Steve Crisp said before yesterday's discovery, adding that they also had a hard time getting him to leave the game to eat dinner with the family.

On Friday, Oct. 10, the Crisps decided to take away his Xbox temporarily after learning the boy, whose grades were slipping, had skipped school the day before. Steve Crisp said they had taken similar action about 20 times before. But when he saw that his son had found the system and resumed playing it while his father was out fishing that weekend, he said he decided to take it away permanently.

"He was very angry," Steve Crisp said. When the father and son sat down to talk about Brandon's obsession with the system, the game "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare" in particular, Brandon's response was "OK, I'm going to leave home then."

Calling his bluff, Steve Crisp said he advised him to take warm clothes when he saw his son loading things into a backpack. He then watched as his only son rode away on his bicycle. The family, which includes Brandon's twin sister and older sister, figured he'd blow off some steam with friends and be back that evening.

"I didn't think anyone would run off for a game," his father said.

When You Just Can't Stop

Gaming addiction has seen a rise in the last several years, especially among male teens and young men, according to Coleen Moore, coordinator of resource development at the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery in Peoria, Ill.

The gaming addicts typically treated at the institute in both inpatient and outpatient programs are teens between the ages of 16 and 18 and men between 20 and 24.

Moore said Brandon Crisp was not the first teen to become addicted to Xbox Live, a system that she said more and more people in the institute's programs are mentioning.

"The big thing that is the draw that these guys talk about it being able to create their own personas and compete with others all over the world," she said.

Gaming addiction progresses like any other addiction, until the person is obsessed with creating the feeling of euphoria the gaming brings, she said. Some addicts spend up to 20 hours a day gaming, and Moore said one patient remembered turned to cocaine as a stimulant to keep playing.

Moore, who was not familiar with Crisp's case, said the teen seemed to have the typical progression of addiction, but that his parents did exactly the right thing in setting limits and trying to strike a balance between entertainment and obsession.

But if the teens are not able to stick with those limits, she said, "I would suggest they get some type of professional help."

Moore said she was surprised, but pleased that Microsoft Canada put up reward money since the industry has typically shied away from addressing the problems of gaming addiction.

"I'm kind of dumbfounded," she said. "They don't have any responsibility to whether or not someone becomes addicted to it."

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