An Ontario forensic artist is keeping the image of Ryan Shtuka alive.
Today, March 17, is Ryan’s 25th birthday. The young Alberta man was last seen Feb. 17, 2018 leaving a house party at Sun Peaks Ski Resort. He hasn’t been seen since, despite extensive searches at the resort.
Diana Trepkov, a forensic artist who has drawn more than 239 law enforcement cold case images, decided to draw an age progression image of Ryan for his 25th birthday as a gift for Ryan’s mother Heather Shtuka since she connected with her as part of her missing person podcast Can I Help Find Your Missing Loved One?
“It’s my birthday too, so it’s special because I’m trying to be happy today and I got sad thinking of Ryan but we’re all trying our best to hopefully get answers,” Trepkov said.
“He’s just a young boy who had his whole life ahead of him and I don’t like how he’s disappeared.”
The image of Ryan, aged to 25 years, is being shared across social media.
“I made his bone structure more pronounced, his facial features stand out more. His chin is tighter, the neck is thicker, the shoulders are broader, it’s a healthy version of Ryan Shtuka,” she said. “He’s more of a young man. I believe the eyes are the mirror to the soul and you can tell a lot about a person and you can tell he’s a gentle, kind, person from his eyes.”
As we age, our nose gets bigger and our ears droop but in Ryan’s image, these facial features aren’t significantly pronounced since he’s only 25.
“As we do the age progressions, I get emotional because sometimes you get attached to them… with this one I did a little bit each day until he was complete. It’s a more mature Ryan and a happy one,” Trepkov said.
Trepkov always has hope that any missing person will be found.
“I do believe in miracles,” she said, adding she hopes the image will help conclude Ryan’s saga.
His mother Heather was grateful and onboard with the age-progression image.
“I’m trying not to cry, I said that was my condition I gave myself today. Ryan’s birthday is a celebration and it was the moment I held him in my arms… and I really believe he is still a gift to us,” she said, adding his birthday will be celebrated with friends and family.
Heather said it still feels like groundhog day for the family and she takes the photo as a birthday gift and not as something that will help conclude his story.
“The picture doesn’t look so different and yet it does to me,” Heather said. “It’s just those little changes, you see the adam’s apple, or the broadness of the shoulder or the bit of facial hair, you think they don’t add up but when you look at the picture as a whole it’s bittersweet.”
She can’t imagine what Ryan would look like now and what he would be doing.
“It’s a beautiful re-creation of what Ryan could look like today if he was 25 and I hope that Diana will still be around when Ryan’s 30 and it gives us an anchor to what was and what could have been,” she said.
A vigil has been held at Sun Peaks every year on Feb. 17 to honour Ryan.