"We're praying very, very hard," says his mother, Meg Murray

By Steve Helling
Updated March 06, 2015 10:25 AM
Credit: Rochester Police

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary when Max Maisel left his apartment at Rochester Institute of Technology on Feb. 22. He got into his bronze Acura SUV and drove to the Charlotte Pier on Lake Ontario.

At the pier, a passerby spotted the 21-year-old photography student getting out of his SUV. It was about 8 p.m., and Maisel was dressed appropriately for the frigid, snowy weather.

It was the last time that anyone would see him.

Hours later, the same passerby returned to the pier and was surprised to see the SUV in the same spot. Concerned, he called police.

Police began to search for Maisel, but have yet to find any clues that shed light on his mysterious disappearance.

Authorities contacted Maisel’s parents, who drove 370 miles from their home in Fairfield, Connecticut. His father, Ivan Maisel, is a well-known writer who covers college football for ESPN. He previously wrote for PEOPLE’s sister publication, Sports Illustrated.

“We’re praying very, very hard,” Max’s mother, Meg Murray, told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “This is the worst thing.”

As the days have passed, Maisel’s family has begun to lose hope. On March 1, the family issued a statement that acknowledged the reality of the situation.

“We want to thank the Rochester Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies for their heroic work in severe conditions,” the statement said. “While they have urged us not to leap to any conclusions about Max’s fate, logic indicates that it will not end well. We continue to be buoyed by the love and support of friends and family from across the country.”

Authorities have not speculated on what happened to Maisel. Cellular data has been no help; Maisel had left his phone in his apartment. On Thursday, the search was suspended due to inclement weather.

Max Maisel is 6′ 5″ and weighs about 135 lbs. He wears dark-rimmed glasses. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is urged to contact the Rochester Police Department.