Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The Region

Learning Fate of Son Is Family's Sad Quest

Inquiry: A Huntington Beach athlete missed his 'ultimate fighting' bout and hasn't been seen. Police fear the worst.

April 19, 2002|STANLEY ALLISON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Large family had gathered at their Costa Mesa home on Dec. 8 to wish son Matt good luck. After months of training, the 23-year-old former star wrestler at Newport Harbor High School was on the eve of his first "ultimate fighting" match.

But Large never showed up for the family celebration. He also missed his match.

No one has seen or heard from him since.

More than four months later, both his family and police are struggling to piece together what happened, while losing hope that he is still alive.

Police discovered his truck submerged in Humboldt Bay near Eureka, but found no other sign of him.

The family hired a private investigator and checked the last calls made on his cellular phone, but they uncovered more questions than answers.

His mother, Kim Large, can barely stop the tears as she talks about her son, how close they are and how his disappearance has turned from a missing-person case into a homicide investigation.

Huntington Beach homicide Det. Dave Dierking, who has worked on the case since early January, would reveal no details but said he's beginning to think the worst.

"All the indicators are that he's the victim of a homicide," Dierking said.

"There are leads we are working, and I'm hopeful we can ... show what has happened to him."

Police have talked to more than 100 people since January, including many of Large's friends and relatives. "They were a pretty close-knit family, and he had a good set of close friends," Dierking said. "For him to go completely off the map...."

The young fighter stood 5 feet 8 and weighed 130 pounds before he began to train. But he was always strong and athletic.

"We bowled together, we played volleyball together, we trained together," his mother said.

After high school, Large worked for a Santa Monica fish market, but soon was working alongside his dad as an apprentice pipe-fitter.

He yearned for the athletic competition of his high school days and saw ultimate fighting, a sport that mixes martial arts, wrestling and kick-boxing, as a way of getting back to that.

The last time Kim Large saw her son was Wednesday, Dec. 5. He was at her house divvying up the 20 tickets he had for the ultimate fighting competition.

That night, good friend Emmett Olvera stopped by Large's Huntington Beach apartment on his way to a volleyball game.

He remembers his last words to Large: "All right, brother, I'll see you tomorrow." But he never saw him again.

At the Huntington Beach Training Center where he trained and where his bout would be, manager Noel Ciambotti recalled their last meeting: "I talked to him on Thursday in the morning. He said he was going to come out here and train that night, and he never showed up." That Thursday, none of the phone messages from his father, mother and brother Nathan were returned.

One clue his family has are the last calls from his cell phone about 1:20 p.m. that Thursday.

The family got the record of his outgoing calls and called all the numbers. One of the people they spoke to said Large had been on his way to San Clemente that day and had to make a stop in Irvine.

His mother said he was in San Clemente dropping off tickets to the fight, but she has no idea who or what was in Irvine.

There was a report that neighbors saw him that Friday at his apartment and spoke with him for several minutes. But family members believe the neighbors are mistaken about the date.

The family was even more perplexed when his pickup was found submerged outside Eureka on Dec. 28.

"We've never been there. We never took the kids up north," Kim Large said.

In the first weeks after Large disappeared, friends and family plastered posters with his picture throughout Huntington Beach. Fellow ultimate fight competitors handed out fliers at stores and parks.

"I put posters on my truck ... passed out a big stack to all my friends," Ciambotti said.

But no new leads developed, and all the posters eventually came down from the training center.

Kim Large tries to remain optimistic. "I still hope," she said.

Friends, however, are losing hope.

Large and Olvera trained for months together for their first ultimate fights.

"It seems everyone is looking at me for answers because I was so close to him," Olvera said.

"I wish I had answers for them. I wish I had closure, but I have nothing."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|