Amid the chatter of children, the bouncing of balls and the movement of dog walkers, about 60 people gathered at McCambridge Park in Burbank Wednesday evening to pray for the safe return of FBI special agent Stephen Ivens, who was reported missing two months ago.
The park is not far from the Ivens’ home in the 1700 block of Scott Road, where the 36-year-old agent was last seen.
“This is familiar ground for us,” his wife, Thea Ivens, said before the prayer vigil began. “This is one of the places he jogged around. He usually brings [our son] Kyle here to play. This is a meaningful place for us.”
The group formed a circle around two tables that displayed candles and a photo of Stephen Ivens. A bag containing 60 Monarch butterflies, one for each day since the agent was reported missing – was placed on one of the tables.
Releasing the butterflies was a nod to what happened eight years ago at the couple’s wedding.
“[The butterflies] were a symbol of a new beginning and a new life,” Thea Ivens said after candles were lit and the group took turns reading from passages from the Bible’s book of Psalms. “It is my promise to him that this can still be a new beginning, a new chapter.
“When the time comes, we hope he will come back to us safely, and soon.”
The gathering marked the third time in two months Ivens’ family has appealed directly to the public in an effort to keep awareness of the case alive.
They have also organized their own search effort beyond what local and federal authorities have conducted, but to no avail.
Jaime Gonzalez, who has known Stephen Ivens since 1999, said they met at the Los Angeles Police Department, where Ivens worked before becoming an FBI agent.
“To me personally, it’s upsetting the FBI hasn’t taken a more active role,” Gonzalez said. “He’s one of theirs now.”
Authorities from several law enforcement agencies initially launched a massive search that included 100 FBI agents. The search took on added urgency because officials said he likely had his department-issued gun with him and could be a danger to himself.
Thea Ivens has said her husband had been suffering from depression.
The FBI and Burbank police have since stopped actively searching for Ivens, relying instead on tips from the public, which they say have all but dried up.
Ivens is described as 6 feet 1 inch tall, 140 to 150 pounds, with brown eyes, grayish-brown hair and eyeglasses.
It is believed he left his home on foot and may be wearing dark blue jeans, blue and gray Reebok shoes, a two-tone crucifix necklace and a blue sports watch, according to family.
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said in an email that there is “no indication that Steve’s disappearance was related to his work; however, we are exploring all avenues to find him.”
Meanwhile, Burbank police Sgt. Darin Ryburn said the department maintains an open line of communication with Thea Ivens and the group assisting her. Beyond that, “there is no new information to report at this time,” he said.