For more than two decades, authorities in Massachusetts have been hunting for a killer who in 1992 kidnapped Lisa Ziegert, murdered her, and left her body in a wooded area. On Monday, September 18, the Hampden County district attorney told reporters that police had finally arrested a suspect in the brutal slaying of the 24-year-old teacher’s aide.
Gary E. Schara, 48, confessed to the killing in writing, District Attorney Anthony D. Gulluni said.
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Ziegert, a teacher’s aide at Agawam Middle School, was working a shift at her second job at Brittany Card and Gift Shop on the night of April 15, 1992, when she was kidnapped. She was reported missing to police the next morning by the store’s day clerk who arrived to find the store open with the lights on and Lisa’s car still parked where it had been the previous evening.
The money was still in the store register, and Lisa’s purse and school materials were also left behind, so robbery didn’t seem to be the motive.
Her body was found on Easter Sunday in a wooded area off Route 75 in Agawam near the Connecticut border. She had suffered multiple stab wounds, and her throat had been slit.
Over the years, the Agawam Police Department, Massachusetts State Police Detective Unit, Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory, and FBI have worked on the case—and Gulluni said Schara had been a person of interest since 1993.
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Taking advantage of advances in forensics, authorities were eventually able to develop a single-source male DNA profile from evidence taken from Lisa’s body. In August, they began a legal process to obtain DNA samples from a small number of people of interest in the case whose DNA profiles were not in any law-enforcement databases.
On September 13, police attempted to notify Schara about the process and serve him notice of a hearing. He was not at home, so police left the information with someone at the residence. The message must have spooked him. Twenty-four hours later, a tipster, whom authorities say is a relative of Schara's, gave investigators a confession allegedly written by Schara as well as a suicide note.
Detectives say they were also able to match Schara’s DNA to evidence recovered from the crime scene.
He fled to Connecticut, where he was taken into custody at Johnson Memorial Hospital in Stafford, seeking medical treatment after a suicide attempt, according the The Hartford Courant.
“We have arrested the person who is responsible for the heinous acts committed against Lisa, and the 25-year-long search for answers is over,” Gulluni said. Schara has been charged with murder, kidnapping, and aggravated rape.
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Lisa’s mother, Dee Ziegert, told the press and public during the news conference that she feels “satisfaction” knowing the alleged assailant is behind bars—and that they can finally get justice for Lisa.
The district attorney declined to discuss further details of the case, but told 22News that he did not believe that Ziegert and Schara knew each other. The investigation continues.
Read more: Boston Globe; Hartford Courant
This Story Was First Published on Crime Feed.
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Featured photo of Lisa Zieger via Find a Grave and Gary E. Schar via Crime Feed / Hampden District Attorney; Additional photo: Unsolved Mysteries Wiki