Lisa Ziegert, 24, was supposed to close up shop on April 15, 1992, at her night job at Brittany’s Card and Gift Shoppe in Agawam, Massachusetts, a Connecticut border town.
The last time anyone saw her was at the store at around 7:30 p.m.
The day-shift clerk came in the next morning to find the front and back doors unlocked, the lights on, and all of Ziegert’s belonging—keys, wallet, coat, and car—still there.
The next day Ziegert failed to show up at the Agawam Middle School where she worked a second job as an assistant teacher, and was reported missing.
Three days after Ziegler disappeared, police said they believed she was kidnapped.
The next day, they found her body in a wooded area about four miles from the card shop where she was working. She had been raped and killed by a single stab wound to her neck, an autopsy revealed.
DNA samples were taken from her body and evidence recovered at the scene for further analysis.
Over the next 25 years, the Agawam City Police department, state police, and the FBI would work together to find her killer, an “investigation [that] had never gone cold,” the Agawam Police Department said in a Facebook post.
On Sept. 18, Hamden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni announced at a press conference that he believes they found her killer.
“Throughout this investigation, numerous forensic testing procedures and analyses were performed on recovered evidence to assist investigators in identifying Lisa’s assailant,” Gulluni said. “Today, I am informing the public that the search for Lisa’s assailant is over, DNA testing and analysis has confirmed the identity of Lisa’s killer.”
Gary Schara, 48, of West Springfield, Massachusetts, was charged with murder, aggravated rape, and kidnapping in connection with Ziegert’s death.
"Hope you burn in hell!" woman shouts as Gary Schara, suspect in murder of Lisa Ziegert, is led out of Westfield court. pic.twitter.com/Xa3BMEWlrB
— George Graham (@GeorgeGraham413) September 19, 2017
On Tuesday, Sept. 19, Schara appeared in Westfield District Court where he denied the charges. A judge ordered him held without bail.
Gulluni said in an opening statement that he believed Schara didn’t have a pre-existing relationship with Ziegert, and that he acted alone, squashing a popular rumor that the killer had an accomplice, MassLive reported.
He also said Schara was identified as early as 1993 as a person of interest (although not why), one on a list of “hundreds” of names investigators collected, MassLive reported.
Little is known about Schara’s background at this point.
The suspect had little contact with the law, said Gulluni, but declined to go into detail on his criminal history. He mostly stayed in western Massachusettes, but authorities believe he lived in other parts of the country over the past 25 years, Gulluni said.
Schara was adopted, and his while his father passed away, his mother is still alive. He also has a son that lives outside the area.
Schara wasn’t at home when authorities knocked on his door Sept. 13, but they were later contacted by someone close to Schara who handed over hand-written documents that Gulluni said he took to be a confession.
Police attempt to find Schara, but learned he had fled to Connecticut.
Schara was later found and arrested at a hospital in Rockville, Connecticut, after he tried to commit suicide, Gulluni said.
“A sample of Schara’s DNA was obtained,” Gulluni said. “It was then tested and matched to the single source male DNA profile previously developed from the evidence in this case.”
“After 25 years, it is now my intention, along with my staff, to obtain justice for Lisa by pursuing the prosecution and conviction of Gary Schara.”
His next court appearance is set for Nov. 21.