A suspect has been charged in the 1992 killing of a teacher’s aide after his friend turned over a handwritten note admitting to the rape and murder.
Gary E. Schara, 48, appeared in a Vernon, Connecticut courtroom Monday, where he is charged with murder, aggravated rape and kidnapping in the killing of 24-year-old Lisa Ziegert.
Ziegert, a teacher’s aide at Agawam Middle School, was working her night job at a gift shop when she disappeared on April 15, 1992.
Her body was found four days later in a wooded area nearby. Forensics showed that she’d been raped before being stabbed to death.
Investigators on the case, many of whom have since retired, vowed never to stop searching for the killer.
A break in the case came last year, when Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni released a phenotype composite sketch generated from DNA at the crime scene.
The phenotype sketch showed a dark-haired European man similar in appearance to Schara.
The DNA sample had been run against databases in the past, and investigators decided to take another look at prior persons of interest who did not appear in existing DNA databases.
Investigators stopped at Schara’s home on Wednesday to notify him of a subpoena process to collect his DNA, but he was not home, and they left a message with a person in the house.
Gulluni said that on Thursday, a friend of the suspect’s came forward and turned in what appeared to be handwritten documents by Schara admitting to the 1992 rape and murder.
It’s very puzzling that a person would put in writing a confession to rape and murder and leave that evidence where a friend could find it.
It’s also mind boggling that 25 year old DNA could predict the appearance of the alleged murderer so accurately.
When police tried to speak to Schara, they learned that he had fled to Connecticut, and had been hospitalized there following a suicide attempt.
The DNA at the crime scene matched Schara’s, prosecutors said.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Schara had an attorney.
‘We are so grateful and — ‘happy’ is the wrong word, I can’t use the word ‘happy,’ because in this situation, we’re not happy — but we are so grateful for the hard work and determination and faith that all of these investigators had over all these years,’ Dee Ziegert, the victim’s mother, said Monday, NBC Connecticut reported.
‘They never, ever gave up on Lisa, and that is what we’re focused on.’