I’ve long been interested in writing a blog article about the 1992 abduction, rape, and murder Lisa Ziegert, a 24 year old teacher’s assistant. Due to time constraints, I never had the chance to write that article. Maybe it was for the best, because as luck (and dogged determination by Detectives investigating her case)would have it, an arrest has finally been made which adds a much better ending to this article than could have been previously written.
Lisa Ziegert was a young teacher’s assistant at Agawam middle school in Agawam, Massachusetts at the time of her murder. She was a cheerful and well-liked young teacher with a bright future ahead of her. But all of that would end on April 15th, 1992.
Lisa had been working at her second job, a night job, at Brittany’s Card and Gift shop. On the evening of Lisa’s abduction and murder, customers would come into the shop only to find it quiet and empty. No signs of any employees. While the customers found it odd and unusual that the store was empty, there were no obvious signs of foul play, certainly nothing that stood out enough to call the police. The next morning, an employee arriving to start the morning shift at the card shop found Lisa’s car outside of the store, and her belongings inside the unlocked shop. It was at this point that concern was first raised about Lisa and police were summoned.
A police investigation ensued, and police found evidence that Lisa had likely been attacked or assaulted in the back room of the gift shop. Further investigation led to a witness that reported seeing an SUV with two men in it driving erratically with a distressed woman inside. This sighting occurred in the general area where Lisa’s body would be found four days later, on Easter Sunday, April 19th, 1992. Lisa had been raped and stabbed repeatedly, and her body discarded in a stretch of woods on the edge of town. The crime scene did reveal clues, and evidence was collected including DNA, which was still a relatively new tool used in crime fighting.
Lisa’s case was featured on the television show Unsolved Mysteries in 1993. The crime fighting show brought much needed attention to the case, but eventually, the hunt for Lisa’s killer or killers slowed down. Detectives working Lisa’s case kept at it. In 2016, investigators turned to the DNA evidence that they had, and using a new DNA technology called phenotyping, generated a composite image of what Lisa’s murdered may have looked like based strictly on his genetic DNA makeup.
(Credit: Photo above from Parabon Labs)
Finally, today September 18th,2017 after more than 25 years, an arrest was announced in Lisa’s case. Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni announced the arrest of Gary E. Schara of West Springfield, Massachusetts for the abduction, rape, and murder of Lisa Ziegert.
Although mostly tight lipped about the case against Schara, the District Attorney stated that Schara had been on their radar since soon after the murder, and that a tipster was in possession of hand written documents by Schara admitting to the murder. It took investigators decades to get Schara’s DNA to compare against the DNA in Lisa’s case, and when the comparison was complete, the DNA was a match. The wheels of justice sometimes turn slowly, but they DO turn. I will certainly update Lisa’s case as details and more information emerge, and as the trial date is set. In the meantime, it’s good to know that Lisa’s family and friends may have some answers and closure that they have been seeking for a quarter century.
One person that I have had the pleasure of corresponding with has worked tirelessly to see Lisa’s case solved and keep it in the spotlight. Kristine Marie had gone to school with Lisa’s sister Sharon, and at the time of the murder, felt personally effected by the crime. It hit way too close to home for her. Since then, Kristine has made it her mission to see the case resolved. She assisted in getting Lisa’s family interviewed by the local news. She then recorded that interview on her cell phone, and posted it everywhere that she could online. The interview got a lot of attention and hit over 40,000 views. From there, Kristine went on to create a Facebook page dedicated to Lisa and joined or started other true crime groups on Facebook, always mentioning the Ziegert case as well as sharing news and updates about the case with anybody that would listen. Kristine has spent countless hours on the Ziegler case fighting to see it to a conclusion. That conclusion finally came with the arrest of Schara, and if all goes well, she will see his trial to it’s conclusion hopefully ending with a conviction. Kristine said that she is “thrilled” with the arrest, and would like to think that she had some small part in getting justice for Lisa Ziegert. So what’s next for this amateur Detective? Kristine plans to write a book about the Ziegert case and her experience with it donating all proceeds to a Lisa Ziegert memorial fund, or to whatever charity her family chooses. She also intends to take a closer look at some other Massachusetts crimes including the June,2000 abduction and murder of 16 year old lifeguard Molly Bish. Amateur detectives, and victim advocates alike, can learn a lesson from Kristine Marie that persistence and devotion as well as plenty of patience, goes a long way in cases like these. If you have a case that you are passionate about and want to see solved, don’t give up. As I wrote earlier in this article, the wheels of justice sometimes turn slowly, but they DO turn.