A small town has no clue as to why a beloved school teacher was murdered.
Agawam, Massachusetts, is a small town near the western Connecticut border. At the Agawam Middle School is a memorial to one of the town’s most beloved teachers, Lisa Ziegert, whose untimely death changed Agawam forever. Lisa had grown up in Agawam. After college, she returned home to teach special needs students at the middle school. Dee Ziegert, Lisa’s mother, remembers her daughter as outgoing and fun:
The afternoon of Wednesday April 15, 1992, was typical for Lisa. She left school around 4:30 and drove directly to a card and gift shop where she worked weekdays from 5:00 to 9:00 PM. At 5:30, Lisa’s sister Lynne dropped by:
At 8:45 the next morning, Sophia Maynard arrived, as usual, to open up the store. She was surprised to see Lisa’s car parked out front:
Police found signs of a struggle in the back storeroom and a few scattered traces of blood. Otherwise, there was no physical evidence at the card shop. That very day, the FBI and Massachusetts State Police launched a massive search for Lisa Ziegert. Dee Ziegert kept reassuring herself that her daughter was safe:
On Easter Sunday, four days after Lisa disappeared, her body was found in a wooded area on the edge of town. According to Captain Robert Campbell of the Agawam Police Department, Lisa had multiple stab wounds around her shoulders and throat:
The outpouring of love and shared grief was overwhelming. At Lisa’s wake, more than a thousand people stood for five hours in the rain to pay her tribute. As Agawam mourned, the authorities pressed their investigation. According to Captain Campbell, three critical phone tips came in that helped establish a time frame:
The third tip came from a witness who worked near the card shop. At 9:15, on the night Lisa was murdered, the woman was on her way home. This witness saw what police believe could have been the killer’s car. She also said that a man and woman seemed to be struggling in the back seat. The car pulled off the road, heading toward the area where Lisa’s body was later found. At the time, the woman thought it was just a carload of teenagers and drove on. Authorities are still looking for new evidence that might lead to the arrest of Lisa Ziegert’s killer, or killers. The vehicle seen by the witness was a late model, full-sized bronco or blazer, either dark red or dark blue.
UPDATE: In 2016, a composite image of a possible suspect was released based on DNA phenotyping. That composite was a contributing factor to authorities putting Gary E. Schara on their short list of suspects. Schara, who had been identified as a person of interest in the case as early as 1993, was arrested and charged in connection with the murder, aggravated rape and kidnapping of Lisa Ziegert in September of 2017. Two years later, on September 25, 2019, Schara pleaded guilty to first degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison.