Murder Haunts Mass. Family, Town 20 Years Later

(NECN: Eileen Curran) - This Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of a murder that has haunted a western Massachusetts family, a town and the police department.

A young school teacher was kidnapped, raped and murdered, and two decades later there is no suspect, no answers and no justice for the victim, Lisa Ziegert.

NECN spoke with Ziegert's mother and the detectives who are still working the case. It may be 20 years later, but no one has forgotten Lisa Ziegert.

A lot has happened in Dee Ziegert's life over the past 20 years. She's seen three children married and has five grandchildren, but one thing hasn't changed: Her daughter Lisa, the second of her four children, is frozen in time.

She'll forever be 24-years-old.

"You say how can it possibly be, how can it possibly be 20 years," asks Ziegert. "How did we survive 20 years without her?"

On April 15, 1992, Lisa Ziegert, a school teacher, was working her second job at an Agawam, Mass. card shop. That night she disappeared, leaving behind her purse, keys and the shop door wide open.

Four agonizing days later, on Easter Sunday, a detective showed up on Dee Ziegert's front steps.

"He looked at me," Ziegert said recalling the moment as clearly as if it had just happened. "I just looked at him and said you found her, he said yeah, I said she's dead, he said yeah."

Two decades later, there's been no arrest.

"It's frustrating," she said. "It's frustrating because it's not for lack of trying, we know that and appreciate it, but it's like how can someone get away with murder? But you know it happens."

"This is one of those cases that wakes you up in the middle of the night, you start going through it and say what did we miss," said Mass. State Police Detective Lt. Stephen Griffin.

Griffin and Agawam Police Lt. Richard Light have worked the case pretty much from the start.

"This is one of the rooms where we keep the Lisa Ziegert evidence," said Light.

The case takes up half the space in the attic evidence room, plus two other rooms.

Police say they have very strong forensic evidence, and as recently as a month ago, they submitted the evidence for re-testing and comparison with a national database.

They do not consider this a "cold case."

"A cold case infers there's nothing else to do, there's no further evidence to test and with this case there's always something to do," said Griffin.

"We've traveled all over the country. We've been as far away as St. Petersburg, Russia, running leads down in this case. Recently the investigators were out in Colorado to speak with somebody," he said. "We've been to Florida a number of times and I've been to Tennessee interviewing people on this, so it's never really gone cold."

A lot of things have changed over the past 20 years, the card shop where Lisa worked, is now vacant, but one thing hasn't changed; the resolve by investigators to find Lisa's killer.

"I always have confidence there's going to be a break," said Lt Light. "Something's going to happen, we're going to find that lead that leads us to the killer."

Giving them hope is the recent case in Worcester, where investigators used new technology to re-test DNA evidence in a 27-year-old murder case. They found a match and made an arrest.

"Whenever you hear of something that old, you say that could be us," said Dee Ziegert.

Ziegert has survived the past 20 years with the love of her family and friends and with her faith.

Above her front door is a small plaque with one word on it - believe. She sees it everyday before she leaves the house.

"It keeps me believing in the people who work on it (the case) and the people who are trying to make it happen."

She adds, "If it doesn't happen here, we always say, 'God will get him.'"

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