More than 25 years after her murder, a suspect has been charged in the 1992 killing of a Massachusetts middle school teacher's aide.
Forty-eight-year-old Gary E. Schara of West Springfield has been charged in the April 1992 death of Lisa Ziegert, according to Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni.
"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. "They never, ever gave up on Lisa, and that is what we're focused on."
The DNA of Schara, who was described as a person of interest years ago, was found at the scene, but investigators didn't have a sample to test it against until last week, Gulluni said. The same DNA was used in a computer-generated rendering of a suspect last year.
Ziegert, a 24-year-old Agawam woman, was working her night job at a card shop when she disappeared — the store found open with her car and belongings abandoned there the following day. Her body was found four days later in a wooded area about four miles away. Investigators determined she had been raped before being stabbed.
A warrant was issued Friday for the arrest of Schara on charges of murder, aggravated rape and kidnapping in connection to Ziegert's death. Saturday, the warrant was executed and Schara was found in a medical facility in Connecticut. Authorities said he had attempted suicide after fleeing to that state.
Schara was released into the custody of Connecticut State Police on a fugitive from justice charge.
Last year, authorities released a computer-generated rendering of a suspect using new technology that analyzed DNA found at the crime scene to predict the suspect's physical characteristics.
Gulluni said the DNA collected in the case had "been recurrently run against state, national and international databases, without a match." So in recent months, Gulluni said he decided to investigate people named persons of interest over the year whose DNA profiles were not on record.
After a small list was developed in August, investigators began a legal process to obtain DNA samples. State troopers in Massachusetts tried to notify Schara about this process last Wednesday, according to Gulluni. He was not home, and troopers left a message with someone there.
The district attorney said Thursday, someone close to Schara gave police information confirming his involvement in Ziegert's killing. Later that day, police tried to find Schara, and learned he had fled to Connecticut.
Police found Schara after he tried to kill himself, according to officials.
Schara appeared in a Connecticut court Monday and waived extradition to Massachusetts. It was not immediately clear whether he has an attorney.
The district attorney said officials "have a sense of why he did it" but did not provide details about a possible motive.