Real Name: Lisa Marie Ziegert
Nicknames: No known nicknames
Location: Agawam, Massachusetts
Date: April 15, 1992
Case[edit | edit source]
Details: Lisa Ziegert was a beloved teacher in Agawam, Massachusetts who taught special needs students at a local middle school. By all accounts, she cared for and connected with them. They remembered that she was always nice and willing to answer questions. At around 4:30pm on April 15, 1992, she left the school and went to a card and gift shop where she worked weekdays from 5 to 9pm. At 5:30pm, her sister, Lynne, visited her there. She left at 6pm and didn't notice anything out of the ordinary.
The next morning, Lisa's coworker, Sophia Maynard, arrived, as usual, to open up the store. She was surprised to see Lisa's car still in the parking lot and the store's "open" flag still hanging outside. At first, she thought Lisa was there to help stuff balloons for the Easter weekend. However, when she went inside, she found no trace of her. Her car keys, pocketbook, and drawings were all left behind on the counter. Sophia went next door and called the police.
Investigators found signs of a struggle in the storeroom, along with some spots of blood. A massive search began for Lisa, with the FBI involved. Tragically, four days later on Easter, her body was found in a wooded area on the edge of town. The location was two miles from the store. She had been sexually assaulted and stabbed to death. Since she was so well-loved, nobody could understand why she was murdered. Thousands stood in the pouring rain at her wake to mourn her death.
Investigators soon received three critical tips in this case. One came from a woman who was at the store at 8:20pm and found nothing unusual. A time-stamped receipt confirmed the time. The second tip was from a woman who came at 9pm and found the store open but appearing empty (when in fact, Lisa and her killer were in the storeroom). She heard sounds coming from it, presumably from Lisa's struggle with her killer(s). The final tip involved a third woman who was stopped at the intersection of Route 75 and Adams Street at around 9:15pm. While at the intersection, she saw a car with a man and woman struggling in the back seat. It was driving towards the area where Lisa's body was later found.
A memorial has been placed at the Agawam Middle School for Lisa. There is a reward being offered for information in this case.
Suspects: The car described by the third woman was a late model, full sized Bronco or Blazer, and was either dark red or dark blue. It has never been found. Police have taken plaster molds of tire tracks left at the murder scene.
An unidentified man reportedly watched Lisa and other members of the Healthy Habits fitness center while they worked out. This happened shortly before her murder. Witnesses noted that he watched her closely, in a "perverted" fashion. The man was described as Caucasian, in his thirties (in 1992), 5'10", with a beer belly and wavy light brown hair. At the time, he wore work clothes and drove a red sports car. It is not known if he has any connection to her murder.
Lisa's boyfriend's roommate, Edward Borgatti Jr., was questioned regarding her murder. He is also the son of an Agawam police officer. He was working at a restaurant across the street from the store when she vanished. However it is not known if he was ever considered a suspect in this case.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the October 27, 1993 episode. It was profiled on Crime Watch Daily during the investigation and documented on Dateline after it was resolved. Dateline also mentions Unsolved Mysteries as profiling it.
Results: Solved. When the Crime Watch Daily segment aired in 2015, investigators revealed that in the weeks prior to her abduction, Lisa had told people that she believed that she was being watched. She also asked several friends and relatives to visit her frequently, as she did not like being in the store alone. This led investigators to believe that her killer had been stalking her in the weeks up to her murder.
In December 2015, DNA found at the crime scene was sent to Parabon Nanolabs, a DNA forensic analysis service. The company then created a composite using DNA phenotyping. Based on their analysis, they determined that Lisa's killer was likely fair skinned with hazel or brown eyes and brown or black hair.
In September 2017, investigators looked into eleven suspects who had refused to give a DNA sample over the years. One was forty-eight-year-old Gary Schara; he had been a suspect since 1993 after his ex-wife told her attorney that she believed he was involved in Lisa's murder. When Schara found out that investigators were looking for him, he wrote three documents: a confession to Lisa's murder; a last will and testament; and a brief apology letter to her family. He then fled the area. He was later found in a Connecticut hospital after he attempted suicide. His DNA was then matched to the evidence at the crime scene. On September 16, he was arrested and charged with murder, aggravated rape, and kidnapping.
On September 25, 2019, Schara unexpectedly pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in this case. He admitted in court to being responsible for her death. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
- Lisa Ziegert on Unsolved.com
- Lisa Ziegert on Crime Watch Daily (video)
- New England Unsolved - Lisa Ziegert
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- DA: Investigation into Lisa Ziegert killing "especially active" after 20 years
- Murder Haunts Massachusetts Family, Town 20 Years Later
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- Image of suspect in school aide's 1992 slaying generated from his DNA
- "We got you": Arrest in 1992 cold case slaying of Massachusetts teacher's aide Lisa Ziegert
- Gary Schara, suspect in Lisa Ziegert slaying, appears in Connecticut court
- Who is Gary Schara? Records detail alleged Lisa Ziegert killer's past
- Lisa Ziegert case: How technology caught up with cold-case rape-murder suspect 25 years later
- Family and friends of slain Agawam teacher Lisa Ziegert in courtroom as hearing dates set for Gary Schara
- Lisa Ziegert case: Gary Schara pleads guilty in 1992 Agawam murder
- Lisa Ziegert killer Gary Schara’s confession letter: "I was fascinated by abduction and bondage from an early age"
- Lisa Ziegert on Find a Grave