VERNON -- A man has been charged with the 1992 killing of a middle school teacher’s aide Agawam, Mass.after testing confirmed that his DNA matched evidence found at the crime scene, authorities said Monday.
Gary Schara, of West Springfield, Massachusetts, was taken into custody in Connecticut and charged with the abduction, rape and killing of 24-year-old Lisa Ziegert, Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni told reporters.
“Through the determined and skilled work of many investigators, we have arrested the person responsible for the heinous acts committed against Lisa and the 25-year-long search for answer is over,” Gulluni said.
Ziegert, of Agawam, was raped and stabbed after she disappeared from her night job at a card and gift store. Her body was found in a wooded area 4 miles away four days later.
Schara’s arrest came after authorities decided to circle back to persons of interest in the case whose DNA profiles had never been run against evidence taken from Ziegert’s body, Gulluni said. The district attorney said troopers attempted earlier this month to find Schara, who’s been a person of interest since 1993, but he wasn’t home.
The next day, a person close to Schara contacted police with information about handwritten documents in which he admitted raping and killing Ziegert, Gulluni said. Schara, 48, had fled to Connecticut and attempted to kill himself, Gulluni said.
Authorities found Schara at a Connecticut medical facility, where he was taken into custody on a fugitive-of-justice charge. He appeared in a Connecticut court Monday and waived extradition to Massachusetts, local news outlets reported. It was not immediately clear whether Schara 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.
Ziegert, an aide at Agawam Middle School, was working the night shift alone at the store when she disappeared April 15, 1992. The clerk who arrived at work the next morning found the store open, the lights on and Ziegert’s car still in the parking lot. Her purse, her other personal belongings and the store’s cash register appeared undisturbed.
Last year, the district attorney’s office released a composite image of the suspect in Ziegert’s slaying through a process called DNA phenotyping, which uses genetic material to predict the physical appearance and ancestry of an unknown individual.
Ziegert’s mother thanked investigators Monday for their determination in solving the case.
“It has always been about justice for Lisa,” Dee Zieger said.
Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni told reporters Monday afternoon that Schara's DNA was found at the crime scene. He also said a tipster told state police that they had handwritten documents where Schara admitted to the rape, abduction and murder of Lisa Ziegert. The District Attorney said Schara has been a person of interest since 1993 but it was only until recently that they were able to acquire his DNA. He told reporters that they have an idea what Schara's motive was in the crime, but would not elaborate.