Vigil renews hope
Elizabeth Syperda's family, police continue quest for answers after seven years.
By JOHN MANGALONZO
MOUNT PLEASANT -- Elizabeth Nicole Forshee-Syperda vanished without a trace July 17, 2000.
Seven years have passed and still no sign of the woman who would be 29 today. Syperda was 22 when she disappeared.
Did she run away? Did she run off to escape an abusive relationship? Is she dead?
Those are just a few of the questions in the minds of family, friends and investigators, all of whom have worked tirelessly to find an answer to the ultimate question: Where is Liz?
More questions than answers are what haunts Syperda's mother, Donna Forshee, 59, of Sacramento, Calif.
Every year since Syperda disappeared, Forshee and her son, Michael, have visited Mount Pleasant for a vigil both in memory of her daughter and to spike a renewed interest in the search to find her.
The vigil this year is slated for noon Saturday at the Mount Pleasant Town Square.
"It's to try to get more information and maybe new ones on what happened to Liz," Forshee said in a telephone interview. "My first reason is to try to find her."
With a trembling voice, a weeping Forshee said she is optimistic they will find her. She suspects her daughter met a tragic death.
"Someone back there knows what happened to her, and I hope that our presence would spark a recollection," Forshee said.
Syperda was living apart from her husband of two years at the time of her disappearance. She was last seen about 10:30 p.m. July 16, 2000, by her roommate in their Madison Street apartment.
When her roommate returned from work at 4 a.m. the next day, Syperda was gone, but the door was locked from the outside, leading investigators to believe she left voluntarily.
One month before she vanished, her estranged husband, Michael Syperda, was arrested for assaulting his wife and her roommate. A protection order against Michael Syperda was immediately put in place.
In November 2000, four months after Elizabeth Syperda disappeared, Michael Syperda pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery and domestic abuse assault, for which he received a suspended sentenced and was placed on probation for five years.
Elizabeth Syperda met Michael Syperda when she was 14 in Truckee, Calif., when she watched his daughter with his former wife.
At 16, she moved with Michael Syperda and his wife to Winfield to serve as a live-in babysitter. She eventually married him, but left after allegations of physical abuse surfaced.
That history and a few tidbits of information are the only things Lt. Ron Archer of the Mount Pleasant Police Department has to work the case.
"We haven't had any new leads for a while," Archer said.
By definition, this is a cold case. But for the detective, the case is not going to be laid to rest until he finds out what happened to Syperda.
"From time to time, the NCIC (National Crime Information Center) would report human remains found. We would check it out, but nothing," Archer said.
Archer, who speaks every year at the vigil, said he is confident the case eventually will be solved. He reiterated the importance of keeping the case in front of the public in the hope of gaining new information.
"It reminds people that Liz is still missing," he said. "There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about it."
Archer said in between working new investigations, he often looks at Syperda's file to see if he had missed anything, a clue that might be hidden between the pages or an interview he might have overlooked.
He has not ruled out Michael Syperda as a suspect.
Michael Syperda, who lives in Colorado, stopped talking to police soon after the investigation began. He also refused to take a lie detector test.
"I feel it's important to keep her name out there," said Char Blodgett, vigil organizer and director of the YWCA Domestic Violence Shelter in Burlington.
Blodgett said neither Michael Syperda nor any of his family members have been at any of the vigils, which strikes her as odd and suspicious.
"Seems strange to me," Blodgett said.
She said she would like to see more people at the vigil to show Forshee and her family that the community supports a mother's longing for answers.
"I just feel like we've got to do it and we'll do it every year until we know what happened to her," Blodgett said.
Seven years have passed and the torch of hope that lights up the heart of Forshee shines through a cloud of uncertainty left with not knowing the truth.
"Why did it have to happen? Please, let her come home. Let us know where she is," Forshee said. "We will do this (vigil) as long as we can and every year we hope that it will be the last vigil."
Elizabeth Syperda still is listed as missing and endangered.http://www.thehawkeye.com/Story/Precede_on_vigil_071107