Mt Pleasant News
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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | May 20, 2018

No forensic evidence found in Syperda case, despite DNA technology advancements

Judge to hear closing statements on Monday
May 07, 2018
Photo by: John Lovretta/thehawkeye.com Michael Syperda and his attorney Kym Auge go over some notes during his first-degree murder trial in the death of his estranged wife, Elizabeth Syperda, Thursday, May 3, 2018 at the Henry County District Court in Mt. Pleasant. Elizabeth Syperda disappeared in July 2000 and her body has never been found.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News

 

Recently-gathered forensic evidence of property owned by Michael Syperda’s stepfather provided no new leads on the whereabouts of his estranged wife Elizabeth Syperda, who disappeared from Mt. Pleasant in 2000.

That didn’t hamper the state’s case against Syperda, however. Syperda, 58, is on trial in Mt. Pleasant for the first-degree murder of Elizabeth, who disappeared in July 2000. She was 22 at the time of her disappearance.

On Friday, Syperda told the judge he would exercise his right to not testify as the defendant. Syperda has publically stated he had nothing to do with Elizabeth’s disappearance. The defense, instead, focused their rebuttal of the state’s case on Syperda’s phone records, the lack of physical evidence that Elizabeth was murdered and potential flaws in the investigation into her disappearance.

Recently, because of advancement in DNA technologies, the Mt. Pleasant Police Department took swab samples from the back of Syperda’s stepfather’s 1995 Ford truck. These efforts were described as a “shot in the dark” and turned up no new evidence. The police also had Elizabeth’s emerald and diamond ring, which she supposedly always wore, tested. The ring was found in a safe at Syperda’s residence unexplainably after her disappearance. Despite no DNA evidence, Elizabeth’s ring still is considered a “significant” discovery in the case, Mt. Pleasant Police officer Lyle Murray said in his testimony.

Other evidence the state presented to suggest Elizabeth is dead included her untouched bank account and final paycheck in the amount of $68 from her place of employment at Experian in 2000, which was never picked up.

Since Elizabeth became a missing person July 18, 2000, she has been listed in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, which will alert authorities of her whereabouts if she were ever to be arrested or even stopped on a traffic violation. No information has ever been reported on Elizabeth through NCIC.

Before the state rested, Mt. Pleasant Police Chief Ron Archer was recalled to the witness stand. He first took oath Thursday, May 3.

In cross-examination, defense attorney Kym Auge questioned why Archer returned over 200 of Elizabeth’s personal items to her mother Donna Forshee after only three months of investigation, especially once the investigation became more of a homicide case instead of a missing person case.

Archer said that he did not consider these items evidence in the investigation, a stance also taken by Murray and former Department of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Tim Sammons when they faced the same type of questioning by Auge on the witness stand.

While Murray wasn’t on the Mt. Pleasant Police force in 2000 when Elizabeth disappeared, he took a special interest in her case in the fall of 2011 when Archer asked him to lend a new set of eyes to the investigation.

Murray said that since he became involved in the investigation, he has participated in 79 searches for Elizabeth throughout Henry County, in Burlington, Fairfield and around Lake Geode. In those searches, he has found no evidence leading to Elizabeth’s whereabouts.

Murray began re-interviewing witnesses and spoke with Syperda at his son Michael Syperda’s (Jr) house in New London on Aug. 9, 2013.

At that time, Syperda willingly answered questions, telling Murray that he wasn’t happy June 16, 2000 when Elizabeth left their home and moved in with her new romantic interest Sara Thomas Beckman. Syperda said he last spoke with Elizabeth July 16, 2000 at 10:56 p.m., corroborating phone records. However, trial testimony from Jarrod Krabill, a former co-worker of Syperda, claimed Syperda told him Elizabeth had been in Syperda’s presence until 5 a.m., the morning of July 17, 2000, making Syperda the last person to see Elizabeth.

Murray also testified to the number of calls recorded from Syperda’s residence to Beckman’s residence during the month Elizabeth was living there in 2000. From June 26, 2000 to Aug. 11, 2000, when Beckman had a phone trap installed, it recorded 162 calls. According to the phone records there were two calls from Syperda to Beckman on July 14, 2000, no calls July 15, 2000, and 14 calls the night Elizabeth was last seen on July 16, 2000. The calls from Syperda stopped after the night of July 16, 2000. The phone trap was removed on Aug. 11, 2000. On July 20, Syperda was notified that Elizabeth was a missing person.

As the defense began to call witnesses Friday, they remained focused on the lack of evidence to determine Elizabeth is dead and a lack of any investigation into other suspects related to her disappearance.

Witnesses were former co-worker with Syperda John McDowell Jr.; Innovairre (formerly Experian) Human Resources manager Candice Becker; former Mt. Pleasant Police officer Todd Cheney; former Mt. Pleasant Police officer Robert White; and former lead investigator and DCI Special Agent Tim Sammons.

Through witness testimony throughout the four-day trial, the defense concluded that at no time did law enforcement officers make an effort to contact Elizabeth and Beckman’s neighbor who lived below their apartment at 608 E. Madison St. in Mt. Pleasant.

Law enforcement officers on Elizabeth’s case also failed to conduct a thorough investigation of Scott Luvaas, who could not be located for the trial. Elizabeth and Beckman knew Luvaas through their employment at Experian. They stayed at his apartment in New London the night of June 16, 2000 after Syperda assaulted the two in a Hy-Vee parking lot.

A few weeks after Elizabeth disappeared, Luvaas moved to North Dakota. While several law enforcement officers reached Luvaas over the phone in 2000, they did not confirm his whereabouts on the day of Elizabeth’s disappearance.

Cadaver dogs used in searches after Elizabeth’s disappearance have not turned up any leads.

The prosecution and defense will make final arguments Monday, May 7, at 10 a.m. at the Henry County Courthouse. Syperda waived his right to a jury. Judge Mark Kruse, who is presiding over the trial, will spend time deliberating and reconvene later this month to give his verdict.

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