Mt Pleasant News
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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 19, 2018

Syperda may have seen estranged wife morning of her disappearance in 2000

May 03, 2018
Photo by: John Lovretta/thehawkeye.com Elizabeth Syperda’s mother and brother Donna and Michael Forshee hold hands while listening to testimony during the second day of Michael Syperda’s first-degree murder trial in the death of his estranged wife, who disappeared from a residence she was sharing in Mt. Pleasant in 2000, Wednesday May 2, 2018 at the Henry County District Court in Mt. Pleasant. The body of the 22-year-old Elizabeth Syperda has never been found. She has not been seen or heard from since the day she disappeared.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News

 

Sara Thomas Beckman may not have been the last person to see Elizabeth Syperda before she disappeared on July 17, 2000.

The second day of the trial of Michael Syperda on Wednesday, May 2, held just as much suspense as the first, as the prosecution attempted to establish motive and present evidence that shows Syperda premeditated Elizabeth’s murder. The defense, on the other hand, worked to discredit witness testimony.

Syperda, 58, is being accused by the state of first-degree murder of his estranged wife Elizabeth, who was last seen July 16, 2000, in Mt. Pleasant. He was indicted by the Grand Jury and arrested in Rifle, Colo., Nov. 30, 2017. Elizabeth was 22 at the time she disappeared.

The first witness to take the stand Wednesday, Jarrod Krabill, recounted under oath that he was at Syperda’s residence at 415 E. Madison St. in Mt. Pleasant the day of Elizabeth’s disappearance. He claimed Syperda had told him the morning of July 17, 2000, Elizabeth had been in Syperda’s presence until 5 a.m. Krabill did not see Elizabeth at this time.

Previous testimony had assumed Elizabeth’s roommate Sara Beckman, formerly Sara Thomas, whom Elizabeth had a romantic relationship with, was the last to see Elizabeth on July 16, 2000 around 10 p.m., when she allegedly left for work. During Beckman’s testimony Tuesday, defense attorney Kym Auge worked to discredit Beckman’s testimony and, at times, implying Beckman could have been responsible for Elizabeth’s disappearance.

It wasn’t unusual for Krabill to stop by Syperda’s home at odd hours back in 2000 when they were working shifts at the Blue Bird bus manufacturing company. Krabill often would stay until 3 or 4 a.m. helping with Syperda’s elementary school aged children and would sometimes spend the night.

That was the plan the morning of July 17, 2000 – that Krabill was to watch Syperda’s children as he went off to work between 5 and 5:30 a.m. However, walking into Syperda’s kitchen that morning, Krabill noticed Syperda had visibly been drinking. Syperda plead ill that morning and decided not to go to work. Since Syperda no longer needed a babysitter for the children, Krabill left the residence.

As Auge cross-examined Krabill, she aknowledged the lengthy track record he had with the police, noting that at the time of Elizabeth’s disappearance, Krabill was living at a halfway house after he was charged with credit card ATM fraud.

There was also a question of whether Krabill has a vendetta against Syperda. The day Krabill was served with court papers to appear in front of the Grand Jury in 2017, he posted a lengthy public warning to Syperda that he has “so much venom” in his veins for him.

The Facebook post has since been deleted. Krabill said it was written in a flurry of anger and he realized it was best to take it down, a decision he made on his own.

The second witness to take the stand Wednesday was Syperda’s first wife, Sally Crill, who is the mother of the two children Elizabeth babysat for when they were living in California and later when they moved to Iowa.

However, Crill’s testimony implied that although her children enjoyed Elizabeth as a babysitter, she did little to help with them when they relocated to Iowa. Elizabeth was also not supposed to live with Syperda and Crill when they moved but did stay with them in their residence.

Crill also suggested she may have seen Elizabeth a few days after her disappearance on the highway near Danville as she drove towards Burlington.

“They were going the other direction, but the hair looked like her, shaved off to the side and pulled up in a ponytail,” Crill said, adding that was the only distinguishing characteristic that made her think of Elizabeth as she did not get a good view of the woman’s face.

Overall, Crill said she did not have a good relationship with Elizabeth. She also noted she had no recollection of Syperda becoming physically abusive towards Elizabeth while the three of them were living under the same roof.

As morning turned to afternoon, law enforcement who were on the case at the time of Elizabeth’s disappearance were called to the stand to discuss interactions with Elizabeth before she disappeared and Syperda before and after Elizabeth went missing.

A month before she disappeared, Mt. Pleasant Police officer Mike Stalder responded to two frantic women – Elizabeth and Beckman – at a convenience store after they were attacked by Syperda in the Hy-Vee parking lot on June 16, 2000.

Stalder took them back to the police station, where he questioned them separately regarding the incident. Photos taken at this time of Elizabeth’s injury sustained in the scuffle with Syperda show that she is wearing the emerald and diamond ring that was found in Syperda’s apartment after she disappeared.

The photo holds up to other testimony that recalled Elizabeth always wearing the ring on the ring finger of her right hand.

 

A Missing Person?

Before entering Elizabeth into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) missing person database in 2000, Mt. Pleasant Police officer Marc McConnell did a quick inspection of both Syperda’s and Beckman’s residences on July 20, 2000.

Knocking on Syperda’s door that day, McConnell was invited in by Syperda and allowed to do an inspection of the house, even given entrance to a locked door. McConnell reported nothing out of the ordinary and, although he canvassed a few neighboring houses, was unable to get a lot of response and did not go back to canvass a second time.

Following the inspection of Syperda’s home, McConnell went to visit Beckman, who’s apartment he stepped into and did a quick look around. McConnell did not confirm that Beckman worked the night of Elizabeth’s disappearance on July 16, 2000, going into July 17, 2000 as she alleged. McConnell did not speak to any of Beckman’s neighbors.

Larry Hedlund, who was a DCI (Division of Criminal Investigation) agent in Cedar Rapids in 2000, was one of the first officers to interview Syperda following Elizabeth’s disappearance, meeting him at his own will at the State Patrol Post on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2000.

When questioning Syperda about the incident on June 16, 2000, where he physically assaulted her in a Hy-Vee parking lot after she left him for Beckman, Syperda said that it was out of character for him and since then had not been in touch with his wife.

However, Hedlund moved on to question Syperda about the harassing phone calls to Beckman’s apartment, which Syperda first denied. It was noted that Syperda’s last call to Beckman’s apartment was July 16, 2000, at 10:56 p.m.

Records obtained by Hedlund also proved that Syperda did not work on July 17, 2000. Syperda chalked up missing a day of work to the breakup, saying he had been suffering from leg and arm cramps because he hadn’t been eating. Syperda also mentioned the date being “coincidental” and that his “situation wasn’t looking good,” Hedlund said.

While Syperda’s interview with Hedlund was of his own volition, the defense stressed that Hedlund’s interview was in an “accusatory tone at times,” Auge said.

Auge also took this opportunity to discuss with Hedlund how someone going off and starting a new life, changing their name and identity, could be a possible explanation for a missing person.

Not long after Syperda was questioned by Hedlund was a search warrant issued for his house at 415 E. Madison Street. Dana Kuster, of the Mt. Pleasant Police Department, was one of the officers to search Syperda’s house on Sept. 5, 2000.

It was then that law enforcement came across the allegedly “always-worn by Elizabeth” emerald and diamond ring in Syperda’s closet, deep inside an unlocked safe stacked with miscellaneous items.

Through questioning of the witness, Auge established that since the safe was unlocked, anyone could have had access to it.

Richard Martin, formerly an officer in the Mt. Pleasant Police Department, also testified Wednesday.

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