Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 21, 2018

What happened to Elizabeth Syperda?

Cold case revived after missing woman’s husband is charged with her murder
Dec 04, 2017
Elizabeth Syperda

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


It was mid-July 2000 when Elizabeth Syperda left her apartment in the 600 block of E. Madison St. in Mt. Pleasant and seemingly vanished.

Now, 17 years later, Michael Lee Syperda, who she was married to, has been arrested and charged with her murder in the first degree. Michael was taken into custody in the area of Glenwood Springs, Co. late Thursday, Nov. 30. The arrest warrant was issued out of an indictment from the grand jury convened after Elizabeth’s case was reviewed and reclassified as a homicide investigation, Iowa DCI Acting Special Agent Ryan Kedley said.

The 22-year-old was reported missing by her roommate on July 18, 2000. A search of her apartment by the Mt. Pleasant police revealed no evidence of foul play, The Mt. Pleasant News reported on July 31, 2000. Her apartment was locked and her dog barred in the bathroom, which was what Syperda and her roommate, Sara Thomas, always did when leaving the house. Personal items remaining in the apartment gave the appearance that she was planning on returning.

Less than a month after she went missing, The News reported on Aug. 9, 2000, rumors that Elizabeth’s body had been found. This, of course, was untrue. Sammons said that there were also rumors that a bloody crime scene was found in New London. Also untrue. The police department assured they were continuing to investigate leads.

On Nov. 10, 2000, “Husband of missing woman gets probation on assault charge,” was splashed on the front page of The News. Michael was sentenced in November 2000 to five years’ probation and $1,250 in fines after pleading guilty to charges connected with a June 17, 2000 assault on Elizabeth in the Mt. Pleasant Hy-Vee parking lot, The News reported.

“I live in fear that [Michael Syperda] will find me,” Elizabeth wrote in a June 24 court document filed with the Henry County District Court. “I can’t go into my house to have all my things. Everyone is worried about us,” she wrote, referring to her and her roommate Thomas.

According to court documents filed on the same day by Thomas, she was scratched on the right eye, received two cut lips, a swollen face and bruises during the assault by Michael, according to The News.

In the Mt. Pleasant police incident report, police record said that Michael “did follow the victims in a car to the parking lot and did assault both [Elizabeth and Thomas] … [he] did grab his wife’s shirt while she was sitting in the passenger seat of a car and break the top straps of her shirt. The defendant continued to attack her by grabbing her shirt again and ripping the shirt from her body leaving a 7-1/2-inch-long red scrape on her left rib cage area.”

After the assault, Elizabeth and Thomas left the Hy-Vee parking lot and called the police. They obtained a restraining order that same day on June 17, 2000, according to The News.

A week after this incident, Henry County prosecuting attorney Michael Riepe filed charges against Michael including first-degree felony burglary, domestic abuse assault and second-degree felony criminal mischief, The News reported.

In court documents, Elizabeth wrote, “I’m worried about [Michael] coming over and finishing what he started. I’m worried about where he is at all times.”

Michael pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree burglary and the criminal mischief charge was dropped. He was convicted on the original charge of domestic abuse assault against his wife and sentenced to 180 days in jail and $250 in fines. He was also sentenced to 10 years in the Iowa State Prison and a $1,000 fine on the burglary charge. Both prison sentences were suspended. Michael was granted one-year probation on the domestic abuse charge and five years on the burglary charge, according to The News.

According to The News on Nov. 10, 2000, Riepe said that losing Elizabeth as a potential witness hampered the prosecution’s case and was a factor in the plea bargain.

“In this case, one witness was going to be unavailable because that person is missing,” Riepe told The News. “Under those circumstances and given the kinds of supervision that would be available, in my discretion as prosecutor, I felt the plea agreement was appropriate.”

At that time, Riepe said he could not comment on whether there was a suspect in Elizabeth’s disappearance.

Shortly before she disappeared, Elizabeth left her job at Experian in Mt. Pleasant. She never picked up her last check, The News reported Police Chief Terry Sammons saying after she was reported a missing person.

With no more leads to go by, the disappearance of Elizabeth Syperda was eventually labeled a cold case. There was a brief glimmer of hope for a resolution to Syperda’s case in 2012, when human remains were discovered in rural southeastern Iowa, according to The Gazette. The body was suspected to either be Syperda’s or a missing 24-year-old mother who vanished in 2011. The autopsy concluded it was not Syperda’s body.

Finally, years after Syperda went missing, the Mt. Pleasant Police Department found reason to reopen the case this past March.

“It was reactivated in the recent year or so,” Kedley said. “It was a joint investigation between the Mt. Pleasant Police Department, the Henry County Attorney’s Office and the Iowa Attorney General’s Office with the Henry County Sheriff.”

Lieutenant Lyle Murray with the Mt. Pleasant police said they cannot comment at this time.

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