2000 Mt. Pleasant murder cold case conviction brings closure, renews anguish

MT. PLEASANT, Iowa -

When a judge convicted Michael Syperda, 58, of first degree murder on Monday, June 25, it nearly closed the file on a long cold case that dates back to 2000.

Syperda's estranged wife, Elizabeth, vanished without a trace on July 16, 2000.

Syperda faces life in prison at his sentencing on August 23, 2018.

While her family hoped for any bit of help, conducting searches and vigils, she was never seen or heard from again.

"I just want to appeal to everybody to be looking for her," said her mother, Donna Forshee, back in 2002.  "Everything you do and everywhere you go, just be looking for her. She's here somewhere."

Liz,  just 22 at the time, wrote weeks before the disappearance that she lived in fear of Michael Syperda.

He had been placed on probation for attacking her in a supermarket parking lot.  He also refused to help in the search or talk with police.

Court documents revealed that she was leaving him for a woman.

The case took loved ones to rural fields and remote trails.  In Mt. Pleasant, Forshee hoped that fliers with Liz's photos would spark memories.

"I think somebody out there does know something," she said at the time.  "Any little thing will help the police."

But the leads were few and far between.  The case baffled authorities as they searched for answers.

"I would like to see Elizabeth found, so that we can put some type of closure to it," said Lt. Ron Archer of Mt. Pleasant Police in 2002.  "I think she will be found eventually."

Liz Syperda dreamed of attending college after graduating in 1997 from tiny Crusade High School.

Teacher Deb Vierling became a mother figure to her during her year in Morning Sun, Iowa. She couldn't understand how such a hard working student could just vanish.

"She was a very responsible young lady," Vierling recalled just three months after Syperda's disappearance in 2000.  "I think it's foul play. Something is not right here."

I've been covering this case since 2000, and it always bothered me.

After pondering it and leaving the file in my desk for 18 years, there was a break: what a lot of people suspected became true.

Michael Syperda was arrested in Colorado in November 2017 after authorities reopened the cold case.

During his verdict, District Court Judge Mark Kruse wrote that Syperda killed his wife and disposed the body in about six hours.  Judge Kruse described Syperda as an "enraged and obsessive person."

Donna Forshee, who searched so long for her daughter, left the courtroom in tears.

Justice, at last, for Liz, but never-ending grief for those who knew her.