DNA played significant role in arrest of Ziegert murder suspect

Lisa Ziegert's body was found in 1992

AGAWAM, Mass. (WWLP) – West Springfield resident Gary Schara will be formally charged with Lisa Ziegert’s murder on Tuesday.

Gary Schara will go before a Westfield District Court Judge. It was DNA phenotyping that helped law enforcement to accuse Schara decades after Lisa Ziegert’s rape and murder.

Twenty-five-years-ago, the kidnapping, rape, and murder of 24-year-old Lisa Ziegert left family members, law enforcement, and the Agawam community at a loss for who was responsible for such a vicious crime.

“You can’t imagine that something like this would happen in this little town,” said Kevin Forgue of Agawam. “My fiancée called me, and says, oh, they’ve got a suspect. I was like oh, after all these years.”

Retired Agawam Police Chief Robert Campbell was the lieutenant in charge of the Agawam detective bureau when Lisa Ziegert’s body was found in 1992.

“It haunted me,” Campbell told 22News. “Every time I’d see the Ziegert family or I’d hear something about it. I didn’t think I’d live to see that, and I heard Mrs. Ziegert say they were happy they were alive to see it, well I’m happy that I’m alive to see it.”

Gary Schara arrested in murder of Lisa Ziegert

Now decades after Lisa Ziegert was murdered, advances in technology helped investigators narrow down their suspects.

At the time of Lisa’s murder, DNA testing was in its infancy. Using a DNA sample collected at the time of the murder, investigators used the new process of DNA Phenotyping to match 48-year-old Gary Schara to the crime.

“What the company can do with a DNA profile is take that, and sort of reverse engineer it to get a composite sketch of the individual based on the aspects of the DNA,” Anthony Gulluni, Hampden County District Attorney told 22News.

Gulluni said the process allowed them to narrow down who they were looking for, based on Gary Schara’s unique, molecular, DNA fingerprint.

Schara is set to be arraigned Tuesday in Westfield District Court, where he’ll be formally charged with the abduction, rape and murder of Lisa Ziegert.

This is just the beginning of the process.

D.A. Gulluni said he expects a grand Jury to return rape, kidnapping and murder indictments against Gary Schara.