Fate of missing college student from Simsbury still a mystery

By: Terry Sutton, Correspondent for the Simsbury Post 04/17/2008

For some older residents of Middlebury, Vt., and college professors at Middlebury College, the recent disappearance of a college freshman is reminiscent of the earlier disappearance of a college student who was originally from Simsbury.

According to the Middlebury Police Department, the latest victim's winter coats, I-Pod and laptop computer were all left in his dorm room. To date, neither his cell phone or his credit cards have been used nor have any withdrawals been made from his bank account.

Police and volunteers have tried to find Nicholas Garza for nearly two months. Unfortunately, since his disappearance, several feet of snow have fallen in Vermont making the search more difficult. The Garza family is offering a $20,000 reward for their son's safe return or for information that could lead to the conviction of anyone responsible for his disappearance and possible homicide.

Lynne Katherine Schulze was just about to complete her first semester at Middlebury College in 1971. Her first time away from home was not an easy one for Schulze. The light brown-haired, blued eyed co-ed had stated to family and friends that she was homesick and thought about withdrawing from college.

On the afternoon of Dec. 10, 1971, she went to take a final exam with one of her friends from her college dorm. As she was walking to the exam with her friend, she said that she had to go back and retrieve her favorite pen. She never made it back to take the exam and that was the last anyone had seen or heard from her. Middlebury Police found her all of personal belongings, including her checkbook and ID in her dormitory room. They also found evidence that she had cashed $30 from her checking account on the day of her disappearance.

What happened to Schulze since that day has plagued her family for nearly 40 years. At the time of her disappearance, law enforcement and college officials speculated that Schulze ran away and would eventually reconnect with her family in Simsbury. The Schulze family, desperate for answers on their daughter's whereabouts, even contacted then Connecticut's United States Sen.Abraham Ribicoff for help. As a result, the FBI became involved in this case for an albeit brief period of time.

According to Lynne's sister, Anne Schulze, the theory of her running away doomed the investigation from the start. Anne was a year and a half younger than Lynne. She was in her senior year at Simsbury High School when her older sister vanished. Anne and her father spent many weekends in Vermont that year looking for answers.

"When my sister was first reported missing, my mother immediately thought foul play had occurred," said Anne. "Many of us [Lynne's siblings] tried to sway that thinking. However, when the first Christmas came by and Lynne wasn't there, the rest of the family started to fear the worst."

It's been 36 Christmas holidays that Anne has not seen her sister. Since that time, she and the rest of her siblings have moved out of state. Her parents passed away and never had closure as to what happened to their eldest daughter. The family did leave DNA samples and Lynne's dental records with law enforcement in case human remains are found and need to be compared with Lynne's.

The National Crime Information Center of the Federal Bureau of Investigation states that there are 50,930 active missing adult cases in the United States as of Jan. 31, 2007. It also lists that there are 5,218 cases of deceased unidentified persons. Lynne is one of 18 missing persons listed on the Vermont State Police Web site. The state of Connecticut has no official published number of missing persons. However, the non-profit missing person website, the Charley Project, lists for adults and children. Among them are the 1952 vanishing of young Connie Smith from a Salisbury sleepover camp, the 1973 abduction of 7-year-old Janice Pockett just a few hundred feet from her Tolland home, and the suspicious disappearance of 31-year-old Billy Smolinski in 2004 from his Waterbury home.

According to missing persons' activist and Doe Network Media Director Todd Matthews, the number of missing persons nationally may be twice as many as reported. He states that many families do not report loved ones missing - sometimes out of fear of the truth or out of false hope that their loved ones will return. Decades later, foul play has been strongly considered in Schulze's disappearance. According to Middlebury Police, some people have confessed to murdering Schulze, but all of these were proven to be false. Anne and several of Lynne's high school friends got together in Middlebury back in 2006 to be interviewed for an article about Lynne for the Addison Independent Newspaper in Vermont. They continue to press police for answers and have managed to get her case profiled on several different crime websites such as the Doe Network, the Charley Project and Connecticut's Cold Cases. Lynne's case has even been discussed by individuals on various Internet forums who offer their own theories as to what happened.

Anne appreciates the attention that her sister's case has recently received, but does not believe her sister decided to cut ties with her family and close friends and started a new life.

"My sister was a happy person, who loved her family and friends," she said. "When she was at college, she would always write to friends and family members. Just three days before she disappeared, she had registered for second semester classes. I strongly believe that there may be one or more persons that know what happened to my sister and might come forward to share that information with the Middlebury Police or with our family given the right circumstances. It would give our family a great sense of peace to know what happened to Lynne and to finally get closure on her disappearance."

The possibility of foul play is one that the detective in her case, Officer Vegar Boe, has looked at carefully. Vegar is also the detective handling the Nicholas Garza case. "When Lynne went missing, the police back then were too quick to assume she ran away," he explained. "Even though there was no evidence that supported that, we are looking at this case through all possible angles."

One problem with Lynne's case was that her parents were notified five days after she was last seen. It took five days before an investigation was even started. In most missing person cases, the first 48 hours are the most crucial in trying to recover the person alive. There were some alleged sightings of Lynne weeks after she disappeared, but they were never verified to be true.

Boe has put much time on Lynne's case. He has tracked a lead all the way to Florida to see if an individual had a connection to Lynne's disappearance. He also stated the Middlebury Police looked at Robert Garrow as a person of interest, but eventually ruled out the now deceased upstate New York serial killer. Vegar considers it highly unusual that if Lynne Schulze did start a new life, that she never made a contact with any friends or family members.

"She was very close to her family. Her parents gave her a way out of Middlebury College. She could have transferred after the semester. In the end, she never showed up for that final exam," Boe said.

While the national media has focused some attention on Nicholas Garza, Anne made it a point to speak to his mother, Natalie Garza. Natalie Garza has a 9-year-old son who has had a difficult time dealing with the absence of his older brother.

"I know what they're going through," Anne said. "Sadly, my family has been living it for almost 40 years. I hope she gets her son back safe soon. My family wanted the same with Lynne. We have reached out to Natalie Garza and her family to share information we have learned about Web sites and other resources to contact when your family member is missing. We also believe that if any greater good is to come of my sister's disappearance, it is to help another family in a similar situation of despair and to give them empathy, hope and prayers."

For more information about Nicholas Garza go to www.nicholasgarza.org/ Other websites of interest are www.doenetwork.org/ www.charleyproject.org/ www.ctcoldcases.com/

If you have any information regarding the disappearance of Lynne Schulze, contact Officer Boe at the Middlebury Police at 802-388-3191 or www.ctcoldcases.com.