"You'll run into something that reminds you of your child and you'll say, 'Where is she?' It's like having an open hole in your heart that never heals."
-Mary Lyall, Suzanne's Mother
It was the 2nd of March 1998. A Monday. Nineteen year old Suzanne Lyall went to class at the University of Albany that day. She was a computer science student at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany. That was the perfect course for Suzanne. When she was just twelve years old, she had a Commodore computer. She built a computer and she taught the teachers at her school how to run computers. If a computer broke down at school, Suzanne would tell them how to fix it.
After her classes that day, Suzanne went to her dorm to get ready for work. She lived in a dorm on the SUNY campus. Suzanne left for her shift which began around 4pm that day. She worked part time at Babbage's Software in the Crossgates Mall in Guilderland, New York, United States and left work at 9.20pm that night.
After work, she would always get the bus back to the stop closest to her dorm. That night was no different. She got on a Capital District Transit Authority (CDTA) bus near the mall. It is believed she got off at around 9.40pm at the Collins Circle stop on the SUNY campus. A friend recalled seeing her but the bus driver could not confirm which stop she got off at. The walk from the bus stop to her dorm took between three and five minutes to walk. But Suzanne never made it back to her dorm that night.
The next day, the 3rd of March, Suzanne's boyfriend, Richard Condon, called her parents to let them know that he couldn't get in touch with her. Suzanne and Richard did not live together. She lived with roommates and he lived at home with his parents around ten miles from the University. Suzanne's parents, Doug and Mary Lyall, contacted campus police to report Suzanne missing. They also called Suzanne's credit card company to try to find out when the last transaction took place.
It was not like Suzanne to not be in touch. She was close to her parents and to her older sister Sandy and older brother Steve.
From the outset, police believed that Suzanne was the victim of a crime. Senior Investigator James D. Horton said:
"We felt immediately that she was most probably a victim of foul play."
When police investigated, they found no evidence that Suzanne returned to her dorm room the night of the 2nd of March. Her roommates did not see her that night. Police spoke to Richard. He tried to call Suzanne a number of times that night but there was no answer. Suzanne would usually call him when she got home after work so he was worried about her. Suzanne and Richard met at school. They both shared a love of computers and would talk online back and forth on their own computers. Richard wired their network so that he could access Suzanne's computer remotely. But he told police that he did not know where Suzanne was.
The day after Suzanne was last seen, on the 3rd of March, her ATM card was used at 4pm. The credit card company confirmed the transaction. It was used at Stewart's Store on the corner of Manning Boulevard and Central Avenue in Albany. The store was around two and a half miles from Suzanne's dorm and the card was used to withdraw $20 cash from the cash machine. It could not be determined if Suzanne used the card or somebody else did.The surveillance camera in the store did not cover the area in front of the ATM so police weren't able to tell who withdrew the money. But whoever used the card knew the PIN number as it was entered correctly the first time. Suzanne's boyfriend said that he knew the PIN number and apart from Suzanne, he didn't know anybody else that knew it. He told police that the withdrawal of $20 was something Suzanne regularly did. If she used the ATM, her normal withdrawal was for that amount. But Suzanne's mother Mary thought it would be unusual for her daughter to use it at the store. She would normally withdraw cash from her bank's ATM to avoid the bank charges.
Police wanted to speak to an African-American male who used the ATM at around the same time. He became known as "Nike Man" as he was wearing a Nike cap when he was inside the store. A store employee recalled seeing a man use the ATM. It took some time for him to come forward and he was questioned but that lead led nowhere. Police were still no closer to finding out what happened to Suzanne.
Suzanne's parents told police that Suzanne had tried to end her relationship with Richard a number of times as he was possessive and controlling. But every time she did, he was so emotional that she agreed to stay with him. Richard did not share that view. He believed they were madly in love and wanted to get married. In fact, he told police that they were engaged. The family were not aware of any engagement. It was reported that Richard did not cooperate fully with police but they confirmed that he had an alibi for the night Suzanne went missing. He was playing an online game with a friend. Richard refused to take a polygraph test and would not speak to police without his lawyer present.
Police continued to investigate and look at different leads. They tried to find out if there was anybody who wanted to harm Suzanne or if she had been the victim of an opportunistic crime. Police discovered that Suzanne told one of her coworkers that she she was being stalked by someone. Her coworker claimed that Suzanne mentioned it but it wasn't something that she was frightened of.
Two months after Suzanne went missing, her work name tag was found across from the visitors' parking lot at SUNY. It was found just 30 yards from the Collins Circle bus stop. Due to the condition of the tag, it looked like it had been outside for some time but it could not be determined that it was there since the 2nd of March.
The case went cold. But that did not stop Suzanne's parents from fighting to keep their daughter's name in the media in the hope that one day, they would find out what happened to her. Through their fight to ensure their daughter's name, Suzanne Lyall, was not forgotten, they turned their pain into hope and help for others. They became the voice , not just for their youngest child, but for other missing people. Five years after Suzanne disappeared , her parents established the Center for Hope in Ballston Spa. They believed that people who go missing could and should have been better protected.
They created "The Investigative Guide for Missing College Students" and wrote "What to Do If a Loved One Goes Missing: A Guide for Left Behind Family Members." In 2000, Gov. George Pataki signed the New York State Campus Security Act, which requires all colleges to develop plans for investigating a missing student or violent offense that was committed on campus. President George W. Bush signed "Suzanne's Law" in 2003 which eliminated the waiting period for police to launch an investigation when a person between the ages of 18 and 21 goes missing. In 2007, Congress enacted the Suzanne Lyall Campus Security Act, which requires colleges across the country to have written plans on how they will work with local law enforcement agencies.
The Center for Hope also helped create state Missing Persons Day and the state Missing Persons Remembrance monument in Albany.
Doug and Mary Lyall
Suzanne's disappearance remains unsolved. In 1985, another SUNY-Albany student disappeared. Karen Wilson, a twenty two year old senior at the time, left a Central Avenue tanning hut and was last seen walking along Fuller Road on her way back to her dorm on the 27th of March 1985 at 7.20pm. Her disappearance was some thirteen years prior to Suzanne's disappearance but there are strong similarities between the two cases. Police have not found anything to link the two cases to date. But, just like Suzanne's disappearance, Karen's disappearance remains unsolved.
Suzanne is described as a white female, 5 feet 3 inches, weighing approximately 170 pounds with long reddish -brown hair and blue eyes. She was wearing an ankle-length black trench coat, a black shirt, and jeans when she was last seen on the 2nd of March. She was also carrying a black tote bag.
If you have any information in relation to this case, please call 518-783-3211. Suzanne's father Doug sadly passed away before finding out what happened to his little girl. One year after Suzanne disappeared, Doug wrote a letter "To the person who took Suzanne" :
"I'm not sure what I would say, although after so much time, surprisingly, I don't hate you. I know nothing about you. I wonder if you were ever like Suzy. Did you love homemade chocolate chip cookies? Did you go to Rush concerts? Did you play jokes on April Fool's Day? Did you spend time on the computer, oblivious to anything else going on around you? Suzy is more than a girl on a poster. Her mom and dad, Steve and Sandy (Suzanne's siblings) miss her daily. She has dreams, and hopes and potential. I still have positive dreams. For my own survival, I have had to let go of anger or I would be consumed by it. But the questions persist."
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