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Garza disappearance revives '70s missing student case

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By MEGAN JAMES

MIDDLEBURY — In the three weeks since Middlebury College freshman Nicholas Garza disappeared, search and rescue teams have overturned each inch of the college campus, finding nothing. The Middlebury Police Department has interviewed more than 100 people, but still their timeline for the night the 19-year-old went missing, Feb. 5, ends with an unanswered phone call at 11:06 p.m. 

Just this week, Middlebury police called in a Texas nonprofit search and rescue squad called Equu-search to scour the snow-covered grounds once again.

All the while, a woman named Anne Schulze has been closely following the case from her home in New Hampshire. The dearth of leads looks a lot like something she’s seen before: Her sister, Lynne, vanished from the Middlebury campus 37 years ago.

She was never found.

“Since my family and Lynne’s friends found out about Nick’s disappearance, we have been hoping and praying along with the Middlebury community and Nick’s family that he be found safe and soon,” she said in a telephone interview.

Later this week Anne Schulze plans to meet with Middlebury Police officer Vegar Boe, who is handling the disappearances of both Garza and Lynne Schulze, to discuss her sister’s still open case. She also hopes to offer her time to speak with Garza’s parents.

Boe is the sixth investigator to work on the Lynne Schulze case since she went missing on the way to a final exam in 1971. According to Schulze, Boe has shown a renewed interest in that case since Garza disappeared earlier this month.

The two cases are completely unrelated, Schulze acknowledged, but she couldn’t help but hear an echo of her sister’s disappearance when she first found out about Garza’s.

“It is just uncanny that a freshman student has disappeared completely at a break time, again,” she said. “You can see how when no one’s around, it’s harder to realize that someone is missing. Days go by and at last someone notices.”

But those first 24 to 48 hours are crucial in a missing persons investigation, she said. Unfortunately, in both Garza’s and Lynne Schulze’s cases, at least five days passed before official searches began.

It was Friday, Dec. 10, 1971, the first day of final exams before students took off for Christmas break, when Lynne Schulze vanished. Her roommate had seen her that morning, asleep in bed. Around 12:30 p.m., one of Lynne’s good friends dropped by her dorm room so they could walk together to their exam.

As they made their way across campus, Lynne stopped and told her friend she had forgotten her favorite pen; she had to go back to her room and get it.

“It really was her favorite pen,” Schulze said, laughing, “Everyone knew about it.”

But Lynne never made it to her exam.

“She disappeared,” Schulze said. “Into thin air. In the middle of the day.”

Lynne had talked about going away for the weekend, but no one knew where she would have gone.

“Like Nicholas, she was not a person who was likely to just take off,” Schulze said. “Her friends would have been the first to be contacted.”

Three days earlier she had registered for January and spring semester classes.

When her roommate got up early the next morning to take a bus home for Christmas break, she noticed Lynne wasn’t there. But she didn’t think much of it, Schulze said. It was the end of the semester; when people finished their exams, they just took off.

“It was a different era,” she said. “It was a much more open, freer time. There wasn’t quite the concern then, nor was there the security.”

By that Monday morning, two days after Lynne was last seen, someone alerted campus security that she was missing. They searched her room and found all of her belongings, including her ID and her checkbook — $30 had been cashed on the day of the exam.

Five days went by before Lynne’s parents found out their daughter was missing, according to Schulze. One of Lynne’s close high school friends, who also went to Middlebury, told another mutual friend in Simsbury. That friend broke the news to Lynne’s mother.

“Our family, quite honestly, never believed the rumors that (Lynne) had taken off and was hitchhiking,” Schulze said. “My mother, in particular, believed that foul play was involved from the start.”

Plenty of people reported sightings, but all the leads resulted in dead-ends.

Lynne’s father got the FBI involved for a while, and he tried to get assistance from his Connecticut state senator. Her family spent the year of 1972 searching, working with Middlebury and Vermont State Police.

“This was my senior year of high school,” Schulze said. “I spent many weekends coming up to Vermont, looking for her, following up on leads.”

But trying to track down a college student, especially an 18-year old, who in Vermont at the time was considered of legal age, was difficult.

“There was really no missing person network at the time, no Internet, no ‘America’s Most Wanted,’” Schulze said.

By the end of 1972, most of the local leads had died out, and the case went cold.

In 1994 Lynne’s parents provided DNA samples, which might have served to identify her remains, but to no avail. Two years ago, they enlisted the help of an intuitive counselor. Schulze has posted information about her sister on various missing persons Web sites, like the Jane Doe Network.

“We are very hopeful still that there is someone, perhaps not necessarily locally, who may know what happened to my sister, and may be willing to come forward under the right circumstances,” Schulze said.

Lynne’s family, which includes another sister and two younger brothers, believes all they might find at this point are her remains and the missing pieces of a 37-year-old puzzle. But they have not given up hope.

That’s the only way to survive the uncertainty of having a family member go missing, Schulze said.

“Keeping your thoughts and memories, writing everything down, lots of prayer,” she said. “Everyone in our family has gone through one side of this, with all the questioning, and come to another side where we are now, a place of peace.”

Anyone with information concerning the whereabouts of Nicholas Garza or Lynne Schulze may contact the Middlebury Police Department at 388-3191 or the Middlebury College Department of Public Safety at 443-5911.

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