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The sister of missing St. Charles man John Spira has insisted for years that her brother's estranged wife knew more about his disappearance than she was letting on.
Whether she was right or not, the sister, Stephanie McNeil, will never find out. Spira's wife died six months ago.
The wife, Suzanne Spira, was found dead in her Orchard Park, New York, apartment on Oct. 30. McNeil said she learned of the death from an associate of Suzanne Spira. Kevin Montgomery, the spokesman for the Erie County, New York, Health Department, confirmed Suzanne Spira's death but said he could provide no further details.
McNeil, who grew up in Winnetka and now lives in Phoenix, said no one from the DuPage County Sheriff's Department, whose representatives claim to be actively investigating John Spira's disappearance, ever notified her of Suzanne Spira's death.
"It's pretty significant information that John's wife, the person that I've been saying should be a person of interest (in the investigation) is dead, and they didn't even know," McNeil said. "Even if they did know and didn't tell us, it's shameful. But I really doubt they knew it."
Spira was 45 when he vanished in February 2007. He was last seen at the office of his cable construction company, where he left his parked car. Five months later, Spira's business burned down.
At the time of his disappearance, John and Suzanne Spira were in the midst of an acrimonious divorce, McNeil said. The couple lived in the same house throughout their divorce proceedings, and the domestic arrangement was "hellish," McNeil said.
In an interview conducted just months before her death, Suzanne Spira denied that her relationship with the husband who wanted to leave her had turned toxic. But McNeil insists it was terrible and says she is certain Suzanne Spira knew what befell her brother.
Not only that, but McNeil has feuded with the DuPage County Sheriff's Department throughout the four years her brother has been missing over its refusal to classify his case as a homicide.
"It just makes me sick to my stomach," she said. "I find it really tragic, the whole situation is tragic."
In April, McNeil requested that the sheriff's department share its investigative files on her brother's death and the fire at his business. The department refused to cooperate, saying the records are still "part of an on-going investigative file."
McNeil has appealed to the Illinois Attorney General's Office to overturn the rejection. She points to the lack of communication from the DuPage County Sheriff's Department as proof that it is not keeping tabs on the case.
"How they can deny my F.O.I.A. request based on it being an open investigation is beyond me when they didn't even know John's wife has been dead for six months," McNeil said.
Both DuPage County Sheriff John Zaruba and department spokeswoman Dawn Domrose failed to return calls for comment on the Spira case. McNeil said Zaruba has also failed to respond to two letters she has sent him about her missing brother.
"I would love to hear what Sheriff Zaruba has to say," said McNeil, who does not expect the DuPage County sheriff or his investigators to willingly abide by the freedom of information laws.
"They're going to hide it," she said.
McNeil is still waiting for the attorney general's office to rule on her appeal of the DuPage County Sheriff's Department's denial of her request for information, but with the death of her brother's wife, McNeil feels additional information vital to the case may be lost forever.
"I'm sad that she's dead because she's taken secrets with her that we'll never know," McNeil said.
"We got ripped off. That's how I feel," she said. "We got ripped off again. It's all unjust."