Arrest made in 1979 ‘cold case’ killing

For three years Susan Schwarz has been the queen of hearts in a deck of unsolved homicides and missing persons cases.

Friday night, detectives announced that the young woman’s death is no longer a mystery. Snohomish County sheriff’s cold case detectives arrested a 57-year-old Seattle man who they believe is responsible for Schwarz’s slaying.

Detectives have been looking for him for more than three decades.

Schwarz was shot and strangled inside her Lynnwood area home Oct. 22, 1979. Her father and younger brother have lived for years without knowing who took her life or why. Gary Schwarz told The Herald in 2008 that he would never give up on justice for his sister. He also acknowledged that he might never get answers.

“We don’t live in a perfect world. Sometimes these don’t get solved,” he said. “You have to move on. You don’t give up.”

Snohomish County sheriff’s cold case detectives Jim Scharf, Patrick VanderWeyst and Joe Dunn helped track down the suspect near his Seattle home. The man had been interviewed in the past about the case and for years was considered a suspect.

There was never enough evidence to make an arrest — until now.

Detectives say they received a tip from an inmate at a Washington prison last month. The inmate had seen Schwarz’s case in a deck of cold case playing cards. Scharf and his then-partner Sgt. Dave Heitzman created the county’s first cold case decks in 2008 in hopes of jump-starting investigations into dozens of unsolved homicides and missing persons cases. The decks offer a reward to anyone who helps track down a killer. The 52 cases date back to the early 1970s.

The inmate tipster helped the detectives narrow in on the suspect and his circle of friends, said Scharf, a veteran homicide detective.

Detectives had been working the case over the years. More recently they’d sent additional evidence to the state crime lab to be tested. They also pored through the old case file and compiled a list of people they wanted to interview. They hedged their bets that someone would be willing to come forward with new information that could help them hone in on a suspect.

Detectives say their digging led them to a witness who had never been interviewed about the homicide. That person earlier this week admitted to being an eyewitness to the killing.

The witness “was very young at the time and had been physically abused by the suspect and threatened to be killed if they said anything. That person was living in fear all these years,” Scharf said.

Schwarz, 24, knew the suspect, detectives explained Friday night. She was close friends with his wife. Detectives believe the man killed Schwarz because he blamed her for his wife leaving him and taking their son.

“We believe he resented her,” Scharf said.

Items had been taken from Schwarz’s Alderwood Manor home. Detectives now believe the thefts were a ruse to throw investigators off.

The suspect had talked to police in the past about the homicide and had given different accounts what what he knew, detectives said. When the cold case detectives approached him Friday evening he appeared comfortable talking to them. But by the end of the conversation, it was clear that he wasn’t walking away free after more than three decades under suspicion of homicide.

He was booked into the Snohomish County Jail for investigation of first-degree murder.

“It feels really good, knowing a weight has been lifted off the witness’ shoulders and the family having answers now. It feels good to get to the truth and to find out what really happened. Her family will know instead of always wondering,” Scharf said.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road on Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Long live the Speedway! Mukilteo’s main drag won’t be renamed

The public shot down the mayor’s idea to change the name: 77% voted ‘No’ in an online survey, with 95% opposed on Facebook.

Everett
Motorcyclist dies in crash on East Marine View Drive in Everett

Around 8 p.m. Tuesday, a motorcycle and a vehicle crashed into each other at the intersection of 11th street and East Marine View Drive.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Darrington in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Motorcyclist dies in crash on Highway 530

Jeremy Doyle, 46, was riding east near Darrington when he crashed into the side of a car that was turning left.

The Marysville School District office on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘Financially insolvent’ Marysville schools to get unprecedented oversight

Superintendent Chris Reykdal will convene a first-of-its-kind Financial Oversight Committee, he wrote in a letter Tuesday.

Woodside Elementary Principal Betty Cobbs on Monday, June 17, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett’s first Black principal retires after 51 years

In her office, Betty Cobbs kept a black-and-white photo of herself at age 5: “I am right there, with dreams of becoming an educator.”

Junelle Lewis, right, daughter Tamara Grigsby and son Jayden Hill sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during Monroe’s Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 18, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
On Juneteenth: ‘We can always say that there is hope’

The Snohomish County NAACP is co-sponsoring a celebration Saturday near Snohomish, with speakers, music and food.

Firefighter hopefuls suit up during the Future Women in EMS/Fire Workshop on Saturday, June 22, 2024, at the South County Fire Training Center in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
To fill gap, Snohomish County tries new approach to recruit women firefighters

About 30 women tried on bunker gear, pulled rope and worked chainsaws at a first-of-its-kind workshop Saturday.

Granite Falls
Man, 35, dies from heart attack while hiking Lake 22

The man suffered a heart attack about 1½ miles into the 6-mile hike east of Granite Falls on Friday, authorities said.

36 hours after final show, Everett radio host Charlye Parker, 80, dies

When Parker got into radio, she was a rarity: a woman in a DJ booth. For the past 12 years, she hosted weekend country music shows at KXA.

Homeowners Jim and Chris Hall stand beneath their new heat pump, at right, inside their Whidbey Island home on Thursday, Sep. 7, 2023, near Langley, Washington. The couple, who are from Alaska, have decreased their use of their wood burning stove to reduce their carbon footprint. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Snohomish County to start ‘kicking gas’ in push for all-electric homes

Last year, 118 Whidbey Island homes installed energy-efficient heat pumps. A new campaign aims to make the case for induction stoves now, too.

Dr. Scott Macfee and Dr. Daniel Goodman outside of the Community Health Center on Wednesday, June 12, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett CHC doctors, feeling like ‘commodities,’ speak up on ailing system

At the Community Health Center of Snohomish County, doctors say they feel like “rats getting off a sinking ship.” They want it to get better.

Construction occurs at 16104 Cascadian Way in Bothell, Washington on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County real estate values tick up 4.5% in assessor’s report

You’ve got mail: The Snohomish County Assessor’s Office will send property tax statements this week.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.