By Susan Johnson
What would you do if one of your close friends were murdered, and 20 years later, there was still no resolution to the case?
Terri Garcia, of Rock County, Wis., found herself in that situation and decided to write about it. Her friend, David Landwehr, 22, of Beloit, Wis., was stabbed to death in 1988. The suspect, Ezequiel Lopez-Zavala, had been on the run for 20 years, eluding police until he was stopped for a traffic violation in Bellevue, Wash. After extradition to Wisconsin, he pleaded no contest to manslaughter charges. Eventually, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
But there are some things the law does not address and cannot begin to remedy. The deep sense of personal loss, knowing that a loved one or friend will no longer be a part of your life. All the wonderings of what-ifs — never knowing what else that special person might have been able to accomplish if his or her life had not been cut short. All the other lives that were touched by that person, for each death leaves not just one, but many holes in the fabric of society.
In Garcia’s case, her friend David’s death was especially painful because she was living in Florida at the time. He was planning to move there but was killed before he could relocate. Worst of all for Garcia, she was unable to get back in time for his funeral.
Garcia decided to check into other cases in the area where victims’ families were still seeking closure in the deaths of their loved ones. She found 28 such cases in the Rock County area — some involving more than one victim at the same location. In her book, Rock County’s Unsolved Murders, Garcia gives each case its own chapter, summarizing the information obtained by police and where the case stands to date.
She wrote the book partly to address the ironic turn of justice in the case. “We know who killed David, and it took 20 years to get the guy that killed him,” Garcia recalled. “He got into a traffic accident, and Illinois let him off on a bond, and he never went to court, so he just left the area.” Had he not been stopped in Washington state because of a missing taillight and the outstanding warrants revealed by a police check, he might never have been brought to justice. Even so, he was given 15 years under the old law, and the sentence was reduced to 10 years for murder and five years for reckless use of a dangerous weapon.
Garcia knows her friend David’s life was worth more than that. And if any of the stories published help to get a case solved, Garcia feels the effort was worth it.
Rock County’s Unsolved Murders is available from Terri Garcia, P.O. Box 182, South Beloit, IL 61080. Janesville locations are: house of Treasures, 500 W. Milwaukee; Book World, 2451 Milton Ave.; Jake’s Mobil, Hwy. 51, across from Isabella Queen. Beloit locations are: Clark Oil, 903 Broad St.; PX 609, Porland Ave.; West Grand Market, 550 W. Grand Ave.; Tex’s, 1909 St. Lawrence Ave.; Tobacco Shack, 1212 Cranston Ave. Also, Walgreens in Beloit, 1901 Prairie Ave.; 1531 Madison Road; 910 Broad St. Walgreens in Janesville, 1717 Milton Ave., 1740 Center Ave., 2519 Kettering St., and 1933 W. Court St. Price is $11 per copy, or $10 plus $2 shipping if ordered from the P.O. Box.
From the July 25-31, 2012, issue