Friday, 3 July 2020

Disappearance of Suzanne Lyall 1998


Suzanne Gloria Lyall was a 19-year-old student at UAlbany in the capital of New York. Born on April 6th, 1978 in Saratoga Springs, NY, Suzanne excelled at UAlbany as a computer science major. On the night of March 2, 1998, Suzanne left her job at Babbage's in Crossgates Mall and boarded a bus heading towards Collins Circle (an approximate 15-minute ride). She was last seen at the university’s bus stop and walking towards her dorm on Colonial Quad (area with the tower on the bottom right, closest to Collins Circle). Her parents notified the campus police of her disappearance after receiving a call of worry from Suzanne’s boyfriend, Richard Condon.

UAlbany Collins Circle and view of the living quads


Doug and Mary Lyall’s report of Suzanne’s disappearance was not officially investigated until two days after. Campus police tried explaining to the Lyalls that short absences were common for college students. Not only was crucial time wasted, but the campus neglected to inform state police of her disappearance as well. Suzanne’s parents gathered her bank transactions during the delay. The Charley Project says, “Her ATM card was used by an unidentified person on March 3, the day after her initial disappearance. The card was used at Stewart's Store on the corner of Manning Boulevard and Central Avenue in Albany, about two and a half miles from the SUNY-Albany campus. At approximately 4:00 p.m.; someone used it to withdraw $20 from the cash machine. The person who used the card, whether Lyall or someone else, has never been identified, but they did type in the correct PIN number on the first try”. On May 3rd, Suzanne’s work name tag was found in a visitor parking lot next to the Collins Circle bus stop. After two months of being exposed to the elements, the name tag was futile in retrieving forensic evidence.


Richard Condon

Notably, Suzanne’s boyfriend was under heavy suspicion for her disappearance. Although Condon was never officially named a suspect by police, numerous skeptics including Suzanne’s family still have suspicions. Although Condon lived ten minutes away from the UAlbany campus, he neglected to check on Suzanne after multiple missed calls. Mary Lyall stated, “her relationship with her boyfriend was unhealthy and she had repeatedly tried to break up with him, only to agree to continue their relationship when he became upset”. Condon refused to take a lie detector test and refused an interview without his lawyer present. Her cousin wrote in a 2018 Reddit post, “from what my family has told me, his friend who was his alibi had come forward and said something to the effect of the boyfriend told him to stay quiet, but at least my immediate family hasn't heard anything about that lead since”. Condon has adamantly remained silent and is now married.

Unknown Stalker

One of Suzanne’s coworkers at Babbage’s came forward during the investigation saying Suzanne confided in her about a stalker. Her coworker claimed that Suzanne did not seem afraid of her situation. No leads have come from this tip.

Israel Keyes

Keyes was a prolific serial killer that traveled the U.S. to commit his atrocities. In the late 80s until 2012, he killed, raped, and robbed. Due to his suicide in 2012, Keyes left behind the mystery of his connection to Suzanne Lyall. Notably, Keyes would take his victim’s credit cards along with their PIN number. He would have been knowledgeable of the Albany area, even serving at the army base there in July 1998. If Keyes was responsible for Suzanne’s disappearance, he would have been 20 at the time of 1998.

UAlbany’s negligence:

The town of Albany proposed a renovation plan in January but unfortunately wasn’t implemented until after Suzanne Lyall’s disappearance. One of these many repairs included Collins Circle, the last known place Suzanne was seen. She lived on Colonial Quad, which is a fairly short and safe walk from the CDTA bus stop. Contrastingly, dense trees and large unset up areas can be seen in pictures of Collins Circle pre-renovation. During my research of this case, I failed to see any mention of the campus repairs. Large scale construction was not only being done but continued after Suzanne’s disappearance. Crucial evidence may have been overlooked or destroyed.

Collins Circle pre-renovation

After Suzanne’s disappearance, her parents fervently advocated for stronger child disappearance regulations. At the time, the Amber Alert bill limited missing person cases to children under the age of 18. “Suzanne’s Law” also known as the “Campus Safety Act”, signed into law by George W. Bush in 2003 changed the child age restrictions from 18 to 21. The law also required universities and colleges to report missing person cases to the state police, as well as forming a detailed plan in case of disappearance. Though bills and legislations have been put into place, the accountability and protection by schools have been sub-par. In 2014, bill S2753B was given a final passage. The bill was meant to strengthen the Campus Safety Act by requiring campus police to notify law enforcement about felonies and disappearances no more than 24 hours after the initial report.

I have been a student at UAlbany since my freshman year. As an incoming senior that has lived on campus in the past, I am frustrated with the university’s negligence and lack of responsibility. The school not only lacked to inform state police but other students as well. The school is an open campus, as well as being significantly unlit at night. Lack of protection and initiative to keep all students safe is apparent in their silence about past cases. Suzanne Lyall’s disappearance catalyzed a shift in legal regulations and has gained recognition within the past couple of years, but the school fails to inform and recognize the disappearance of past students. Last summer in 2019, graduate to- be John Carlos Garcia- Mendez disappeared from his apartment downtown. He was later found dead in the East River near the Manhattan Bridge. I followed this case as much as I could through random news articles and social media, but students were never once informed by the school. Universities and colleges are meant to not only educate but protect their students as well.


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