It could be argued that nothing is as heartbreaking as never knowing what happened to a loved one. Sadly, Suzanne Lyall’s parents and family have been faced with this reality every day since March 2, 1998, when their daughter never made it home from work. The Suzanne Lyall cold case is still on the minds of Albany law enforcement and the students at the Cold Case Analysis Center (CCAC), who hope to one day provide her parents with the answers they deserve.
Suzanne Lyall was only 19 years old when she disappeared from a location just down the road from The College of Saint Rose. Suzy, as she was known to friends and family, was last seen on March 2, 1998, riding the bus back to campus after her shift that night at the video game store Babbage’s. A witness reported seeing her get off the bus at the stop closest to her dorm, and her work name tag was found nearby two months later.
Whether she got off the bus or not, she never made it back to her room that night. Her roommates did not hear the usual jingling of her keys in the door, and her boyfriend did not receive the usual phone call letting him know that she had made it to her room safely.
The next morning, Lyall’s boyfriend notified her parents that he had not heard from her. Three days later, the authorities were notified, and a search began. Lyall was never found, and the New York State Police still have an open investigation on the Suzanne Lyall Albany disappearance to this day.
There is no evidence to indicate that Lyall ran away or otherwise disappeared voluntarily. Belongings that she used on a daily basis, such as her computer, were undisturbed in her dorm room, she did not leave a note, or tell anyone that she planned to go away.
Suzanne Lyall was a bright, intelligent young woman who was fascinated by computers and loved the band Rush. At the time of her disappearance, she was a student at SUNY Albany, where she was majoring in Computer Science. She worked part-time at the Babbage’s store in Crossgates Mall and was active in early online communities. She was — and still is — loved by many, which is why her case still hits so close to home more than two decades later.
The Cold Case
Although local authorities did what they could to find Lyall, every lead seemed to be a dead end. Her ATM card was used to withdraw $20 at a nearby Stewart’s location around 4 p.m. on March 3, 1998, the day after she disappeared, but Suzy was not seen by any witnesses. Witnesses also couldn’t provide a description or details about the individual who withdrew the money from her account, but it was reported that the individual entered the PIN number correctly on the first try. Lyall’s boyfriend admitted to the authorities that he believed they were the only two who knew her PIN.
In the years following Suzanne Lyall’s disappearance, her parents, Mary and Doug Lyall, began to lobby for changes on campus. They founded an organization called the Center for Hope, and their work brought about the Campus Safety Act, also known as Suzanne’s Law. This law requires New York state colleges and universities to be more prepared for similar emergencies and to report missing persons cases sooner. If Suzanne Lyall’s missing person report had been filed even a day earlier, additional evidence may have been found.
Her parents’ fight for justice later resulted in change at the national level. In 2003, the PROTECT Act was signed by President George Bush. It contains another version of “Suzanne’s Law,” which increased the age for children to be reported missing to the National Crime Information Center from 17 to 23 so college students like Lyall can be included.
How Cold Case Analysis Center Students are Helping
Students at CCAC are doing everything they can to gather more details about what may have happened to Lyall on that fateful night. Forensic students are diligently examining all the data on her computer, hoping to find an indication of what may have happened. Because she was an avid computer user and participant in online discussions, there is reason to hope that her computer may contain helpful information that is waiting to be uncovered.
Students plan to use the details they are able to find to get a better picture of Lyall’s life as a whole. This will help them understand her as a person and possibly clarify the circumstances that could have led to her disappearance.
Victim of a Serial Killer?
In a recent development, CCAC students have begun to look for a connection to the serial killer Israel Keyes, whom advisor Dr. Christopher Kunkle identified as a viable suspect in 2018. Keyes traveled across the country to commit his crimes and was known to have caches of weapons scattered across the country, including in a location approximately three hours north of Albany. There is reason to believe that Keyes was in the Albany area during the time of Lyall’s disappearance, based on information that the students gathered and that was corroborated by Josh Hallmark’s True Crime Bullshit podcast.
Prior to Keyes’s death in prison in 2012, he did not disclose any information about his victims or their whereabouts, with the exception of three. However, the True Crime Bullshit podcast noted that Lyall’s name was found on Israel Keyes’s computer, included in a list of other missing persons known as the NAMUS-44.
Through continued research and investigation, the students at CCAC are exploring all potential routes to uncover the truth about Suzanne Lyall’s disappearance. They continue to hope that this case will be solved, and they can provide her family, friends, and the Albany, NY community with answers after more than two decades of waiting.