Stephanie McNeil wants more than anything to know what happened to her brother on that night he vanished without a trace more than four years ago.
She also wouldn’t mind finding out what the DuPage County Sheriff’s Office has been up to for all this time while supposedly investigating the disappearance of her brother, St. Charles businessman John Spira.
The Sheriff’s Office is refusing to tell McNeil, and is stonewalling her by claiming the case is active and open.
But is it?
Spira’s wife, Suzanne Spira, whom McNeil long suspected knew more about her brother’s disappearance than she was letting on, died in October. If the police had any idea of Suzanne Spira's passing, they did not share this information with McNeil or her family. But since they share no information with McNeil, she said she was not surprised.
In the four years following Spira’s disappearance from the cable construction company he co-owned, McNeil said the police have not tried to elicit any clues from anyone in her family.
“Not one time did they call me,” said McNeil, who grew up in Winnetka and now lives in Phoenix. “They returned my phone calls occasionally.”
Next of kin
Curiously, for an agency actively investigating the case of a missing adult whose family fears he was slain, the DuPage County police have only grudgingly spoken with his sister, never interviewed his brother, and waited two years before questioning either his girlfriend or best friend. And even then, those efforts were only made when the police learned the Discovery Channel was producing an hour-long show on the case, according to Spira's friends and family.
“I said, ‘Now you’re investigating me because of the Discovery Channel show,'" recalled Spira’s best friend, Jim Emma.
The DuPage County detective who contacted Emma denied this, Emma said, but was concerned enough about the television program that he asked him not to mention anything about one of Spira’s business associates during the broadcast.
Emma obliged the cop’s request, but still spoke his mind.
“I told (the television producers) it was disgusting the way the police handled things,” Emma said. “I slammed the police, and I’m not a police-slamming guy.”
Spira’s girlfriend, Renata Bielskis, also said the DuPage County cops had little interest in hearing what she knew, even though she called them repeatedly in hopes of providing some insight about Spira’s last days before he disappeared and the details of his personal life.
Bielskis said detectives told her "they had no obligation to talk to me.”
“They were only doing it as a courtesy," she said. "The only person they were obligated to talk to was John’s wife, because she was the next-of-kin.”
McNeil said DuPage detectives gave her the same line.
“We don’t really mind talking to you but the only person we’re required to talk to is Suzanne,” McNeil said a detective informed her.
“That’s like saying, 'The only person we have to talk to in the Stacy Peterson case is Drew,'” she said, referencing the high-profile investigation of missing Bolingbrook mother Stacy Peterson, whose husband, Drew Peterson, was named the sole suspect in her disappearance by the state police.
The Petersons’ marriage was reportedly deteriorating before Stacy vanished. The Spiras were in the midst of an acrimonious divorce, but still living in the same house, when John Spira disappeared.
McNeil said her brother was also on the outs with his business partner, David Stubben. Spira borrowed a large sum of money from the cable construction company he owned with Stubben, McNeil said, and his partner was “upset” and “angry” about it.
Stubben has failed to respond to messages left on his cell phone and at his home over the last month.
The business office Spira and Stubben shared burned down within a year of Spira’s disappearance. The DuPage County police will not share information on their investigation of the fire with McNeil either.
Strangely, the two people possibly bearing the most ill will toward Spira at the time of his disappearance—his estranged wife and his reputedly angry business partner—were the same pair police primarily relied on for information and direction, McNeil said.
She said a detective told her “John’s done this (disappeared) before, and we’re done" investigating.
McNeil, who says her brother was in constant contact with his family throughout his life, asked the detective where he got this information. He told her he learned it from Suzanne Spira and Stubben, she said.
“You’re kidding me,” she remembers telling the detective. “It’s infuriating.”
Bielskis also recalled the dissatisfaction she felt in her dealings with the DuPage County cops. At one point, she said, they asked her to submit to a lie detector test. She agreed and arrived at the DuPage County Sheriff’s Office on the scheduled day only to be told the detective she had made arrangements with was not there.
The next day, she found out why the test was canceled.
"They couldn’t get Suzanne or Dave to agree to a lie detector test so they never called the lie detector guy in,” said Bielskis.
But later, when the Discovery Channel was working on its Spira show, the DuPage cops suddenly got a lot more interested in what she had to say.
“When they rang my doorbell and showed up at my door was right about the time I got a phone call they were doing a TV show,” Bielskis said. “The TV station must have called them first.”
Detectives interviewed Bielskis in early 2009 and, despite the case being open and active, have not talked to her since.
“I just remember a lot of frustration,” she said. “If I left a message, there were no return phone calls.”
Dawn Domrose, spokeswoman for the DuPage County Sheriff's Office, failed to return calls for comment.
The television show that coincided with the DuPage County police’s renewed interest in the case also featured a member of the department. Cmdr. Mark Edwalds appeared on the program and said his department was investigating the case as a willful disappearance “until there’s evidence that points us to another theory.”
McNeil considers Edwalds' attitude an insult to her brother.
“Stop blaming John for his disappearance,” she said. “Call this at the very least foul play, or better yet a homicide.”
In April, McNeil cited the Illinois Freedom of Information Act in asking the DuPage County Sheriff’s Office to open their files on her brother’s case. The Sheriff's Office denied McNeil's request. She is currently appealing to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.
More so than seeing the files, McNeil wants the DuPage County police to show her they are doing something, anything, with her brother’s case.
“Prove to me that you’re actually investigating this, and if you can’t do that, give me the documents I requested through my Freedom of Information Act request so I can investigate this on my own,” she said. “Don’t lie to me and tell me you’re investigating it and blow me off.”