NBC’s ‘Dateline: The Case of the Girl Who Never Came Home’ chronicles how Cindy Zarzycki, 13, disappeared while sneaking out of her East Detroit, Michigan, home behind her father’s back in late April 1986. She remained missing for over two decades until the authorities discovered her remains buried in a Macomb Township property. If you’re interested in learning more about the case, including the perpetrator’s identity, we’ve you covered. Let’s begin then, shall we?
How Did Cindy Zarzycki Die?
Cynthia Jocelyn “Cindy” Zarzycki was born to Ed and Alice Zarzycki in Michigan on June 8, 1972. Her older sister, Connie Johnson, recalled how much Cindy loved the songs of Cyndi Lauper, Motley Crue, and especially Madonna. She recounted, “We had a song. I still remember every move to this day. Madonna’s “Borderline.” Cindy and I would dance to that song over and over.” Like most kids growing up in the blue-collar Detroit suburb of East Detroit in the middle 80s, Cindy did not live in a big universe.
The show noted how the borders of the teenage girl were home, school, church, and the mall for movies, meeting boys, and messing around. Cindy’s kid brother, Eddie Jr., reminisced about the rundown ballfields for softball games, a Zarzycki family passion, and the friendly Dairy Queen down the street after the sweaty matches. The siblings lovingly recalled how their sister enjoyed vanilla-swirled ice cream cones with sprinkles. During the early 1986 spring, Cindy, then 13, played first base and batted clean-up for her church softball team.
Her father, Ed, lovingly recalled how his teenage daughter had requested him to help coach the team in the upcoming season. Having divorced their biological mother, Ed, a school custodian, experienced difficulty raising his son and two daughters and welcomed the new softball connection between him and Cindy. He said, “It was kinda exciting because it was something that, as a father, I could connect with her.” He reminisced about her exuberant enthusiasm and beam Cindy had after each game and her singing during a family camping trip.
Eddie Jr. laughed as he remembered how his sister had “discovered boys” in the last couple of years and returned home after school with diaries full of boy names. The most recurrent name was one Scott — someone she met in the mall while purchasing matching white boots with her best friend, Theresa Olechowski. She recalled how they started chatting with Scott and his friends and discovered they had a lot of common interests. Cindy’s friend, Cathy Bouford, recounted how Cindy had a “puppy love” for the teenage boy, a sort of infatuation.
However, Cindy landed in trouble with her father in early April 1986 after disobeying him and walking 7 miles home from the Macomb Mall. He grounded her, requiring her to come home immediately after school, and she kept crying about how he would meet Scott. On April 19, 1986, she fled to Cathy’s home and struck up a plan over the phone about meeting Scott’s father the next day and getting a ride to a surprise birthday party he had planned for his son. The infatuated 13-year-old strode to the Dairy Queen on April 20 and vanished.
Who Killed Cindy Zarzycki?
When Cindy initially vanished, the authorities treated her as a runaway since her remains were not located. They zeroed in on Scott’s father, Arthur Nelson Ream, as a person of interest after learning he was a convicted pedophile and sex offender. The police also discovered Arthur had lied about the birthday party since Scott’s birthday was in April, and the teenager was in Texas then anyway. By 2007 end, the investigators had heard the stories from Cindy’s girlfriends about how the teenager planned to meet Arthur the Sunday she disappeared.
Arthur was serving a 15-year sentence for raping a girl, then 15, for whom he served as legal guardian. The police also learned his history of abusing four former spouses and raping minor girls. They executed a search warrant and recovered an old “Have-You-Seen-Me” picture of Cindy from a keepsake box in his carpet warehouse. Having served almost the entirety of his sentence, the convict was scheduled to be released on parole after Christmas 2007. The detectives executed an immediate arrest warrant and took him into custody on January 8, 2008.
The detectives recalled Arthur’s “eerie lack of reaction” after being charged with first and second-degree murder of a 13-year-old girl. They questioned him for hours, using various interrogative methods, but were unable to extract any information. The show noted how he enjoyed playing mind games with the investigators, enjoying how he “controlled the situation,” teasing them with tidbits but never divulging complete information. During his 2008 trial, Arthur maintained his innocence but concocted a story about how Cindy might have died.
According to court testimony, the convict claimed he met Cindy at the Dairy Queen on 9 Mile Road and drove her to his office. While Cindy and Scott hung out, she slipped on some carpet and allegedly fell an open elevator shaft to her death. He stated he blamed himself for her death because he had wired the freight elevator shaft to avoid lifting it up and down constantly. He said, “If the gate had been down where it was supposed to be, she would have never fallen.” Arthur claimed his panicked son called him, and he buried the body in Macomb Township.
However, the jury refused to believe his story, convicted him of first-degree murder, and sentenced him to life without parole. Just before the sentencing, Arthur had a change of heart and divulged to the authorities where he had buried Cindy’s remains. The detectives dug up Arthur’s property near the intersection of 23 Mile and North Avenue in Macomb Township and found the 13-year-old’s skeletal remains 22 years after she had vanished. Her exact cause of death could not be determined.