On May 5, 1997, Monika Rizzo took a break from her job at the Dept. of Human Resources and never returned. Police received a tip that her bones were buried in the backyard. They searched and found bones, but they were not Monika's. Whose were they and where is Monika? A later search discovered more bones, including some that were Monika's. In all, nearly 300 fragments of human bones were found.
Plea bargain offer disputed in backyard bone case
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Nearly a year after human bones were found behind his home, the husband of a missing woman is disputing police claims that he offered information in the case in exchange for a lenient sentence.
Police homicide Sgt. Darrel Volz said Leonard Rizzo wanted to make a deal with investigators for a 10-year probated sentence after bones were found in his back yard beginning last July.
But Rizzo said detectives were the ones who suggested several possibilities of light sentences if he would confess to killing his wife Monika, who was last seen alive May 27, 1997.
Bone fragments found in Rizzo's yard were later identified through DNA testing as those of Monika Rizzo and three other people.
Rizzo has steadfastly maintained his innocence.
Monika Rizzo has not been declared dead because only a few of her bones were found, according to the DNA test results. But police said they believe foul play was involved in her disappearance.
A few months before she vanished, her co-workers said they noticed she was losing lots of weight and had bruises on her face and arms.
Volz said Rizzo offered to make a deal several times during a police interview July 5, 1997.
"He said if we can guarantee him 10 years probation without jail time, then he would tell us everything," Volz was quoted as saying in Friday's San Antonio Express-News.
"We said we can't make a deal. It's not within our powers," Volz said.
During the interview, Rizzo gave police a written statement in which he denied any involvement in his wife's disappearance.
An anonymous call to police had led them to find the chopped-up bones, hair and a skull in the Rizzos' backyard, which was overgrown with weeds and sunflowers.
Police found more than 200 to 300 pieces of evidence, including garbage bags of human remains; a backyard barbecue pit containing finger bones; an assortment of knives and gardening tools; a bench grinder; and a garbage disposal.
Rizzo has questioned the DNA results and maintains his belief that his wife is alive even though several leg bones were identified as Monika's.
Rizzo and both his sons, Leonard Jr., 23, and Vincent, 20, sent flowers to a memorial service held by Monika and Bill McKinney, Monika Rizzo's parents, last September.
The mysterious disappearance of Monika Rizzo has left her family and police with more questions than answers.
No arrests have been made in the case.
A composite sketch was drawn of another woman whose bone fragments were found, but that drawing has not yet yielded any information.