Case of the Month: Suzanne A. Bombardier is written by guest blogger Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons.
UPDATE: on Jan 2, 2015 the award-winning magazine Salon featured this case and Jennifer’s story. The article included a link to this post. Please check below for more the updates.
In June 21, 1980 Suzanne (known to everyone as Suzie) Bombardier was babysitting her nieces at her sister’s apartment in Antioch, California.
It was the first night of summer. Suzie just finished eighth grade and was going to start her last year of junior high in the fall.
The San Francisco Examiner reported that Suzie talked to a friend until 1:30 in the morning while Saturday Night Live and Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert played in the background. She told her friend she was “really beat” then hung up.
Her sister Stephanie Mullen arrived at home around 4am after working a long shift. Normally when Suzie slept over, she spent the night on the couch. However, Suzie wasn’t on the couch. Figuring that she was with the girls, Stephanie headed to bed.
The next day, Stephanie noticed Suzie wasn’t there. Again, according to The Contra Costa Times, she wasn’t concerned. Suzie must have gotten up early and walked the mile back to her house where she lived with her mother Catherine and stepfather James Rutland. Then Catherine called. “Where’s Suzie?” she asked. She wasn’t home. It was then that Stephanie noticed Suzie’s suitcase was still in the living room, untouched.
The Antioch police was contacted. However, as the Examiner documented, they waited the customary twenty-four hours to start searching. In the meantime, James Rutland started his own search around the apartment building looking for clues until he was asked to stop by neighbors.
On Friday June 27th, a nude body was found in the nearby San Joaquin river. While waiting for confirmation, Catherine Rutland received in the mail Suzie’s report card. She received, the Contra Costa Times reported, straight A’s. Dental records provided by the family confirmed the body was indeed Suzie’s. She had been stabbed. The gold necklace she wore was missing.
Antioch police questioned several suspects including a boy named Terry. Terry, according to Suzie’s best friend Leesa Metznger, was a boy Susie was seeing. He was slightly older. He had an alibi which was checked out by the police. Other suspects were cleared as well.
Her funeral was on July 1st with her family and classmates attending. She was buried at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Lafayette, California. On her grave is her picture: a beautiful young woman with long blonde hair. Etched on the grave was the title of her favorite song: you’re in my heart.
Ten days after Suzie’s death, the Contra Costa Times reported there was a “blue flu” meaning police officers in Antioch called in sick. It is not known if this slowed down the investigation or not.
In November 1983, Angela Bugay was reported missing and found dead in a nearby field. Bugay lived a short distance away from the apartment where Susie’s sister lived. Years later, Larry Graham was arrested and convicted in 2006 in Angela’s murder. Graham killed himself in San Quentin in 2009.
Suzy was mentioned in a letter written by Timothy Binder, who offered his services to help the police find Angela. Years later, Binder was a person of interest in the disappearance of Amanda “Nikki” Campbell. He was later released. The case (along with other several other cold cases) were later profiled in the true crime book Stalemate by John Philpin.
Notes by AdS:
- There were no signs of struggle or forced entry at the Mullen home
- Suzanne died from one stab wound to the heart
- Police stated in the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, CA) from July 1, 1996 that they do still have evidence in this case.
- There are very few articles about Suzanne Bombardier online however, Jennifer found some on a public library fiche. They are from the San Francisco Examiner. Both Jennifer and I have approx 18 good photocopies.
UPDATE 1: SFGate journalist Kale Williams used this post in his slide show overview of several cold cases from the Bay area.
UPDATE 2: Apparently on picture day, Suzie was looking for a necklace to wear. Her sister Sharon gave her one of hers. That is the necklace Suzie wore for the picture. Afterwards, Suzie gave the necklace back to Sharon. Some family members thought that Suzie was wearing Sharon’s necklace the night she disappeared, but she wasn’t.
UPDATE 3: on Jan 2, 2015 the award-winning magazine Salon featured this case and Jennifer’s story. The article included a link to this post. Congratulations to Jennifer for being featured on Salon and thank you to Salon Magazine for adding my blog’s name and the link to this post. I appreciate that very much.
Jennifer Gibbons graduated from Mills College with a degree in English and a concentration in Young Adult Literature.
At Mills, Gibbons won the Marion Haworth prize for Young Adult/Children’s Literature. She has written for a variety of publications, from the San Francisco Chronicle to The Jonestown Report. Her love of books (and the Dewey decimal system) led her to work for the Contra Costa Library system for ten years. She is working on a novel and a book of essays, which would both be farther along if her cats, Ida B. and Opal Louise, weren’t such drama queens.
UPDATE: Jennifer was interviewed about Suzanne’s case and writing this guest blog post by J.C. Lillis. Read it here.
In the series “Case of the Month” I highlight an old cold case. These posts are never an in-depth analysis and of course, more information could be found online and in newspaper archives. The goal of these posts is to get the case back in the spotlights, to get people talking about it again, and if anything … to make sure that we do not forget the victims. Just because their cases are cold does not mean that we can close the book on them.
If you have any memories about Suzanne or thoughts about this case I encourage you to post them on your own social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, etc. Every time Suzanne gets mentioned online you enhance her digital footprint. We must make sure that she retains her web presence if we ever wish to find a solution in her case. You can help by linking to or sharing this post.