(VNO) — Yesterday marked 28 years since Christopher and Lisa Mae Zaharias were abducted by their mother from their home in California. For their father, it marked the beginning of 29 years of pure hell.
Lisa Mae (left) and Christopher Zaharias (right), before they were abducted from their father in 1987. Photo: Lou Zaharias
On November 20, 1987, 28-year-old Susan Elizabeth Gammill Zaharias disappeared from Mission Viejo, California — along with her three-and-a-half year-old son, Christopher, and her 15-month-old daughter, Lisa. It is believed, as outlined in court documents spanning nearly three decades, that Susan Zaharias planned her disappearance, may have had financial assistance, and may have changed her identity – and those of her children.
For the last 28 years, the childrens’ father, Louis, has made it his sole mission to find them. Lou Zaharias has spent more than $1,000,000 in the search for his children. In doing so, his contributions have led to the recovery of other missing children. He has also helped write legislation impacting missing persons.
Yesterday, like every birthday, holiday, and anniversary, was emotionally draining for Lou Zaharias. From his home in California yesterday morning, through tears, Lou told Victims News Online, “I am sad. I am so, so, sad”.
While the abduction of Chris and Lisa Zaharias has usurped Lou’s life, he refuses to give up until the children – who are now adults – are found. It is feared Chris and Lisa Zaharias may have been raised being told their father was either abusive, deceased, or given other explanations for his absence.
However, none of those things are true. Lou Zaharias was not only cleared of any potential wrongdoing by police very early on in the investigation, but it was deemed Susan Elizabath Gammill Zaharias was a drug user who stole her children, plotted the kidnapping in advance, and most likely had assistance from friends and/or relatives to keep the children from their father.
Not one person in that family has shown mercy — not one person who helped cover this up has honored their oath — or told the truth about where my children are”, Lou told Victims News Online. “People have admitted to meeting with Susan and Christopher, and knew – and still know – where they are. It was just so cleverly and financially covered up, and all for the wrong reasons. Susan made the choice; Christopher and Lisa Mae didn’t make that choice. They were never given the choice to know me. Here I am living by the letter of the law – thinking, ‘truth, justice and the American way’ – and it’s blown my mind that I’ve been harmed by the system I believed in, seeing both sides of it. So much of this is dirty, and about money, pure and simple. I had to go out and make new laws, because they wouldn’t enforce the laws that were written. It hurts’.
Shortly after the three disappeared, several drug dealers came forward to law enforcement to testify that Susan Zaharias owed money to several people, which may have been one reason for her quick departure. It was also no secret to Lou — a man of Italian heritage – that Susan’s family did not approve of the marriage or Lou himself.
Multiple photos of Susan Elizabeth Gammill Zaharias, who is wanted for Felony Child Concealment in the abduction of her children, Chris and Lisa Mae Zaharias. Photo permissions: Lou Zaharias
At the time of the abduction, Mr. Zaharias had just completed law school, and was preparing to take the bar exam to become a full-fledged lawyer. It is believed Susan Zaharias feared not only retribution from drug dealers, but that her husband’s standing as a lawyer would afford him the credibility needed to gain sole custody of the children, if he learned of his wife’s drug habit.
Over the past 28 years, his childrens’ case has been assigned to 18 different police officers, 15 different childrens’ groups, and 10 private investigators – none of which led to a resolution. In July 2015, a new investigative team was brought in at the request of Lou Zaharias, to bring fresh eyes to the case.
Today, under the direction of Klein Investigations/KIC Texas – with Victims News Online assigned as the advocate organization — progress is being made. However, the public’s help is still needed in order to close this case once and for all, and to reunite Lou Zaharias with Chris and Lisa Mae.
On this anniversary of the missing Zaharias children we would again like to pledge our 100% support to bring this case to a close and bring the answers to a man that has been missing his children for many years”, said Philip Klein, TPLI, Personal Protection Officer, CEO, Klein Investigations and Consulting.
A felony extradition warrant for Crimes Against Persons was issued for Susan Elizabeth Zaharias on February 17, 1988, and remains active to this day.
Warrant #03001158 – which is currently listed as “active” by the Harbor Justice Center – Newport Beach, California – lists a felony charge of CHILD CONCEALMENT for Susan Elizabeth Zaharias. If located, Susan Zaharias is required to make a mandatory court appearance, with bond set at $250,000.
Kidnapping is not a normal part of life, to tear a parent away from their kids”, Lou Zaharias said. “Susan has caused an avalanche of problems since 1987, but taking my children from me was, by far, the worst”.
The thing that bothers me the most is that Susan never took any accountability for the things she did wrong: for example, her owning up to the over $6,000+ in felony check fraud to the extent that she was wanted by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. It would have been the honorable thing to do. She should have done that for the sake of the kids. I think the greatest punishment that should happen to Sue is to have to deal with the DA’s, lawyers, police, judges, etc., that I’ve had to deal with – in three states – to see what she threw at the entire family. It’s sad, and so unnecessary. I was married to her for life; there was never anyone else”.
Age progressions provided by The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children show what Chris (now 31), Lisa Mae (now 29), and Susan (now 55) may look like today. A full-length article provided by our team in July of this year provides more in-depth information that may spark recognition from either Chris or Lisa, or from someone who knows them.
Photo and age progressions courtesy of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)
Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of missing Christopher Louis and/or Lisa Mae Zaharias may contact Klein Investigations at 409-729-8798 X3, or through their website. You may also contact Investigator Thomas Finley at (714) 834-3600, leave a message on the Help Find the Zaharias Children Facebook page, or call the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST (843-5678).
It is possible Chris and/or Lisa could be in Pennsylvania, California, or Oklahoma, or outside the United States. It is strongly believed several people know the whereabouts of Chris, Lisa and Susan Zaharias.
Additional coverage of the Zaharias case from our team may be found here.