RICHMOND, Ind. - Nicholas Peter Zizzamia, a Villanova University senior who could not hide his sadness from the world, once told a pal he would someday vanish without a trace.
Nearly four decades after the 22-year-old music fan left his Cherry Hill home and never returned, a diligent township detective came to believe he'd finally tracked Zizzamia down, in the person of a "John Doe" who had slit his wrist in a Richmond motel room a week after the melancholy young man's May 12, 1979, disappearance.
On Monday, two years of intensive investigation and nine intense hours of work by 30 law enforcement and other personnel in a picturesque Indiana cemetery ended in frustration for Cherry Hill Detective Paul Hafner, New Jersey State Police Detective Erin Micciulla, Indiana State Police Sgt. Scott Jarvis, and the others determined to solve the haunting cold case.
The John Doe's body - whose description strongly matched Zizzamia's in height, weight, and hair and eye color - could not be found among the mostly unmarked and in some cases incorrectly marked plots in a 200-year-old graveyard where it had been laid to rest on June 25, 1979.
Officials said it was unlikely such a search would be attempted again, barring new information or evidence.
"It's extremely disappointing," said Hafner, a 22-year Cherry Hill police veteran, who began his quest two years ago after receiving a tip about the possible Indiana connection. The tip came from an official of the Doe Network in Indiana who put together local news accounts of the suicide with a 2014 article by this columnist on Zizzamia's disappearance.