Real Name: Monika McKinney Rizzo
Nicknames: No Known Nicknames
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Date: May 1997
Details: Monika Rizzo, forty-four, was last seen alive on May 5, 1997, when she left the government office where she worked at in San Antonio, Texas without explanation. She left behind her purse but did not return. After eight days of unanswered phone calls, her boss finally reached her at home. She said that she was not feeling well and would be out the rest of the week. She said she would return to work the following Monday, May 19. However, she never returned to work. Her husband Leonard claimed that a few days later, he woke up and she was gone. He never reported her disappearance to the police.
On June 5, the San Antonio police received an anonymous call from a man who claimed that she had been murdered by Leonard and that her bones were in her backyard. Investigators arrived at the home about thirty minutes later, only to find Leonard having an apparent seizure. As Leonard was being taken to the hospital, police questioned his son. He said that he lived across town and had not seen his mother in over a week. Her clothes were still in the closet and her car was still parked in the driveway. In the backyard, investigators found only animal bones.
On July 5, 1997, the anonymous tipster called the police again, stating that Monika had been buried in the backyard. This time, he specifically stated that the remains were under a pile of tires in the yard. The police found a skull, several bone fragments, and a bag containing human flesh. Leonard had no explanation for the bones or his wife's disappearance. He claimed that someone was framing him.
However, evidence inside the Rizzo home disputed his claim. Police found potential evidence of a violent struggle: several sections of bashed or blood spattered drywall. Leonard claimed that he was emotional about his wife's disappearance and "beat up the house". Investigators discovered that Monika's co-workers had noticed prior to her disappearance that she had been losing weight and had bruises on her arms. In fact, they were so concerned about her, that they had contacted the police, asking to check on her. When an officer met with her, he noticed that she had bruises on her face. However, she claimed that she was fine and that she had just fell. Leonard claimed that he was not abusive.
Police brought in a team of archaeologists from the University of Texas to excavate the back yard. Any time they found a bone fragment or other type of evidence, they put down a orange pin flag. By the time they were done, the entire yard was covered with the flags. The archaeologists believed that the bones had been there for a few weeks. Bones were found in all parts of the yard, including the barbecue grill. Over eight days, more than 200 bone fragments were collected. Most of them had been chopped into pieces less than three inches long. A wood chipper or shredder was believed to have been used. Leonard claimed that he had never operated a wood chipper.
Surprisingly, investigators announced that they believed that the remains in the backyard belonged to four people. Even more surprising was that none of the remains belonged to Monika. Her husband Leonard had no explanation for the bones. Nobody knows what happened to Monika or whose bones were in the backyard, although some believe that Leonard was involved in his wife's disappearance.
Suspects: Leonard Rizzo is considered the prime suspect in Monika's disappearance and presumed death. An officer who went to the Rizzo home found evidence that he had abused her. Leonard never reported her missing. Also, investigators found bashed and blood spattered drywall in the home. Finally, investigators did not believe that Leonard would have not noticed the human remains that were scattered across his backyard.
Police also believe the anonymous caller may have been involved.
Extra Notes: This segment originally aired on the November 13, 1997 episode of Unsolved Mysteries.
Results: Unresolved. The anonymous caller was later identified as Robert Hakala, a family friend. Hakala was at the Rizzo home when he noticed a dog playing with a human jawbone. The jawbone had overlapping teeth like Monica. Realizing that the remains were probably hers, he called the police. He is not believed to be a suspect in the case.
DNA testing on the remains revealed that all bone fragments were those of Monika Rizzo, but there have been no arrests in this case. In 1998, a homicide detective stated that Leonard said the if he could get a ten-year probationary sentence for Monika's murder, he would confess. However, investigators were unable to make such a deal, so he refused to confess. Leonard claimed that he never made such a statement. Surprisingly, even after the DNA results, Leonard continued to claim that his wife was still alive.
Subsequently, in May 1999, Leonard arrested for attacking his girlfriend; he was shot and injured by police after a standoff. After his arrest, his girlfriend told police that Rizzo threatened to "kill her, chop her up, put her in a garbage bag and bury her,"
He was was convicted on four criminal counts, including assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, and drug possession. Authorities believe that Leonard was responsible for Monika's death but still do not have enough evidence to file charges.
- Monika Rizzo on Unsolved.com
- "The Raw Truth: The Monika Rizzo Case" by William A. McKinney
- Rizzo Bone Mystery 1
- Rizzo Bone Mystery 2
- Husband disputes offer in case of missing wife
- Girlfriend says Rizzo threatened to chop her up
- Rizzo says he only meant to hurt himself
- Slain woman's husband sentenced
- Man releases book about daughter's death
- SitcomsOnline Discussion of Monica's case
- Monika Rizzo at Find a Grave