Eastlake family still hopes to find information in son's death after 9 years

EASTLAKE, Ohio - Eddie Vanatter's family knows he is gone, but they have no idea what happened to him or why.

His mother, Denise Shimrock, has spent almost a decade looking for answers.

"I will look for him, and I will fight for this until the day I die, and then when I'm gone, my daughter will. We'll never give up hope," said Shimrock.

Shimrock's only son went missing in 2003 and since then, she's been searching for Vanatter and for answers, reported ONN's Cristin Severance.

"It's torture, it's torture to not know," said Shimrock.

Vanatter, 32, was living in Eastlake and his family said that he was also doing drugs. They added that attempts to get him into rehab didn't work, so they decided on a "tough love" approach.

"To see someone you love deal with that, it's hard," said Michelle Thomas, Vanatter's sister.

Vanatter was living with a friend, John Caputo. Thomas said that the two weren't getting along.

"They got into an argument, and John called off of work. This is how everything happened," said Thomas.

"John called me and said him and Eddie got into a fight," added Shimrock.

Caputo claimed Vanatter left with a person named Mark. Shimrock asked who Mark was but John did not know. No one seemed to know.

His family did not hear from Vanatter for weeks and Caputo kept in close contact with them.

"He (Caputo) wanted to know about the investigation. He didn't seem to concerned about Eddie," said Shimrock.

When weeks turned into months, they knew something was terribly wrong and Vanatter's mother reported him missing in January 2004. She went to the Lake County Sheriff's Office and admitted he was on drugs. She said authorities did not try to locate her son.

Then the months turned into years without any sign of Vanatter, Severance reported.

"It was just tearing me up inside," said Shimrock.

Four years later, in 2007, the family got a call. It was not from Vanatter, but a man determined to find him.

Eastlake Det. Tom Doyle was on the case. Doyle had been working another investigation when an inmate brought up Vanatta's name.

"Somebody killed Eddie Vanatter. Go out and find out what happened to him," the inmate told Doyle. Doyle started working every lead.

"He's had the house checked, the garage checked with cadaver dogs. He's gotten John Caputo to take a polygraph test which he has failed miserably," said Shimrock.

Years would pass without any concrete evidence of Vanatter's disappearance. They said that Caputo, the last man to see Vanatter, wouldn't help.

"He said 'I never hurt anybody, I never did anything,'" said Thomas. Thomas said that Caputo told her that he was linked to her brother's case and it was not going to go away.

Things went quiet until Vanatter's family started seeing Caputo's photo in May 2012. His picture was in the newspaper as a suspect in five bank robberies.

Then, Caputo called Shirmrock and left a message on her machine. He again claimed that he did not harm her son and said he was going to "check out." Shimrock took that to mean he was thinking about killing himself.

Caputo did not commit suicide, but he did turn himself into Eastlake police.

Vannatter's family is hopeful he'll talk to police about their son, Severance reported.

"Well, he's robbed five banks and stole a car, I know he's going to prison for a long a time. To clear his conscious, it's go to play on his mind. It's got to bother him.," said Shimrock.

"I believe he knows and has some ideas as to what happened to this incident," said police detective Lt. Robert Gonzalez, who took over the case when Doyle retired. "Maybe now, with these bank robbery charges hanging over his head, he would hopefully bring this case to a close and assist this family with finding out what happened to their son."

But Caputo has refused to talk.

"I mean, I would like to bring some closure to them and some peace. And for him to be very antagonistic about it and not explain, it's difficult," added Shimrock.

Caputo also refused ONN's request to discuss the case. A jail official told ONN's Severance the Caputo said that he will not be talking about the case to anyone.

"I believe John knows what happened. He holds the key," said Shimrock.

Gonzalez said that the case is open and will remain open until they find Vanatter.

"You just don't let incidents like this slide or fade away," said Gonzalez.

His family has filed for his death certificate.

"I never thought I would have to bury my son. Parents don't think that but I don't even have my son to bury. I don't even have that. I have nothing," said Shimrock.

They know he's gone. They just want to know what happened to him and why.

Calls to Caputo's attorney were not returned to ONN-TV.

If you have any information about the disappearance of Eddie Vannatter call the Eastlake Police Department at 440- 951-1400

For more headlines from around the state, visit our news partners at www.onntv.com

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