One year later, family continues to fight for answers in murder of Susan Ledyard

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By Andrea Cavallier

It’s been one year since 50-year-old high school teacher Susan Morrissey Ledyard was murdered, and her family tells Dateline they feel they are no closer to finding out what happened.

“We’re utterly bewildered that we’ve reached the one-year mark without any answers,” Susan’s sister, Meg Morrissey Heinicke said. “It’s crushing.”

But Meg says that their family hasn’t given up hope and continue to push for Susan’s case to be solved.

Susan LedyardCourtesy of Morrissey Family

A week before the one-year anniversary of Susan’s murder, the Delaware State Police issued a press release seeking assistance from the public and urging anyone with information about the 2019 case to come forward.

“So much time has passed without any solid leads or evidence,” Meg said. “The one thing that could possibly change everything is someone coming forward with information. Even if it’s something minor. It could help.”

Susan’s body was found at 7:39 a.m. on July 23, 2019, in the Brandywine River near Northeast Boulevard in Wilmington, Delaware, according to the Delaware State Police.

Her car, a black 2016 Honda Civic, was found parked on Walkers Mill Road, approximately three miles upstream from where her body was discovered. Susan’s purse and phone were inside. Detectives do not believe Susan entered the river where her car was parked.

An autopsy conducted by the Division of Forensic Science ruled Susan’s cause of death to be blunt force trauma and drowning. On November 14, nearly four months after Susan’s body was found, authorities ruled her death a homicide.

Susan Ledyard and her sister, Meg Morrissey Heinicke, just three weeks before Susan's death.Courtesy of Morrissey Family

Susan’s family previously told Dateline they were shocked, as many believed her death may have been a tragic accident.

“I did not think it was suicide, but it was inconceivable to think that there was any foul play,” Meg told Dateline in November. “At first it just seemed like a horrible accident. The thought that someone killed my sister just never even crossed my mind.”

Investigators with the Delaware State Police told Dateline they were able to collect video surveillance footage from several locations in the area where Susan’s car was found, and, using that video and her cell phone records, they were able to create a partial timeline of her activities.

They were able to determine that Susan was active on her cell phone throughout the night, texting and calling friends up until 2:45 a.m. They added that there was nothing alarming about the texts sent from, or received by, her phone.

“It wasn’t unusual for Susan to be up late,” Susan’s sister, Missy Morrissey told Dateline. “Especially during the summer. She was a teacher. So, summer meant she could stay up.”

Susan and her husband, Ben Ledyard.Courtesy of Ben Ledyard.

Susan’s husband, Ben Ledyard, previously told Dateline he had gone to see a movie with a friend around 8 p.m. on Monday, July 22, 2019. When he got home, he said Susan was on the back porch texting on her phone. He added that he went to bed at 11 p.m. and said he never saw her again after that.

Susan’s sister Missy previously told Dateline the two stayed up texting late that night. On July 23, Missy’s last text to Susan was around 12:29 a.m.

“That was it,” Missy said. “That was my last communication with my sister.”

Over the next several days and weeks, investigators put together a timeline to help figure out what Susan was doing in the moments leading up to her death.

Investigators confirmed that at 3:02 a.m., Susan’s car pulled out of her driveway on Riverview Avenue and turned left onto northbound Pennsylvania Avenue. Approximately two minutes later, her car parked on Walkers Mill Road and the headlights turned off. Based on the elapsed time, investigators say they believe the car was driven directly from thehouse to the location where the car was found, about a mile away.

That’s when the timeline ends.

Investigators previously told Dateline they had not been able to account for the 4-hour time span between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m., but said they now believe she was active during that time.

Susan’s sister Meg told Dateline that Susan wore a Fitbit which recorded her pulse during that span of time -- until approximately 7 a.m.

Just half an hour later, a construction worker who was on a job site at the Brandywine River spotted Susan’s body in the water, according to Delaware State Police Detective Daniel Grassi.

Detectives said the whereabouts of Susan between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. on July 23 are still unknown and have requested the public’s assistance for information on her actions during that time frame, as well as any information that will lead to the identification of her killer.

Susan Ledyard and her best friend, Megan DohertyCourtesy of Morrissey Family

For a full year now, the community has rallied behind Susan’s family to find out what happened to the beloved teacher on July 23.

Fliers that ask “Did you see Susan” and “What happened to Susan” are plastered all over Wilmington and surrounding towns.

Meg, who lives in San Francisco, said the friends she speaks to in Wilmington, are baffled that Susan’s case remains unsolved.

“They’re terrified that a killer is in their midst and no arrests have been made,” Meg said.

What happened to Susan in the early hours of July 23, 2019 remains a mystery, but her family says they won’t give up until they have answers.

“It’s a tough case and we realize that,” Meg told Dateline. “But we hoped there would be some sort of progress by now.”

Meg said the case is now being handled by both the Delaware State Police Homicide Unit and the Delaware Attorney General’s Office.

Delaware Attorney General’s Office released the following statement to Dateline.

"Our prosecutors continue to work with the Delaware State Police to advance the investigation. We are encouraging anyone with information related to this case to please contact the Delaware State Police."

Detective Grassi spoke to Dateline this week and said police are doing everything they can to solve Susan's case. He added there are no new updates to be released at this time.

"We hope this push for someone to come forward will bring in the information we need to solve her case," Det. Grassi said. "We want to do everything we can to get closure for her family."

The family continues to receive monthly updates from the teams, but adds there is little to no information.

“Our family would like closure,” Meg said. “We especially want this for our parents. My mother turned 84 years old on Saturday. And this is a nightmare for her. It’s heartbreaking.”

Meg, her siblings, her parents and all their grandchildren, recently gathered at their beach house in Stone Harbor, N.J., where they often spend time as a family. They celebrated their mother’s 84th birthday and cherished being together after a months-long quarantine.

“Susan should be here. This was her favorite place,” Meg said. “She didn’t deserve this. I would never say we’ve lost hope, but it’s getting harder every day. The best thing we can do is keep telling her story.”

Anyone with information about Susan Ledyard’s case is urged to contact Detective Daniel Grassi at (302) 365-8441 or Detective Amy Lloyd at (302) 365-8411. Information may also be provided by calling Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1-800-TIP-3333, at www.tipsubmit.com, or by sending an anonymous tip by text to 274637 (CRIMES) using the keyword “DSP.”