Pa. School Teacher Was Found Dead in River 1 Year Ago 3 Miles from Car — and Family Wants Answers
Susan Ledyard, 50, was a night owl. It wasn’t out of the ordinary for the popular school teacher to be on the phone late at night or to go for a walk with her dog when school was out for the summer.
The early morning hours of July 23, 2019, seemed to be no different.
Her husband, Ben, later told Dateline that he had gone to a movie earlier that evening with a friend. When he returned home, he saw Ledyard around 11 p.m. on the back porch drinking wine and texting.
Ledyard's older sister Missy Morrissey says she texted with her sister that evening.
"I can tell you that her texts were perfectly plain," she tells PEOPLE. "Nothing significant about them."
Morrissey says they were texting about a Facebook friend of Ledyard’s and one of her former roommates who she thought may have recently appeared on the news.
“She had been messaging us all day,” she says. ”Does this look like my former roommate?"
Her last text to her sister was at 12:29 a.m.
Ledyard, who taught English at Academy Park High School in Sharon Hill, Pa., texted and called friends up till 2:47 a.m. in the early morning hours.
The subsequent four hours remain a mystery.
Delaware State Police said Ledyard's car left her Wilmington home just after 3 a.m. and drove about a mile to Walkers Mill Road, where she parked near the Rising Sun Road bridge over the Brandywine River. Video footage shows Ledyard’s headlights turn off. Police said because it was so dark out, they couldn’t determine if anyone got into or out of her black 2016 Honda Civic.
Ledyard’s body was found around 7:30 a.m. in the Brandywine River, about three miles from where her car was parked.
She died from drowning and blunt force trauma. Her death has been ruled a homicide.
“We thought it was some sort of an accident,” Ledyard’s younger sister Meg Heinicke tells PEOPLE. “Who would want to kill her? Nobody would. The police had to convince us that this was not an accident. It just seemed so outrageous and impossible to believe.”
One year later, her death still remains unsolved.
Found 3 Miles Downstream From Her Car
Heinicke says her sister was “a pretty normal person with a normal professional life and a normal personal life.”
“She had plans to get a kitten,” she says. “She loved animals. They had a dog. They were going to see the Rolling Stones the following night.”
Based on the Fitbit she was wearing, police and family members know Ledyard was alive between the hours of 3 and 7 a.m.
“They know how many steps she took, but they also know she had a pulse,” says Heinicke. “She had a heart rate up until seven.”
Heinicke says the steps added up to less than a mile.
“In other words, if her body is three miles from her car, she didn't walk that far," she says. "And how far she traveled in the river of course, we don't know, but the steps didn't add up to three miles or even close to three miles.”
Police don’t know where she entered the Brandywine River, Delaware State Police detective Dan Grassi tells PEOPLE. Because the river had a lot of obstructions, they don't believe she entered it from where her car was parked and floated the three miles to where her car was found.
On July 23, the anniversary of the discovery of her body, family members are planning to visit the location of where her car was found, and also visit where she was found.
“It'll be sort of as a way to honor her on the 23rd, it's a pretty big marker of a day,” says Heinicke. “She was such a wonderful person and so loved, and for this to have happened to her and nobody is being held accountable ... it's just this terrible waiting game, is incredibly, incredibly difficult.
"We just want closure for the family, we want justice. She deserves a lot better, an ally, and we are a hundred percent committed to keep talking, keep pressuring, shouting it from the rooftops at every opportunity.”
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Police say they are still hopeful her case will be solved.
“Like any unsolved case, there's some frustration there, but I think we are going to solve it,” Grassi says.
Anyone with information about Ledyard’s murder is asked to call the homicide unit at Delaware State Police at 302-365-8441 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-Crime Stoppers.