Krista Sypher of Plover. (Contributed)

Five years later, Sypher case is one that ‘won’t ever go away’

By Brandi Makuski

On March 20, 2017, Jason Sypher walked into the Plover Police Department with his children and father-in-law to file a missing person report, telling Officer Jennifer Graham that he hadn’t heard from his wife, Krista, in seven days.

He would later tell police that Krista had “taken off” with her boyfriend the week prior, and came to the PPD only at the urging of Krista’s father, Richard Kellerman, Jr.

Jason Sypher told police he last saw his wife napping in their Hoffman Dr. home as he left to run some errands on March 13, 2017. The mother of three, who would be 49 years old today, wasn’t home when he returned, he told officers.

Plover police spent several weeks attempting to locate Krista, but quickly became convinced she met with foul play and engaged assistance from other law enforcement agencies across the county and state.

Investigators would spend the next 18 months building a case—interviewing Krista’s friends, family, and coworkers; searching the Sypher’s home, dozens of local camera feeds, local dumpsters, and a garage collection site in Mosinee; and a landfill in Wisconsin Rapids, looking for any clues about what happened to the popular educational assistant who worked at McDill Elementary.

During their search, police found video footage of Jason Sypher driving his wife’s Chevy Cruze in the days following her disappearance. Using the vehicle’s GPS system as a guide, police located several of Krista’s belongings, including clothing and her mangled iPhone, in dumpsters around Plover, and discovered video surveillance of Jason Sypher purchasing large, heavy-duty trash bags from a local home improvement store.

Video surveillance also surfaced from the Mosinee Transfer Facility where a batch of Plover garbage was being processed. According to the criminal complaint, a “long black plastic bag consistent with the size of a human body” was seen falling from a garbage truck several days prior. Brian Noel, then a detective at the Plover Police Department, explained later that by the time investigators had seen the video, the garbage had already been delivered to a Wisconsin Rapids landfill.

During a March 27, 2017 search of the home, Jason Sypher told officers that his wife took $30,000 in cash he’d hidden in a bedroom closet—money he said he was saving to purchase a new truck—as a likely source for funding her getaway. Krista’s Coach watch, something her children said she wore “all the time,” was found under the couple’s bed, along with the nose pad from a pair of her eyeglasses.

On March 28, Plover police searched the trash collected by Advanced Disposal from the Sypher home. Police recovered several of Krista’s belongings from the trash, including clothing and jewelry.

A garbage collector later told police when he arrived at the Sypher home to collect the trash on March 14, 2017, a large, store-bought garbage cart weighing “80-to-90 pounds” was placed out for pickup. Police did not find that garbage container at the home.

On March 31, a cadaver K9 unit from Madison was called to conduct a search of the home. The dog, which was trained to detect human remains, alerted in the Syphers’ bedroom, on freshly-laundered clothing in the washing machine, on a bathroom drain, and in Jason Sypher’s Ford F-150.

During multiple interviews with police, Jason Sypher and his children described a violent marriage dotted with infidelity, as did Krista’s friends, noting instances of physical abuse and threats with a kitchen knife. The couple had attended marriage counseling sessions, most recently about a month before Krista went missing.

A search of Jason Sypher’s cell phone yielded few clues, as he claimed to delete his phone logs regularly due to receiving “hundreds” of calls and texts daily for work. He later admitted he hadn’t worked since December of 2016.

Krista’s iPad was also searched for evidence, but its internet history had been deleted before it was turned over to the police.

Investigators also tracked down a former girlfriend of Jason Sypher’s, who claimed they had an ongoing affair between 2008-09 and recounted several instances of violence in their relationship. The woman claimed Jason Sypher sexually assaulted her, then threatened to kill her and bury her body so it could never be found.

During the investigation, a friend of Krista’s reported receiving texts from Krista the night before she went missing, indicating that Krista was angry with Jason Sypher and that she “could kill him,” and was considering moving out.

During one search of the home, police noted a large butcher knife was missing from a block in the family’s kitchen. Jason Sypher said he disposed of the knife sometime after an incident that occurred in January 2017, when he claims Krista swung the knife at him, and he cut his fingers trying to bat it away.

Wood Co. law enforcement assist Plover police with a search of the landfill in June 2017. (Courtesy Plover Police Department)

In June 2017, Plover police, in cooperation with Portage Co. deputies and police from Wisconsin Rapids, spent five days searching the Cranberry Creek Landfill in Wood Co. About 20 officers in hazmat suits searched for any evidence of Krista’s body.

Retired Plover Police Chief Dan Ault ultimately said while searching the landfill, officers were looking for any clues related to the case, but they were specifically looking for Krista’s body. In early 2022, Ault said he still believes it’s Krista’s final resting place, saying the investigation is one that “won’t ever go away, for me. I’ll remember Krista forever. I think everyone involved in the case will.”

Ault said during the investigation, he was in regular communication with Portage Co. District Attorney Louis Molepske, Jr., in determining whether there was enough evidence to file charges against Jason Sypher. Once they felt they could prove Krista Sypher was dead, Jason Sypher was arrested by the Wisconsin State Patrol while traveling south on I-39, about five miles north of the Illinois border.

He was ordered held on a $750,000 cash bond for charges of first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse.

With Portage Co. Circuit Court Judge Thomas Eagon presiding, the five-day trial included testimony from dozens of witnesses in November 2019. Jason Sypher’s defense attorney, Gary Kryshak, said the case against his client was “entirely circumstantial,” arguing there was “no body, no blood” to prove Krista was dead.

Though he showed no emotion during the trial and maintained his innocence throughout, Jason Sypher was convicted on both charges on Oct. 23, 2019. It took about 90 minutes for the eight-man, four-woman jury to reach a unanimous decision.

The case was prosecuted by Molepske and attorney Annie Jay, a special prosecutor from the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Office. It’s one of the few body-less homicide convictions secured in state history.

Jay said Jason Sypher deserved life in prison without the possibility of parole—not just for taking Krista’s life, but for his “massive coverup” by creating a narrative that made Krista look like she willingly abandoned her children.

“We’re here because the defendant did it,” Jay told the judge in 2019. “The defendant is being sentenced for obliterating the mother of these children from the face of this earth. He is being sentenced for the most serious crime there is.”

During the sentencing hearing, Krista’s father, Richard Kellerman, Jr., said his family was disappointed with the trial.

“I still believe my daughter is out there somewhere,” he said. “I have not seen any evidence to prove otherwise. I do not believe that my son-in-law did anything. I am asking for leniency from the court.”

For the murder, Jason Sypher was sentenced on Nov. 26, 2019, to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years. For hiding a corpse, he was given the maximum sentence of 10 years, which Eagon ordered be held concurrently to his life sentence.

Eagon said the State proved that Jason Sypher was “controlling and highly manipulative,” saying that Jason’s description of Krista’s personality was different from testimony provided by Krista’s friends and co-workers.

Eagon said the trial also showed that Jason manipulated the couple’s children into believing their mother had abandoned them, something he called “truly tragic.”

“Not only has he deprived Ms. Sypher of her life, but he has deprived her of her dignity, and that is something that cannot be compensated,” Eagan said during the sentencing hearing. “This crime is the most severe under Wisconsin law and calls for the most severe penalty. The jury has decided that he killed Krista Sypher and that it was intentional homicide. Aggravating that, if that wasn’t enough, was the fact that he hid her body from her friends and family…so they don’t know if she’s in a garbage pit, or in the woods somewhere.”

Eagon said Jason Sypher was a threat to the community, adding, “the community does need to be protected from this individual. The personality and manipulation rehabilitative needs can be addressed in a correctional setting to avoid further loss of life.”

“Friends took great joy in her friendship, she was a very energetic and creative person. She sounded like a fun person to be around,” Eagon said.