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Former boyfriend arrested 27 years after mother of two goes missing

Los Angeles Times logo Los Angeles Times 8/20/2019 Alex Wigglesworth
a person posing for the camera: Tracy Zandstra (left) and Richard Pyle. © Butte County Sheriff's Office Tracy Zandstra (left) and Richard Pyle.

The former boyfriend of a young mother who disappeared 27 years ago in Northern California has been arrested in connection with the cold case, authorities said.

Richard Pyle, 55, who was described by deputies as a transient, was taken into custody in Stockton on Thursday, according to a news release from the Butte County Sheriff's Office.

Pyle lived with Tracy Zandstra in November 1991, when the then-29-year-old disappeared from the home they shared in Stirling City, authorities said.

Zandstra's body was never found, but detectives have uncovered evidence indicating she had been killed and her body disposed of, sheriff's officials said. A Sheriff's Office spokeswoman, however, declined to say what that evidence was.

"She was a mother of two young children," Megan McMann, the spokeswoman, said of Zandstra. "We didn't think that a mother would just up and leave."

Zandstra also left behind her purse and other belongings, McMann said.

Detectives have continued to investigate the case over the years and last week worked with the district attorney's office to obtain an arrest warrant for Pyle, sheriff's officials said.

"I am proud of the persistent determination of the many detectives and investigators who have worked throughout the years to bring justice to Tracy and closure to her family," Sheriff Kory Honea said in a statement.

Pyle has been charged with murder in the Zandstra case, with enhancements for using a firearm during the commission of the crime and for prior felony convictions, court records show. He is a registered sex offender with a prior conviction of annoying or molesting a child under 18, according to the state's Megan's Law database.

Pyle is being held at the Butte County Jail in lieu of $1-million bail and is due in court Thursday to enter a plea.

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