Body, suspect found 4 years after mother went missing

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KDVR) — Four years after a Grand Junction mother went missing, her suspected killer has been arrested.

In 2018, 82-year-old Sylvia Frens of Grand Junction was reported missing by concerned family members.

According to detectives, initial investigations found evidence that Frens’ son, Richard Vandervelde, had been living with her at the time of her disappearance and had been using her debit card for four months in 2018.

Transactions were found in Grand Junction all the way to Charleston, South Carolina. Vandervelde also took over $10,000 of cash from Frens’ bank account as well as her car.

A search warrant was conducted at Sylvia’s home and detectives found other items of evidentiary value.

On June 5, 2018, Vandervelde was pulled over for a traffic stop in Colombia, Missouri. He was taken into custody for traffic violations after falsifying his identity. Detectives from Grand Junction traveled to Missouri to speak with Vandervelde about his mother’s disappearance.

Vandervelde told detectives Frens had traveled to California with a friend in April but did not explain when she had planned to return back to Colorado. He also explained that Frens gave him permission to use her credit cards.

According to police, through the initial interview, detectives were not able to produce fresh leads.

Through the investigation, Fren was not found to have established residency or posted on social media leading to her whereabouts.

Detectives determined based on the evidence that the inevitable conclusion came down to Frens being dead. Although, the investigation would continue on for three more years.

In March of 2022, detectives obtained permission to visit Frens’ old residence once again. It is there they discovered human remains located on the property and confirmed they were Frens.

An autopsy showed she was killed with blunt force trauma to the head and ruled her death a homicide.

Charges against Vandervelde

An arrest warrant was issued for Vandervelde for the following:

  • Murder in the First Degree (F1)  
  • Tampering with a Deceased Human Body (F3) 
  • Crimes Against at Risk Adult (F3) 
  • Fraud-Identity Theft (F4) 
  • Theft $5,000-$20,000 (F5) 
  • Motor Vehicle Theft (F5) 
  • Abuse of a Corpse (M2) 

Vandervelde was found in Florida and arrested on May 19. He was extradited back to Mesa County and awaits arraignment.


Source: Grand Junction Local News | Body, suspect found 4 years after mother went missing