Son charged with mom’s murder after her remains were found 4 years after she disappeared

A man is facing murder charges in the death of his mother, who has been missing for four years. (KKCO, MESA COUNTY JAIL, CNN)
Published: Jun. 10, 2022 at 1:48 PM EDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO/Gray News) – A Colorado woman who had been missing for four years was found dead in a trash bag inside a manhole at her home, investigators said.

Her son has been charged with first-degree murder.

In 2018, Sylvia Frens’ daughter reported her missing. According to court documents, detectives went to Frens’ home and discovered a foul odor in the bedroom and a brown stain that covered most of the floor. The stain was tested for blood, but the results came back negative.

But investigators also found that Frens’ son Richard Vandervelde used her debit cards and took more than $10,000 in cash from her bank account.

The following month, prosecutors claim Vandervelde lied about his identity when pulled over in Missouri. Grand Junction Police Department detectives traveled to Missouri and asked him about his mother’s disappearance. He claimed she went to California with a friend.

Years passed with no sign of Frens. Then, on April 26, 2022, the current owner of Frens’ house reported a trash bag inside a manhole. Court records describe the hole as 6 feet deep. Detectives thought they saw an animal leg and later believed they found human remains.

DNA tests confirmed the remains were that of Frens. An autopsy said she died from blows to the head.

Police found Vandervelde in Florida and arrested him May 29.

Vandervelde is charged with first-degree murder, tampering with a deceased human body, crimes against at-risk adult, fraud-identity theft, theft of $5,000-$20,000, motor vehicle theft, and abuse of a corpse.

Vandervelde was extradited back to Colorado and is being held on a $1 million bond at the Mesa County Detention Facility. He is due in court June 21.

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