Two years ago, on July 18, Sylviane Finck Lozada was reported missing after nearly two weeks of family members in Belgium as well as friends in the Baton Rouge area having no communication with her.
Lozada, a teacher of 14 years at Brusly High School in foreign languages and English, had become a fixture in the Brusly school, and was named regional teacher of the year in 2001.
“She was one of those teachers that was always on you and was tough, and students griped and complained, but when it’s all said and done, when you look back, you’re like ‘yeah, she was doing that to make us the best students possible,’” said Walt Lemoine, Brusly High School Principal, in a telephone interview Monday afternoon. “She was one of those teachers that [students] respected her more after they’d had her.”
Reports in the West Side Journal in July and August 2011 stated that Lozada spoke daily with her family in Belgium before being reported missing. The last known date anyone had contact with her was July 5, 2011.
“We wake up, we see July 5 on the calendar, we think about it. But no need to have this sad anniversary to think about it. We think about it everyday,” said Georges Finck, Lozada’s brother who lives in Belgium.
After two years, the hope many maintained that Lozada would be found alive has faded – and many believe that the case’s clues point directly to Sylviane’s husband, Oscar Lozada.
“To me it’s pretty obvious that her husband had something to do with it. There he is in Venezuela with their little girl and has never come back. They can’t get to him. To me, that’s your answer right there,” Lemoine considered aloud. “So until they can get to him, I don’t think we’ll ever know anything unless somebody would just stumble upon how she was killed.”
Reports in Baton Rouge’s the Advocate newspaper, as well as the West Side Journal, state that detectives found a receipt from Lowe’s in Oscar Lozada’s vehicle showing that he purchased several five-gallon buckets and bags of concrete mix – buckets and concrete which were never recovered by detectives.
East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office employees confirmed that Oscar Lozada purchased two round-trip tickets to Venezuela for him and the couple’s daughter, Angelina, who was 6-years-old at the time.
An August 2011 report by the West Side Journal stated, “Oscar and daughter, Angelina, boarded a plane to Venezuela on July 9 and were scheduled to return to the U.S. on July 14, but did not return.”
The two are believed to still be living in Venezuela.
On August 1, 2011, EBRSO officials announced foul play was a possibility in the case, which remains an ongoing investigation.
“At this point I’m very discouraged and disappointed that nothing has happened or that no one has come forward with an explanation or any witnesses or anything,” said Karen Wooley, BHS physical education teacher and best friend to Sylviane Lozada. “I thought by now something would have happened.”
Sylviane Lozada’s brother, Georges Finck, said he and the rest of his family and friends in Verviers, Belgium understand that the police investigation is ongoing, but said he feels that he and authorities may have mutual feelings of helplessness.
“We feel little bit helpless, like the policemen because [no] extradition agreement has been signed.”
Wooley said that she believes the case is currently at a roadblock as officials are unable to speak with Oscar Lozada due to extradition request denials between the United States and Venezuela as well as Oscar Lozada’s dual citizenship in America and Venezuela. Venezuela’s constitution prohibits the extradition of Venezuelan nationals.
“Nothing has happened with Oscar. As far as I’m concerned he’s not being held accountable for anything,” Wooley said. “The police are hoping for something to happen.
And you know, in the beginning that was cool, but when nothing happens, you have to do something. You have to make a move and they’re not making a move.”
Sylviane Lozada’s sister, Ghislaine Paquet said that she and her family in Verviers, Belgium, have not heard much news lately, but she is confident that the authorities’ search remains on track.
“We can stay one or two months without any news from the police investigation, it’s very different from the beginning of the investigation where new elements arrived every day, but I know policemen keep going searching her and doing well,” she said in an article in L’avenir, a newspaper in Belgium.
EBRSO Lieutenant Lawrence Cavalier said that Sylviane Lozada’s disappearance remains a case that is on the forefront of many in the law enforcement office’s minds.
“I’ll tell you what, we’ll never forget about it,” Cavalier said, adding that they are not willing to shut down the case without finding the truth.
As far as new developments in the case, Casey Rayborn Hicks, EBRSO Public Information Officer, said that the “investigation is still ongoing and active, so unfortunately we have no updates for release at this time.”
In 2011, during the beginning of the investigation, authorities said that Oscar Lozada had reportedly thrown items at Sylviane, and pushed her down, during arguments – but charges were never filed.
Wooley said that she believes Oscar Lozada, whom she claimed had issues with control and insecurity, killed his wife during an argument and hid her body in a cement base of a construction site where he was working at the time.
Oscar Lozada, though, told authorities that his wife was still alive and had left him for another man in Colombia, according to a May 2013 report in the Advocate.
But Wooley called Oscar Lozada’s claims “absurd,” saying that Sylviane was too focused on her daughter, Angelina, to leave her.
“Her main focus in life was her daughter. (To leave her daughter) would be completely out of character for her. And being her best friend, I know that’s not true,” Wooley said.
Months after Sylviane Lozada’s disappearance, students and colleagues at Brusly High School planted a garden near the courtyard/side entrance of the school and dedicated it in her name – Le Jardin de Sylviane.
The school has also started a scholarship fund in her name – the Sylviane Finck Lozada Scholarship, awarded annually to a senior in the foreign languages club who, according to Wooley, “exemplifies [Sylviane’s] idea of education in foreign language.”
Money is raised for the scholarship each year through a fundraiser softball game. Several other BHS sports have also donated to the cause.
The 2013 BHS senior class also raised $1,000 for the scholarship fund.
“When it comes from students, that’s very honorable,” said Wooley.
In Belgium, Sylviane Finck Lozada’s family organized an evening of remembrance in June. More than 300 people showed support by going to the event that showed photos and souvenirs and allowed people to express words of kindness.
Pequet said that she wanted to organize a run in Sylviane Lozada’s memory as well, “because my sister like to jog.”
Wooley said that she hopes that something in the case breaks soon, but even if the case remains open for years longer, it’s the remembrance of her best friend that keeps her believing that justice will be served in due time.
“Sylviane will always be remembered in the hearts of the people in Brusly and that – everyone needs to continue to be strong in that,” Wooley said. “We should continue to pray that something is going to come up eventually.
“You can’t go on forever without knowing anything.”
Sarah Rentmeister, of L’avenir in Verviers, Belgium, contributed to this report.