Daniel Cierzan was the only member of the Cierzan family in court Thursday to hear Judge David Walgren’s finding: that Cierzan’s uncle Will Cierzan is likely dead, and there’s strong evidence to indicate he was killed by his nephew Jan. 26, 2017.
Two things have become clear to anyone following the tragic developments of William Cierzan’s story: Not only has the disappearance driven a wedge between family members, so has their search for justice.
“I would have called (Charles) every name I could think of to let him know everything that he had done to ruin Linda’s life for the last four years, and his own family’s life, because we have been looking and searching and praying,” said Andrea Peck, Will’s oldest sister, following a revelation Wednesday that — based on since-recanted testimony — indicated Charles Cierzan might know what role, if any, Daniel Cierzan played in his uncle’s disappearance.
Members of the Cierzan family filled chairs in the courtroom’s gallery Tuesday and Wednesday, listening to the details surrounding the mysterious disappearance of Will Cierzan, a beloved husband and brother, from his Cuatro Milpas Street home.
Despite years of mistrust since the disappearance, the startling admission played in court Wednesday afternoon for the first time — a recording of Charles Cierzan telling investigators in February 2020 that not only did he recognize the suspected killer’s vehicle as his son’s Toyota 4Runner, but also that he had knowingly lied and backed up his son’s false alibi for that day — may have permanently damaged family ties for the Cierzans.
“As far as Chuck is concerned, my brothers and sisters have held out in their own hearts and minds saying, ‘My brother couldn’t do that to his own brother,’” said Peck. “‘He couldn’t hold out information and do that.’”
Peck said for years, Charles Cierzan told his family the same story he told investigators two nights after Will’s disappearance: Daniel was already home around 4 p.m. when Charles got home from work, meaning the vehicle believed to have transported Will’s body shortly after 5 p.m. could not have been driven by his son.
“Ever since day one, and we wanted to believe him all along, he said he didn’t know anything and that maybe Danny did it by himself and maybe never told (Charles) anything,” she said.
“But when I heard his voice on that recorder, and that he knew all along, lying to everybody … that was the end for me,” she added, recalling her immediate reaction Wednesday. “I personally went out in the hallway to find him, confront him, but he wasn’t in the hallway, thank God.”
The fact that Charles Cierzan would not testify during this week’s preliminary hearing was a move that surprised many, as Charles Cierzan sat outside with the other people waiting to testify — who weren’t allowed to hear other witnesses’ testimony — as each person took their turn.
No one discussed why Charles Cierzan wasn’t called to the stand during the hearing, but the move seemed to surprise even opposing counsel.
“I am not Charles’ lawyer, he’s the father of my client,” said Andrew Flier, who represented Daniel Cierzan at the hearing. “But I was expecting him to testify.”
The hearing went as planned, according to an emailed statement from Mokayef, who added that Charles Cierzan didn’t testify because his statements were brought forward by detectives in the preliminary hearing.
“At a preliminary hearing, you put on enough evidence to hold the defendant to answer,” said Mokayef, “and we had enough evidence at this juncture without putting on additional witnesses.”
Peck, speaking for the members of the Cierzan family who decided to abstain from attending Thursday’s hearing, said it was because they were “frustrated” by the decision not to call Charles Cierzan to the stand.
“We didn’t come today because we were frustrated,” said Peck, adding that her brother not testifying means they might never know the full truth of what happened. “But we were also not convinced that it was going to trial, we were afraid that it was going to be thrown out and just felt totally deflated.”
While she says the family was relieved to learn of Walgren’s ruling, Peck and Will’s wife, Linda, expressed their frustration at the situation looking back.
“Linda was crying on the phone at 7 (p.m. Jan. 26, 2017), crying because she couldn’t find Will, and to know that Danny and Chuck were sitting there together, and Danny answered the phone and wouldn’t help,” said Peck. “They wouldn’t go over to help Linda try and find their brother … who does that?”
The family is still grappling with the pieces of evidence, such as Charles Cierzan’s DNA being found inside the 4Runner, along with Will’s, Daniel’s and at least one another “unknown” DNA profile. They also don’t know for certain how Daniel might have allegedly moved the body.
“I met with them at a Starbucks that Saturday (two days after the disappearance), and that’s when Chuck told me and Danny told me they each had an attorney, and that they weren’t allowed to tell me anything anymore,” said Peck. “Why would you need an attorney, (if) you don’t know anything?”
No one has taken the disappearance harder than Linda Cierzan, who even in court testimony referred to her husband in present tense, mentioning his idiosyncrasies and quirks as she spoke of their loving marriage.
As of April 2020, she continued to pay the premium on Will’s $50,000 life insurance policy, according to evidence presented in court this week, never attempting to file a claim.