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Police News

Posted on: June 8, 2022

GJPD Detectives Make Arrest in 2018 Missing Persons Case

Sylvia Frens smiling

The Grand Junction Police Department has made an arrest in relation to a missing person’s case from 2018. Richard Vandervelde, 54 of Grand Junction, CO, has been arrested and charged in the murder of his mother, Sylvia Frens. 

On May 29, 2018, Sylvia Frens, 82 of Grand Junction, was reported missing to the Grand Junction Police Department, by concerned family members.

Initial investigation found evidence that Sylvia’s son, Richard Vandervelde, who was living with Sylvia at the time of her disappearance, had been using her debit card between February and June of 2018. Transactions indicated the card was used from Grand Junction, CO to Charleston, SC. Vandervelde also took over $10,000 of cash out of Sylvia’s bank account and was found to be in possession of her car. A search warrant was conducted at Sylvia’s residence, where detectives located several items of evidentiary value. 

On June 5, 2018 Vandervelde was contacted on a traffic stop in Colombia, Missouri. After falsifying his identity, he was taken into custody on traffic violations. Detectives from the Grand Junction Police Department were contacted and traveled to Missouri to speak with Vandervelde about Sylvia’s disappearance. During the interview, Vandervelde claimed Sylvia left with a friend for California in April but did not disclose any further information about where Sylvia went, or when she planned to return. He also stated that his use of Sylvia’s debit card was authorized by her. Unfortunately, the interview did not produce any fresh leads. 

Throughout the course of the investigation, Sylvia was not discovered to have established residency or legal identification in any other states and social media posts regarding Sylvia’s disappearance never led to her whereabouts. Detectives determined that based upon the totality of evidence obtained throughout the investigation, the evidence led to the inevitable conclusion that Sylvia Frens was deceased, though the investigation would continue for over three years.

In March of 2022, detectives reached out to the current occupants of Sylvia’s old residence for permission to search the property once again. In the days to come, human remains would be located on the property and DNA testing would confirm them to be that of Sylvia Frens. An autopsy concluded injuries consistent with blunt force trauma to the head and the manner of death was ruled a homicide. 

An arrest warrant was issued for Richard Vandervelde on the following charges:

1.         Murder in the First Degree (F1) in violation of CRS 18-3-102; 

2.         Tampering with a Deceased Human Body (F3) in violation of CRS 18-8-610.5

3.         Crimes Against at Risk Adult (F3) in violation of CRS 18-6.5.103(5)

4.         Fraud-Identity Theft (F4) in violation of CRS 18-5-902(1)(a)/(b)

5.         Theft $5,000-$20,000 (F5) in violation of CRS 18-4-401(1)(2)(g)

6.         Motor Vehicle Theft (F5) in violation of CRS 18-4-409(2)(a)(d)(g)/3(a)

7.         Abuse of a Corpse (M2) in violation of CRS 18-13-101(1)(b)

Vandervelde was located in Pinellas County, Florida and was arrested on May 19, 2022. He was extradited back to Mesa County in June and remanded to the Mesa County Detention Facility, where he will wait arraignment. 

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