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The Lost Treasure

December 1, 2008

Cindy Zarzycki
Cindy Zarzycki's coffin with childhood friend, Cindy
Memorial Tattoos for Cindy


The blanket draped around Cindy’s casket reads: “When someone you love becomes a Memory, the Memory becomes a Treasure.”

            The lost treasure of the life of Cindy Zarcycki can finally be laid into the ground. After 22 years of mystery and mourning, Cindy’s parents and siblings can finally place their daughter and sister to rest.

            It was only in the last few months that the mystery of Cindy was solved and that mourning could finally begin. “This whole summer was surreal,” childhood friend, Cindy Dombrowski, now 36, said at Schultz Funeral Home in Eastpointe, Michigan. “I woke up this morning and thought, ‘God, Cindy, it’s a Friday. This is supposed to be your bachelorette party or a night out together, not your funeral.” (“Now, family can say good-bye,” Amber Hunt, Detroit Free Press, November 29, 2008)

            It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Cindy’s childhood pictures were posted around the funeral home: Cindy taking pictures with her siblings, her eating messily as a baby, and with her father, jumping in the waves at the beach.

            This was what the rest of her life could have been: photos with her high school friends, her high school graduation, eating her wedding cake and a photo with her first child. But all of this was speculative imagination, just pure hope. All hopes for a young girl’s growth to adulthood ended when the father of her 13-year-old boy friend deceived Cindy and picked her up at the 9 Mile Dairy Queen, inviting her to his son’s made-up “surprise birthday party.”

            The evidence is now conclusive that Arthur Ream, the father of her friend, raped Cindy, killed her, and buried her along with her cassette tape and purse in a shallow riverside grave on a small plot of Macomb Township land that friends of Ream used to own.

            For 22 years, Cindy’s family and friends wondered where Cindy had gone. Was she alive somewhere, a refugee from the family? Was she kidnapped and held and kept away from everyone she loved? Or was she dead and buried somewhere unknown?

The loss and the fears of the unknown were unbearable.

            Cindy’s sister and best friend wear tattoos now as a way to say that they will never forget her. Her sister, Constance, has these words marked on her calf: “Allways Remembered.” She says, “That’s how Cindy always spelled it.” Her best friend, Cindy Dombrowski, also has a tattoo spelled on her arm. It reads, “Never Forgotten.”

No one can forget the shock of finding Cindy a few months ago, led by a convicted pedophile who claimed he wasn’t responsible but admitted the murder to a fellow inmate last year. For the past 6 ½ years, Eastpointe detectives had searched for clues, never giving up the belief that Cindy’s killer was nearby. Now, with strong circumstantial evidence, they were finally able to find the killer. They were able to convict Ream in July of first-degree murder and eventually, they were able to get him to lead them to the place that he buried her 22 years ago. When the remains were tested, the DNA confirmed that what was left in the ground was 13-year-old Cindy.   

            Cindy’s parents and siblings are sad but grateful on this Thanksgiving weekend for the persistence and dedication of deputies and detectives who never gave up the search for Cindy’s abductor. They are thankful that they can finally give their little girl a proper burial next to her grandmother.

            Death seems so empty and pointless but maybe the family and friends can at least feel some closure and a little retribution. After years of freedom, Cindy’s killer is finally locked up for the rest of his life.

All of this can’t stop me from wondering why Arthur Ream’s son, the boy who Cindy wanted as her boyfriend, was killed in a car accident eight years after Cindy, on Independence Day, 1994.  I can only hope the grief that Arthur Ream felt then and through the years was as devastating as the grief felt by Cindy’s family.

            The mysteries of murder and unspeakable grief still linger today. The memories of Cindy seem so far away now but the sadness will never disappear. Yet, on this Thanksgiving weekend at the start of the 2008 Christmas season, Cindy is not in an unknown, imaginary place. Cindy’s friend, Cindy, said, “This is the first time she’s been home for the holidays. She’s actually home.”

            There’s nothing warm and wonderful in this holiday season for the Zarzyckis. The ending is a little less tormenting but there’s a little solace that finally there is a burial ground, a sacred place to search for Cindy’s soul.

            A 13-year-old girl will never grow up. Her memory is locked into the hearts of the few who remember her.

            That is all that is left, the memories…allways memories of a treasured life that is gone but never forgotten.


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