Eastlake house searched for body

Denise Shimrock is hoping to give her son, Eddie Vannatter Jr., a proper burial.

The Mentor woman stood outside her son's last known address in Eastlake on Monday morning while crime officials conducted a search for his remains inside of the home.

Vannatter was last seen there in October 2003 by his roommate John Caputo. Vannatter, who would now be 38, and Caputo, 37, lived together at 1227 E. 345th St.

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Maribeth Joeright/MJoeright@News-Herald.com Denise Shimrock of Mentor and Michelle Thomas of Willoughby, left, talk about the disappearance of their son and brother Eddie Vannater six years ago. A home in Eastlake was searched Monday looking for clues in the unsolved case.�

Caputo told police he last saw Vannatter with a friend known only as "Mark." He told detectives that a physical altercation took place at their residence involving himself, Vannatter and Mark, and that Vannatter left the apartment with Mark, police said.

Shimrock no longer believes the story told by Caputo.

"He told me that Eddie took off to Geneva to cook meth," she said. "We never heard from him again.

"I don't believe the story at all. At the time I did because once he was back on drugs, he didn't call me. He distanced himself from me," she added, acknowledging her son battled with addiction for up to 14 years.

When her son didn't call or show up on Thanksgiving or Christmas that year, she started to worry and filed a police report in January 2004.

Caputo continued to call the family asking for updates about Vannatter's whereabouts, she said.

Eastlake Police Lt. Tom Doyle wouldn't go into much detail about Monday's search.

"We are doing a search for some evidence to discover where Eddie may be," he said outside of the home. "This is where they used to live. This is the last place he was seen."

The search began about 9:30 a.m. In addition to Eastlake police, a Lake County forensics specialist was on the scene as well as the Lake County Sheriff's Office and a cadaver dog from the Geauga County Sheriff's Office.

J and M Carpet of Willoughby was on hand to lift up the carpet and put it back in place.

Furniture was brought out into the driveway, and the cadaver dog sniffed through the yard.

Officers, as well as the dog, went through a crawl space underneath the house.

The evidence that was found, which was unspecified, will be tested in the Lake County Crime Lab, Doyle said.

"This will remain under investigation," he said.

When asked if the house had been searched within the past six years, Doyle offered no comment.

Shimrock said police have searched the outside of the home in the past, but she was unaware of a search as extensive as Monday's.

When asked if Caputo was a suspect, Doyle said, "I have nothing to say about Mr. Caputo."

In a 2008 News-Herald article, Doyle said he had been in contact with Caputo and that he remains a "person who may have more information" about Vannatter's disappearance.

Shimrock, as well as Vannatter's sister Michelle Thomas of Willoughby, said they aren't accusing Caputo of anything; they just wish he would cooperate more.

Caputo did not return a call Monday seeking comment.

In the same 2008 News-Herald article, Caputo said he hopes as much as anyone that new information surfaces about Vannatter.

"If anyone's got anything, I hope they come forward to give some peace to his family and friends," he said. "I gave all my information to the police and I don't really have any more information to give. The fact is, Eddie started hanging around some shady guys and I booted them out. It was a minor physical altercation and I haven't seen or talked to Eddie since."

Shimrock doesn't know how much longer she can wait for answers.

"I'm confident they'll find something in there," she said.

"We are hoping for closure. It's been a long time, and I need a place to put flowers where my son is. I need to bury him and give him a proper burial and give him a place where I can go visit him.

"It's been very hard."

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