Body of missing dad discovered on Greenwood Lake

Sunday, December 6, 2009
Last updated: Monday December 7, 2009, 8:21 AM
Suburban Trends

In an ironic twist, it was not the searchers and their roughly two-week effort that located 39-year-old husband and father Steven Zaicek following his Nov. 14 disappearance on Greenwood Lake.

It was a resident of East Shore Road – without the aid of helicopters, trained cadaver dogs or divers – who stumbled upon the body. He found it floating on Greenwood Lake in front of his West Milford home, and called West Milford Police at about 8 a.m. Thursday, unraveling the weeks' old mystery.

Zaicek was the father of a 4-year-old and a resident of the Village of Greenwood Lake, N.Y.

The discovery held off what was to be a day of extensive investigative activity on the bi-state lake: cadaver dogs from Ramapo Search & Rescue had worked with Village of Greenwood Lake Police on Wednesday for some seven hours to come up with likely spots on the lake that could have held the body. Divers from the Village of Greenwood Lake Police Department had planned to enter the murky water at these spots Thursday but before they even got out there, the East Shore Road resident made his phone call.

Responding to the scene, officers observed the body floating near the shoreline about 300 feet south of the state line in 2 to 3 feet of water, said West Milford Detective Lt. Peter Van Gilst in a press release.

Members of the West Milford Police Dive Team – Patrolmen Joe Nevin and Bill Pittelko – went into the lake and recovered the corpse, which was then positively identified as Steven Zaicek, Van Gilst said.

The last time Zaicek had been heard from was 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 14 when he placed a cell phone call to his wife to tell her that he would be home soon. On board his 25-foot Larson cabin boat, Zaicek told her of his plan to take the boat on a final spin around the lake before winterizing it.

A friend of Zaicek's found the unmanned boat after it ran aground on Storms Island in the lake at about 9:30 that night.

Village of Greenwood Lake Detective Sgt. John Hansen said that Zaicek turned up on the other side of Storms Island near the shore line, south of the Happy Landing Marina in the area of East Shore Road.

According to Hansen, the team of three cadaver dogs from Ramapo Search & Rescue "had some hits in the New York end" of the lake, not where Zaicek ultimately surfaced. He said that these hits might have related to deer that succumbed to the waters. He explained that bodies release gases, which trained dogs can detect just by smelling the surface of the water.

As for what caused the demise of Zaicek, described as a "good swimmer," Hansen said, "Our theory is it was an accident. There's no indication of anything other than an accident – that he fell over and drowned."

On the stormy day that Zaicek disappeared, there was enough wind to carry this boat away from him if he fell overboard, making it a difficult target for him to catch up with.

"The roof cover acts like a sail. There were 25-mph winds that night," he said.

Hansend added that even as a good swimmer, Zaicek would have had been challenged by the heavy clothing he wore.

In their press release, West Milford Police said that there are no signs of foul play. An autopsy to confirm the cause of death will be conducted by the North Jersey Medical Examiner's Office, which removed the body from the scene, according to Van Gilst.


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