A beloved Blues musician vanishes into thin air. An investigation into a bizarre disappearance. A business partner who does not want to answer any questions. What happened to Chicago Johnny?
John Spira, the eldest of the three siblings, had many eccentric interests. He was a race-car driver and pilot, but his primary passion was playing music.
"In high school, his friend showed him a couple chords on the guitar, and that was it, he got really good really fast," said John's sister Stephanie McNeil.
"He became very adept at it, but I think once John formally discovered Blues he really came into mastering the instrument," said John's brother Tom Spira. I remember seeing him just silence a room with his ability, and that is just something you don't see that often."
Nicknamed "Chicago Johnny," he was the lead guitarist in the popular blues band the Rabble Rousers. Often playing smaller gigs around town, they also played some bigger ones like the famous Chicago Blues Festival.
"He was sort of the musical leader of the band, a really dynamic, outgoing guitar player, very pleasant, very unselfish," said Spira's bandmate Rick Fobes.
If music was John's true love, the marriage to his wife Suzanne could be considered less melodic.
"She was an extremely difficult person to like," said Tom Spira. "I would say 99 percent of the time it was very difficult and awkward. I don't think she ever really fit in, and frankly I don't think she wanted to."
So no one was surprised when after 15 years together John and Suzanne decided to divorce. Little did John know how painful it would be and how many years it would take.
"It was awful," said John's sister Stephanie McNeil. "He said that she had made his life a living hell for two years. I asked him, 'Do you think that she would hire a hitman?' And you know, he didn't laugh it off."
Those two years were spent living together under the same roof while trying to work out a divorce settlement. But he had moved on from Suzanne and had a new girlfriend named Renata. It was above-board, Stephanie says -- Suzanne knew John had a girlfriend.
It was a Friday in late February when John and Suzanne finally came to an agreement.
"It was probably his greatest day, it was our greatest day, that Suzanne was going to be out of the picture," said Tom.
John's friend Jim Emma sees him shortly after.
"He had just come from court and he told me that he thought that he should have this divorce finally settled and be able to move forward, and he was pretty upbeat about that," said Jim.
With a brand new lease on life, John heads to work at Universal Cable Construction, a company he co-owns with his partner, Dave Stubben.
"[Dave Stubben] had been friends for a long time. They were in business together 17 years, but had known each other for 20 years," said Stephanie. "I think he was a pilot, too, and avid hunter."
"Him and Dave sometimes had some differences on things, but that's certainly not unusual in a business," said Jim Emma.
John arrives midday in time for the weekly office barbecue on Feb. 23, 2007. Then around 7 p.m., John calls a friend, making plans to meet for dinner at 8:30. But John never showed up for that dinner.
That evening John's girlfriend Renata tried calling him several times, but he never picked up. Then around 11 p.m., John's cellphone dies.
"So Renata, his girlfriend, is frantically calling, calling, she called the police and they said 'Nothing we can do,'" said Stephanie.
Renata even calls John's wife Suzanne asking her to help, but she allegedly refuses.
On Saturday there's still no word from John. That night, the Rabble Rousers have a gig, But john's a no-show.
"That's very unlike John," said Rick Fobes, one of John's bandmates. "John was never, ever late, never would miss a gig, usually got there before all of us. It was a little alarming, but we kept thinking he was going to walk in, plug in and everything would be fine. But then he didn't."
Early Sunday, John's sister Stephanie learns he's vanished without a trace.
"My dad called me and said 'Seems he's been missing since Friday,' and my first thought immediately was Suzanne," said Stephanie McNeil. "I just dialed her number and said 'Where the f--- is my brother?' And she just said 'I don't know, Steph, I'm just as devastated as everybody else.'"
"That's when we started to get worried," said Tony Spira, John's brother.
Finally Suzanne reports John missing.
St. Charles Police and DuPage County Sheriff's detectives bring cadaver dogs to where John was last seen alive, at his business, Universal Cable Construction. John's business partner Dave Stubben meets them there.
"Certainly whenever an adult who has what we would consider a fairly successful life -- has a girlfriend, has family, has no obvious reason to disappear on his own -- certainly we think right away foul play could be involved here," said Sgt. Bob Harris, DuPage County Sheriff's Office.
Reportedly, Dave Stubben tells detectives he and John have a good relationship with no real problems, financial or otherwise. When cops ask him who was the last to see John on Friday night, he says it was not him.
"Dave detailed his evening as leaving Universal Cable about 7, 7:15 at night, and stating that the last person in there with John was another vendor," said Sgt. Harris.
But the other vendor told investigators that when he left, Dave and John were both still there. And that vendor's account was buttressed by another vendor.
"Those two vendors or subcontractors corroborated each other's statements," said Det. Wayda. "They're not friends, they're not co-workers. They don't have a working relationship to know who each other really are. Certainly makes us think that there's more he knows, or more involvement than he wants us to know he had."
A couple of days later, Dave Stubben allows cops to search the business. The location of John Spira's car piques detectives' interest.
"When the police arrived, the truck was found in the back lot that's gated," said Detective Tiffany Wayda, DuPage County Sheriff's Office.
That becomes noteworthy when investigators learn that on Friday John had parked where he usually parks, in the front lot.
"It's unusual that he's gone and the car was moved from where it initially was, to where it was found," said Sgt. Bob Harris.
So allegedly, John's car was moved after he vanished. But by whom? Harris says no evidence was found in the car.
"Of course we processed John's Ford Excursion to the utmost for fingerprints and no, none were found," said Harris. "There was no obvious signs of a struggle there [inside the business]. Everything seemed in order."
But investigators notice a large industrial-strength piece of plastic sheeting is missing. Employees had used some of it in a doorway to block out cold air.
"What stuck out to us immediately is that there was a large piece of plastic, maybe 10-by-20-foot piece of sheeting, that had been seen on Friday on a desk in warehouse area of the business," said Harris. "The employees pointed out that this plastic was there, and now it's missing. So certainly we start to think John can't be found, we're missing plastic, so at that point two and two starts look like four."
They would later find out that John's cellphone never left Universal Cable. But they never found the phone.
"The phone was active till about 11 p.m. that night" -- with pings placing the phone in the vicinity of the business -- "It was always active on that tower the entire evening," said Det. Harris.
A large-scale search yields no evidence and no John. But Stephanie started piecing together her own evidence when she learns her brother's business partner and estranged wife are spending time together.
Why are they communicating?
Investigators talk to Suzanne.
"Her first statement actually to me was that she wanted to point out to me that no matter what else happened in this case, she would always tell me the truth and she'd never lie," said Det. Harris. "Others might lie but she would always tell the truth. In Law Enforcement 101, we recognize that when someone makes that bold of a statement, it's almost quite the opposite."
Twelve days after John Spira vanishes, Dave Stubben agrees to be interviewed at the station.
"He had met detectives in our office and he interviewed with them and answered questions approximately three hours," said Det. Tiffany Wayda.
This time Dave has a lot to say, and he's about to drop a bombshell about John.
"Dave Stubben reported that he [John] would leave for a week at a time and not have contact with anyone," said Wayda.
"Our investigating showed that Dave Stubben was the only person that had that belief," said Det. Harris.
Dave said this time was probably like the times before and he "chalked it up to John just running off to have a good time with some girl again."
Why didn't Dave say this days before? Is this even true? Stephanie McNeil, John's sister, emphatically denies he would have just up and left.
"No chance in hell," said Stephanie. "Because of who he was. He was about to be divorced, he was happy about that. Yeah he had some debt. It was not enough to make him disappear. It just would not happen."
Detectives ask Dave Stubben to take a polygraph test. He lawyers up and says no. John's wife Suzanne does the same.
So Suzanne and Dave are no longer cooperating with police. But they were still talking to Stephanie.
"I was planning another search, and he said 'I'm not gonna do it, I'm going fishing.' I thought that was really strange," said Stephanie. "Like, wait, this is your business partner of 20 years, and I thought your friend, and you don't want to do this search? He's going fishing."
Although Dave and Suzanne are still on detectives' radar, a piece of John's life unknown to many takes them in a very different direction.
"We had learned that John had a couple other romantic involvements with other women," said Det. Harris. "Certainly in those situations -- and at least one we know was married -- there's an obvious, the romantic angle of, you know, a spurned or a jealous husband could have been involved. We have attempted to pursue them and unfortunately run into other roadblocks with people not wanting to talk to us."
Soon after, Suzanne Spira leaves town, relocating to another state. She is never named a suspect in John Spira's disappearance.
John's brother Tom Spira believes all roads lead back to Dave Stubben and Suzanne, who he says actually conspired to get rid of John, and says money was their motive.
"It solved Suzanne's problem, because I don't think she wanted to get the divorce," said Tom. "Look at the house they lived in. Look at the income he had. She had a very, very healthy lifestyle. The divorce was going to end that. And I think she was going to do everything that she could to hold on to that institution, and she shared this information with Dave, and Dave said, 'Well, we think his half of the business is probably worth "x" and you'd get that income,' or whatever deal they seemed to have made."
Police have never charged Dave Stubben with any crime connected to John's disappearance.
But seeking their own clues in the mystery, John Spira's family takes direct action, with intriguing results.
Six months after john vanishes. Stephanie, John's younger sister, gets bold. She has a large "missing" sign of John put up directly across the street from Dave Stubben and Universal Cable.
But it's not up for long. The billboard goes up on a Friday night, and Saturday this billboard is vandalized -- gone, disappeared.
Then, unbelievably, on Sunday, Universal Cable goes up in flames.
"Stephie called me and said 'You have to turn on the news because John's building is on fire,'" said Tom Spira.
"The fire was eventually ruled by the fire investigative task force as an incendiary fire, which basically means that the fire had a human involvement in it," said Det. Bob Harris. "So someone set this fire at Universal Cable, we just don't know who and we don't know why."
"I think in law enforcement we're almost famous for saying we don't believe in coincidences," said Harris. "We can't say if they're related or not, but certainly for us it's odd."
Shockingly, during the fire investigation, Dave drops yet another bombshell about John: He suggests that that John was in fact embezzling money from the company.
Stubben then goes as far as to say "He would not rule out John's involvement in the fire."
Yes, the same John no one has seen for six months. Was there an insurance payout?
"There was. They ended up settling for I believe it was approximately $700,000," said Harris.
Reportedly, Dave Stubben took that money and rebuilt on the exact site where the building originally stood. But since then, it's been empty. Never has been used, rented out or occupied. Universal Cable Construction has been operating out of another location since the fire.
Time slowly ticks by with no sign of John Spira.
Then three years after his disappearance his estranged wife Suzanne is found dead. Reportedly she died of natural causes.
"We all knew she knew something," said Tom Spira. "Now that has gone to the grave and we will never know what Suzanne knew or didn't know."
So for the family, that leaves Dave Stubben. And to them it seems like he's edited his story a few times. For John's family, and investigators, these inconsistencies are also red flags.
It's now been 10 long years since popular blues musician John Spira vanished without a trace.
"It's considered a missing person case," said Det. Bob Harris. "Certainly is suspicious circumstances."
But do you still think that John Spira is alive?
"No," said Det. Harris.
John's family believes he was murdered. And while Dave Stubben has never been charged in connection with the case, they think his business partner may have had something to do with it
"Dave Stubben independently, or Dave Stubben with somebody else, did it," said Tom Spira, John's brother.
Dave Stubben was cooperating with investigators, then got a lawyer and cut off all communication. Did that then impede the investigation by him not cooperating?
"Eventually he did impede, yes. He co-owns a property and we certainly thought it would be appropriate to search that property. It's about 110 acres in Missouri, and he refused to consent to a search of that property.
"Unfortunately for us the fact that we can't talk to him, even with an attorney present, kind of puts us in between a rock and a hard place," said Det. Harris.
So if Dave Stubben won't talk to detectives, maybe he'll talk to Crime Watch Daily. We tracked him down and confronted him on the street. He covered his face, got into his car and drove off without answering any questions.
"I would basically describe him as a brick wall. He's in our way," said Det. Harris. "If he helped he would be alongside of us, but by not helping he's in the way."
"It could say a few things," said Det. Wayda. "He doesn't want to be involved because he doesn't know anything. Or he does know something, so he doesn't want to be involved. Or he is the reason John Spira is missing."
"We have to clear up the discrepancy on who saw John last," said Det. Harris. "I think second of all, it would be, Dave, let us search your property. If you have nothing to hide, there's no reason why we can't go search your property. "
Dave Stubben has never been charged with anything related to the disappearance of John Spira. While the Dupage County Sheriff's Office does consider him a person of interest, he's not alone.
"There's a list of people that are close to John that I would call people of interest," said Det. Harris. "Anyone close to someone who disappears or who is murdered are going to be people of interest, so he's one of many."
For family and friends, life without John Spira truly is like the Blues.