Zaharias Children: Where are Chris and Lisa?

The Zaharias Children were abducted by their mother, Susan Gammill Zaharias in 1987. Their father, Louis Zaharias, has been searching for his children ever since.

Zaharias children: Lisa & Christopher
Zaharias children: Lisa & Christopher. Image credit:

About the Case

On November 19, 1987, Louis Zaharias and his wife of six years, Susan Zaharias, got into a big verbal argument in their Santa Ana, California home. The next morning, Louis went to work. When he returned later in the day, Susan and their two children, Christopher, age 3, and Lisa, age 1, were gone.

While Louis was at work, Susan bolted with the children and took them to Pennsylvania where her sister, Julianna Nosal resided with her husband and children.

Susan may have planned the disappearances and received financial assistance from her family, who may have always known the whereabouts of Susan, Christopher, and Lisa, but continue to hide them to this day.

Louis claimed Susan had a problem with drugs, specifically cocaine, and was behaving recklessly prior to fleeing with their children.

A felony warrant for crimes against persons was issued for Susan in February of 1988. There is also a warrant out for her arrest for custodial interference.

On January 27, 2016, Susan’s mother, Norma Jean (Dodson) Gammill passed away at the age of 83. In her obituary, Susan, Christopher, and Lisa are listed as surviving family members, thus leading authorities to believe they are alive and well.

According to an eye witness, a woman resembling Susan was seen at the Celebration of Life for Norma and this person was walking directly behind the casket.

Louis Zaharias has spent around $1,000,000 and nearly 30 years searching for his children.

Louis and Susan divorced in the 90s.

On July 13, 2016, the admin for the Zaharias children Facebook page posted:

To the person who is reaching out to Philip and Erica by phone, please read this message:

We would like to talk with you. You are not in trouble, and you are safe. We understand you are confused, and have many questions. We are here to answer them, and to help you find answers. We also understand you may be afraid, and want to assure you there is nothing to fear.

Could the person reaching out be Chris or Lisa?

You can follow this case here:

True Crime Diva’s Thoughts

From what I understand, Susan accused Louis of some sort of abuse. However, he was fully investigated by police and there is absolutely NO evidence to support this. I think it was just a lie. I think she left to punish Louis and what better way to do that than to hide his own children?

I also think it is possible that Susan gave the children to friends or family members to raise and changed their names. That may be why they haven’t been found – they’re not with their mother. Of course, Susan knows of their location and would still be in touch with them.

I found a photo– possibly from late 80s, early 90s – of John Nosal, Susan’s brother-in-law, with a group from his church. In this pic, he is holding a blonde girl about the same age as Lisa. We do know that Susan and the kids spent time in Pennsylvania after she fled California. Whether or not this is actually Lisa is hard to say.

Louis has a RIGHT to see his children and they have a RIGHT to see him. Susan probably lied to them about their dad, so they would hate him like she does.

You know, I’m just going to say it. I kind of understand running with the children if she truly felt she was protecting them. But 30 YEARS LATER? What’s her excuse now? The kids are grown and they are responsible for themselves. So, get over yourself, Susan. Do the right thing and tell your kids you lied about their father and contact Louis. This really isn’t about protecting those kids. This was a vendetta. Because if it was about protecting them, we’d have answers by now.

What do you think happened to the Zaharias children? Should Susan’s family be prosecuted for helping Susan?

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Author: truecrimediva

True crime blogger

  • Hi, Deb,
    Please note there is a brand new website for the kids now that has replaced the old Find Chris and Lisa site.
    IT IS: – Thanks for updating on your page when you get a chance.

    The Facebook page remains the same and in effect. Thanks, Lou

  • I am Louis Zaharias. Thank you so much. You hit on many true and key points. I applaud your analysis and fairness. You are so correct about this being a vendetta. However, at the time in 1987, Susan was very sick, irrational, vulnerable, and in fear of being arrested for felony check fraud due to her addiction to cocaine and crystal meth. She hid it well and knew that my love and trust in her for the 10 years we were together would leave me without a clue, especially since a great deal of my focus was on the children at that time. Her parents, and especially her sister, Juliana Nosal, capitalized on her paranoia by convincing her to steal my beloved children. You see, in 1978, when Sue, moved out to live with me, her family claimed that I “stole” their daughter away from them. Like vultures in a tree waiting for a sick human being to be susceptible to attack, they harbored hatred for me. Despite many times reaching out to them to try to work things out, they refused. They refused to come to our wedding, they refused to use her married name, and they refused to accept me as Chis & Lisa Mae’s Dad. For 10 years I was ostracized and penalized for loving Sue and wanting her for my wife. To them, Sue had an immaculate conception. That is the extent of their dysfunctionality. You see this was the perfect revenge. I “stole” their 18 year old daughter who made a conscious and deliberate choice to get out of their house after they gave her the ultimatum to stop seeing the “greaseball guinea” or get out of their house versus them kidnapping my little babies of 15 months and 3 years who had no choice, no human or civil rights or due process or equal protection under the law. This so-called “priest” violated every tenant of being a priest that I know of and chose participating in his wife’s and in-laws child abuse over his alleged vows and duties to God and humanity. He even arrogantly confessed to committing perjury under oath about the facts of the kidnapping. Not one of them would help me when I begged for a chance to take care of my sick wife. I would have done anything to save my family but they did everything they could to destroy it. For 30 years they have succeeded. PLEASE HELP ME TO END THIS PAIN, TORTURE, ANGUISH AND SUFFERING I ENDURE EACH AND EVERY MOMENT OF EACH AND EVERY DAY. And please know the prayer I say each night before I fall in tormented sleep:

    “What has not yet been cured, must be endured.”
    Please, dear Lord, give me the strength to carry on,
    so that I may be reunited with my beloved lost children,
    that I may see their faces, hear their voices, and
    hold them in my arms, once again.

    • You’re so welcome! If I can help at all through my site, I will!

      It’s completely appalling how her family treated you and for what reason? They obviously have hearts of stone to have put you through this for years.

    • Don\’t believe

      How can you call it “kidnapping” ? You didn’t have sole custody, you were living together when she left, you both had equal custody so how can you call it kidnapping? I have children and if I choose to pack them up An leave then that’s my right just as it was Susan’s

      • It is the State of California and the People’s duly elected District Attorney who call this heinous act “kidnapping”. With all due respect, you are clearly an ignorant person. Ignorant of the California law of Torts and the California Penal Code as legislated and defined in 1987, and amended over the years to become even more stringent, nor are you aware of ALL the undisclosed legal facts, evidence, witnesses, and special circumstances specific to our case under which the law was applied and which will be revealed at the time of Susan’s trial when she is apprehended and prosecuted. You also appear to be quite ignorant of the many Appellate and Supreme Court case authorities who have interpreted the Statutes citing the parameters of the incorrect issues you raise. I suggest that you contact the Orange County DA in charge for an explanation if you have the guts to identify yourself to him especially if you think you have a right to steal your children (poor souls who are so unfortunate to have a parent that thinks (?) like you do.). However, I doubt that you will do so because unfortunately, over the 30 years of this case, individuals like you who spew out such thoughtless uninformed comments like this merely want attention, not education. So, for the benefit of those out there in the Public who want to learn, I will clarify to help them become aware of the misperceptions and the myths and realities relevant to this criminal act of child abuse. First, the terms, “sole custody”, joint custody”, “equal custody”, etc. are relevant in matters where there is a “normal” divorce and Court hearing, that is, where all the parties involved are allowed Due Process and Equal Protection of the Law under our US and State Constitutions. When a perpetrator denies the children and the left behind searching parent these Civil and Human Rights, the law sees this as an exception to the applicable family laws and the legal exceptions arise and are applied. For example, when one parent steals a child and hides that child from the other parent (who has an equal right to know where the child is at all times, 24/7), there is no longer “equal” custody. I hope your tiny little mind can grasp that concept. The law calls it “right to custody by operation of law” in the absence of a Court Order. I also strongly suggest that you contact the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children who can furnish you with an abundance of materials as to why your comments are so erroneous. Finally, I suggest that you read the findings of the US Congress pursuant to the Parental kidnapping Hearings of 1980. Here is a key excerpt for your edification: “The offending parent typically uses the child as a pawn…usually without full appreciation for the pain suffered by the child victim in this process. Abducted children experience fear, guilt, and anger and suffer severe irreparable psychological harm. Indeed, because of its insidious effects on children, parental kidnapping is frequently characterized as a form of child abuse.” So, with regard to your own children, if you were to do such a stupid and horrific act as, “to pack them up and leave” you are not only going to be classified as a child abuser under the law, you will find yourself at the business end of an Arrest Warrant for Felony KIDNAPPING, that’s right, you fool….KIDNAPPING.

        • Jeanne petersob

          Lmao wow chick your completly full of it! Being married to an attorney I think I’m pretty familiar with the law so you may want to educate yourself before you blabber a whole book of bull crap, I didn’t bother reading but a few lines of your response because I don’t care to read what some Internet idiot that thinks they know the law when CLEARLY they don’t. Your the reason we have the motto “don’t believe everything you read on the web”

          • Louis Zaharias replied to your post, not me, jackass.

          • Jeanne petersob

            Yes that why I ended my statement with ” no wonder she left you” chick is another name for someone who makes false statements.

          • Louis Zaharias

            Dear Jeanne petersob:
            1. Being married to an attorney does not make you a lawyer;
            2. As far as being educated in the law, I have not only gone to law school and graduated with a Juris Doctorate (that means, a Doctor of Law – the legal equivalent of a Ph.D.), but I am also a recognized expert in the area of Parental Kidnapping law by the child finding community and have given seminars and speeches on this topic across this country to such organizations as Lions Club International, paralegal groups and even to attorneys at the State Bar of California, not to mention that I have worked personally with John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted and his old organization, The Adam Walsh Child Resource Center, as a spokesperson and fund-raiser, and currently with The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, along with being featured in nationally televised Public Service Announcements for ChildQuest International and the former Vanished Children’s Alliance, along with appearing on Eyewitness News, CBS News and the Today Show just to name a few.
            3. I have also created landmark case law via the Supreme Court of Oklahoma -See, Zaharias v. Gammill (1992) 844 P.2nd 137 which is taught in every Oklahoma law school, many other States’ law schools, and which became a part of the Family Law Studies Program at the University of Maryland’s School of Social Work as well as being one of the most cited cases in family law custody cases across the U.S. I have researched, written and lobbied for passage of OK Senate Bill #289 which under the sponsorship of Senator Mark Synder, created a new child-stealing/custodial interference law for the State. I was also an Adjunct Professor in Arizona teaching a course in Business Law & Ethics and its Impact on the Global Environment. This is only a small portion of my Curriculum Vitae. If I included my complete education (like 2 Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science & History), background, and everything that I have accomplished in the area of children’s and parents’ rights, then it would truly be a book. So what are your credentials and degrees, if any? From your writing, I surmise maybe 8th grade, if that?
            4. The fact that you did not read but a few lines of my response cements the fact that you are a very ignorant person who does not want to be educated but merely wants to spout out a closed minded point of view. You give credence to the adage that, “A closed mind is like the pupil of the eye, because the more light you put upon it, the more it closes”.
            5. By the way – Learn some grammar and spelling – The word “your” is a possessive pronoun. When the purpose is to say “you are” the correct contraction is “you’re”. And, the word “completly” is correctly spelled as, “completely”.
            I also was an elementary school educator with experience teaching Kindergarten children how to read and write for about 7 years, so I’d be happy to tutor you because it is blatantly obvious that you seriously need some educating.
            6. Also, if your husband is such a great lawyer, please provide me with his name and the citations to any State Supreme Court landmark cases or U.S. Supreme Court cases that he is credited with in any manner or possibly prove that he authored legislation in any State where his proposed draft Bill was passed. I can prove my Senate Bill #289 legislation by means of OK Senator Synder and a thank you letter that I received from the Lt. Governor of Oklahoma, after my work and lobbying produced a new State law that protected children and parents where no law stood before.
            Thank you.

  • Tina

    John Nosal has two blond daughters himself. One is close in age to Lisa Zaharias.

  • #FindZahariasKids

    This is the hashtag being used to get the word out!