Hopes fades in slaying of IUN student
Lisa Handlon Kopanakis

PORTAGE | On Easter day in 1989, someone entered Lisa Handlon Kopanakis' apartment in Portage, slaughtered her two dogs and threw rugs on top of them.

A few months later, Kopanakis was found stabbed a dozen times, and a rug was thrown over her.

"She had been murdered just like the dogs," her mother, Linda Handlon, said.

Now, 20 years after the brutal murder, Handlon hopes that somebody with information will come forward. Handlon and police both suspect a certain person whom the victim knew, but nothing was ever proven.

"Every single day I think about it and wonder about it," Handlon said.

"If somebody knows something, why can't they come forward?"

Portage Detective Capt. Terry Swickard said the homicide was looked into thoroughly by Portage police, then a few years ago it was re-examined by the Indiana State Police Cold Case Unit.

"They went over all the evidence and (made) no determination," Swickard said.

All the years with no answers have led Handlon to believe the case will never be solved.

"Why should I have hope? Nothing has ever transpired. Absolutely nothing," Handlon said.

"It's so sad to think your child was on this Earth to get murdered."

Kopanakis, 23, who was married, had one semester left at Indiana University Northwest when she was killed. She was first runner-up in the Indiana Most Beautiful Eyes contest a year before she died.

"She was a comic. She was full of life, a happy person. She was a beautiful girl, inside and out, smart, witty," Handlon said.

"She loved children. She wanted children. She wanted a perfect marriage."

Handlon said every year she pays the invoice to put a grave blanket on her daughter's grave.

"That's what I give her every year. That's all I can give her," Handlon said.

"There's not a parent on Earth I'd wish this misery on. You can't imagine losing a child. She had her whole life ahead of her. ... I miss everything about her. Not one single day goes by that I don't think about her, and so does my other daughter (Gwen)."

Handlon said there was a reward offered shortly after the murder, but the money was returned after the crime remained unsolved for a year. However, people can still claim a reward of up to $1,000 by calling the WeTip crime hot line at (800) 78-CRIME with a tip that leads to an arrest. People can also call Portage police at (219) 762-3122.

Handlon, although resigned that the case may never be solved, admits she occasionally gets a fleeting glimpse of hope -- like when The Times decided to profile her daughter's case.

"I can't even imagine the good feeling it would be (if the case got solved). It would be wonderful to know justice was served," she said.