The hundreds of red balloons sent skyward by the friends and family of read "Justice For John." But the missing man's sister said they held another message for those that might have seen them floating above Winnetka Saturday afternoon.
"Those who did this can't rest easy. We're coming after you," said Stephanie McNeil, Spira's sister and the organizer of the event outside New Trier West High School, from which both she and her brother graduated.
"We're coming after you and John will have justice," McNeil said before she and dozens of relatives and friends released balloons into the air.
The event recognized the fifth anniversary of Spira's disappearance.
The St. Charles resident was 45 when he vanished without a trace. He was last seen at the West Chicago office of his cable construction company, where he left his parked car.
At the time of his disappearance, Spira, an accomplished blues musician who went by the stage name "Chicago Johnny," was in the midst of a tumultuous split from his wife, Suzanne Spira, McNeil said. He and his wife were living in the same home throughout their divorce proceedings and the domestic arrangement was "hellish," McNeil said.
McNeil has repeatedly voiced suspicions that both her brother's wife and his business partner, Dave Stubben, might know more about Spira's disappearance than they have admitted.
The wife died in October 2010 and the business partner who, according to police reports, made statements to detectives about John Spira racking up "massive debt" and speculated about his possibly skipping town, has passed up numerous opportunities over the last several months to discuss Spira's disappearance.
Spira's best friend, Jim Emma attended Saturday's ceremony. As he has in the past, Emma questioned the way the police handled the investigation of his friend's disappearance.
"We're no different than we were the day after" Spira was last seen alive, Emma said.
"Nothing's happened," he said. "It has not moved, totally stagnant."
McNeil has her own problems with the way the DuPage County Sheriff's Department conducted its investigation.
"The police want to keep calling this a missing person's case, and I take great issue with that, offense, actually," McNeil said Saturday.
"John was murdered on Feb. 23, 2007," she said. "This is a murder case, not a missing person's case."
McNeil also pointed out that DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin is a New Trier product, just like her and her brother, and that that the three of them attended the school at the same time.
Berlin "needs to take an interest in this case," McNeil said. "He needs to take part in this investigation."
Representatives for the sheriff's department and the state's attorney's office did not immediately return calls for comment, but McNeil plans to wait for what they have to say.
"I'm not going away," she said. "I'm still here five years later."