Lloyd Waters: Remembering Sheila and Katherine Lyon

May 19, 2013|By LLOYD WATERS

It was Good Friday in 1975.

The Vietnam War was coming to an end, and I was going to school at Mount Saint Mary’s college in Emmittsburg during the day while working as a correction officer at the Maryland Correctional Institution at night.

It was on this very day, March 25, 1975, that Sheila (age 12) and Katherine Lyon (age 10) were on spring break from school in Montgomery County. Sometime between 11 a.m. and noon, the sisters left home to walk down Plyers Mill Road for the half-mile stroll to the nearby Mall in Wheaton, Md., to see the Easter exhibits.

Their mother had given them $2 each for lunch at the Orange Bowl restaurant, and gave them specific instructions to be home by 4 p.m.  Many other children were also at the mall to enjoy the Easter display and activities that so often attract the young.

Everything seemed perfectly normal.

Sheila and Katherine’s brother later told authorities that he had last seen his sisters eating pizza at the Orange Bowl around 2 p.m.  Another friend shared that he also saw the girls walking down Drumm Avenue between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. in a westward direction toward their home.

When 4 p.m. came and went, and the sisters had not returned to their Kensington address, worry arrived at the Lyon residence.  As John and Mary Lyon waited for their daughters’ return home, anxiety, despair and uncertainty showed up too.

Many questions were there.  Why were the sisters late? Could they have stopped by a friend’s house? Could something innocently have happened? Or worse?

As 7 p.m. came with still no sign of the sisters, the local authorities were contacted.

A massive investigation and search were initiated by the police. Pictures of the two girls were displayed throughout the community and people were interviewed in an attempt to find them.

As the brother and friends were questioned to establish a timeline of events, another neighborhood boy shared that he saw the two girls at 1 p.m. talking to a middle aged man in a brown suit and was carrying a briefcase and a tape recorder.

“Several children,” stated the witness, “including the Lyon sisters, were observed speaking into the stranger’s microphone.”

As I thought about the recent events surrounding the discovery of the three women kept for a decade by a sick, perverted, deranged predator in Cleveland, Ohio, I could not help but to reflect on the missing Lyon girls.

As a prison warden, I often had the occasion to review base files of convicted felons associated with heinous crimes against our youth.

I also had the privileged opportunity to meet and converse with Roberta Roper, the mother of Stephanie Roper, a young, beautiful aspiring artist who attended Frostburg State University. In 1982 Stephanie was brutally raped, tortured, killed and burned by two derelicts.

Roberta has dedicated an enormous amount of her life to promoting the rights of victims and their families in memory of Stephanie.

There has been no permanent closure for the Lyon family.

For the last 38 years, birthdays, holidays, proms, and all those special events normally associated with two daughters growing up in a loving home have come and gone. 

The whereabouts of Sheila and Katherine remain a mystery. A lifetime of anguish left behind for the parents and loved ones who still embrace those passing memories of the two sisters.

On the 23rd anniversary of Sheila and Katherine’s disappearance, reports indicate that John and Mary planted a weeping cherry tree and flower garden at a local cemetery as a lasting memory to their daughters.

Their names are forever carved into a stone.

Perhaps the secret of Sheila and Katherine Lyon’s disappearance died with a culprit many years ago.

Maybe he still lives and revisits his misdeed each night.

If he does, just maybe, for once, he’ll do the right thing.

Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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