Case Summary

Discussion in 'Sheila and Katherine Lyon' started by Richard, Nov 9, 2006.

  1. Richard

    Richard Well-Known Member

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    Lyon Sisters Story
    There have been many posts concerning Sheila and Katherine Lyon made to this forum over the years, and most exist on the origional "Cold Cases" thread. In an attempt to set forth an accurate case summary, and to separate it from speculation, theory, and possible suspects, I am re-posting here the best summation of known facts in the case.

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    Sheila Mary Lyon

    Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
    Missing Since: March 25, 1975 from Wheaton, Maryland
    Classification: Endangered Missing
    Date Of Birth: March 30, 1962
    Age at the time: 12 years old
    Height and Weight: 5'2; 100 pounds
    Classification: Endangered Missing
    NCIC Number: M-6053299749
    Distinguishing Characteristics: Blonde hair; blue eyes. Sheila wears eyeglasses.
    Clothing: Sheila was last seen wearing a dark blue shirt and wheat-colored corduroy pants.


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    Katherine Mary Lyon

    Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
    Missing Since: March 25, 1975 from Wheaton, Maryland
    Classification: Endangered Missing
    Date Of Birth: March 29, 1964
    Age at time: 10 years old
    Height and Weight: 4'8; 85 pounds
    Classification: Endangered Missing
    NCIC Number: M-605329953
    Distinguishing Characteristics: Blonde hair; blue eyes. Katherine has a birthmark inside her upper thigh. Her nickname is "Kate."
    Clothing: Katherine was last seen wearing a red jacket and Wrangler brand blue jeans with a front zipper.

    Case Details

    Between 11:00 AM and Noon on Tuesday, 25 March 1975, Sheila M. LYON age 12, and her younger sister, Katherine M. (Kate) LYON age 10 left their home at 3121 Plyers Mill Road in Kensington, Maryland to walk to the Wheaton Plaza Shopping Center in Wheaton, located on the corner of University Boulevard and Veirs Mills Road, a distance of about half a mile from their home. The girls were on spring break from school and it was their intention to view Easter exhibits and to have lunch at The Orange Bowl Restaurant.

    They were seen outside the Orange Bowl at about 1:00 PM by a 13-year-old boy who knew them. He described seeing them talking to a middle aged man in a brown suit who had a cassette tape recorder in a briefcase. They were speaking into a microphone that he held. This boy's account to police investigators became the basis for a composite sketch and description of a possible suspect in the girls' disappearance. The boy gave an exclusive interview to a reporter with the Washington Star Newspaper. Called "Jimmy" (not his real name) in the article, the entire article is quoted in this forum. The sketch which was developed of the "Tape Recorder Man" (TRM) can be seen by clicking on the links below.

    The girls were seen in The Orange Bowl Restaurant about 2:00 PM by their own brother, Jay LYON age 14, who said that they were eating pizza together at the time. The girls had less than $4 between them when they left home, and after eating lunch, would have had only some change left in their pockets.

    Another friend of the sisters later reported seeing them walking west on Drumm Avenue between 2:30 PM and 3:30 PM near Devon Street. Drumm Avenue, a residential street, was part of the most direct route from Wheaton Plaza to their home. This was the last known sighting of the Lyon sisters.

    The girls' mother, Mary LYON had told Sheila and Kate to be home by 4:00 PM, and when they had not arrived by 7:00 PM, she called the Montgomery County Police to report them missing.

    The girls' father, John LYON, was an announcer for WMAL radio in Washington, DC. The radio station, area television stations, and the Washington Post newspaper gave the case much publicity. Many people in the Washington Metropolitan area were interested in the case and many were involved in trying to solve it. Rewards were raised and offered and many tips came in.

    With the Washington Post's publication of the sketch of the "Tape Recorder Man" suspect, several people called to state that they had seen him at Wheaton Plaza on Monday, 24 March, the day before the girls' disappearance.

    In addition, aproximately fifteen other callers recognized the sketch and description of the suspect as that of a man seen on Saturday, 22 March at Iverson Mall and at Marlton Heights Shopping Center, both in neighboring Prince Georges County, Maryland. This individual was reportedly approaching young girls with a request that they read an answering machine type message typed on an index card into the suspect's hand held microphone. Based on these witnesses, the first sketch was only slightly modified and reissued. A few Prince Georges County men were questioned, but none were considered viable suspects.

    One man later came forward and claimed to have been the Prince Georges County "Tape Recorder Man", but he said that he had never appeared as TRM in Montgomery County and in fact, had an alibi for the afternoon of 25 March 1975 (the day the Lyon Sisters disappeared).

    A massive search of the Kensington and Wheaton areas was conducted. The search involved tracking dogs, volunteers, National Guardsmen, Helicopters, and divers, but no trace of the girls was found.

    In the days and weeks that followed, a few attempts at extortion were made by individuals demanding ransom payments. While most of these attempts were quickly considered crank calls, one was taken more seriously. This occurred on Friday, 4 April 1975, when a male caller demanded of John Lyon that he place $10,000 in a restroom at the Ann Arundel County Court House in Annapolis. John Lyon and Montgomery County Police officials left a briefcase as instructed, but no one came to retrieve it. The man later called back and said that there had been too many police in the area for him to get to the money. When told that he had to produce some evidence that he actually had the girls before the ransom would be paid, he said that he would call back, but never did. This was not made public until the following incident took place.

    On Monday 7 April 1975, at 7:30 AM, a witness in Manassas, Virginia reported that he saw two young girls bound and gagged in the back of a beige 1968 Ford station wagon. This sighting was at the corner of Grant and Center Streets in Manassas. When the driver of the car (a man who the witness said resembled the composite sketch of the suspect) saw that he was being followed and watched, he accelerated, ran a red light, and drove west on route 234 toward Interstate 66. It was reported that the vehicle had Maryland plates, possibly with the following letter/number combination: DMT-6**. The last two numbers could not be seen because the plate was bent. That combination of letters had been issued in Cumberland, Hagerstown and Baltimore, Maryland. A search for all possible combinations of those plate numbers failed to produce any information.

    With that last report, at first deemed credible, but later considered questionable by police, the case of Sheila and Kate Lyon gradually went from front page daily news to sporadic updates and then to anniversary articles.

    Twice, however, the story was rivived with what were considered strong leads at the time:

    - In 1982, Montgomery County Police Investigators considered Raymond Rudolph Mileski Sr. a potential suspect in the girls' disappearances. Mileski resided at 5816 Suitland Road in Suitland, Maryland (Prince Georges County) in 1975. He murdered his wife and teenage son inside their home after a disagreement in November 1977. Mileski's youngest son was wounded in the incident. He was convicted of the homicides in 1978 and sentenced to 40 years in prison. Authorities searched the yard of his former residence in April 1982 for material connected to the Lyon cases, but no evidence was discovered.

    - Beginning in March 1987, Fred Howard Coffey Jr. was viewed as a possible suspect in the sisters' disappearance. Coffey is serving a life sentence in a North Carolina prison for murder and child molestation convictions. Authorities learned that he began working at a scientific firm (Vitro Laboratories) based in Silver Spring, Maryland one month after the Lyon sisters vanished. Investigators have been unable to definitely connect Coffey to the girls, and he has never been charged in their disappearance.

    Although occasional leads have been given to the police over the years, the case remains open and unsolved to this day.

    Investigators
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    Montgomery County Police Department
    240-773-5070

    Sources:
    The Washington Post Newspaper Microfilm Archives
    The Washington Star Newspaper Microfilm Archives
    Montgomery County Police
    The Doenetwork
    National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)

    Links:
    Sheila Lyon - The Doe Network: Case File 64DFMD
    http://www.doenetwork.us/cases/64dfmd.html

    Katherine Lyon - The Doe Network: Case File 65DFMD
    http://www.doenetwork.us/cases/65dfmd.html
     
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  3. Rhett

    Rhett Member

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    Both of the Lyons sisters had the same middle name, Mary? Just curious
     
  4. Richard

    Richard Well-Known Member

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    That is correct. Their mother's name is Mary. The girls, however went by Sheila and Kate.
     
  5. Marilynilpa

    Marilynilpa New Member

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    I appreciate your synopsis of this interesting case. I've read hundreds, maybe thousands, of postings about this case, and have responded to several of them with questions and/or speculations.

    It's nice to see it all encapsulated here, rather than having to read through everything in order to understand this sad case.
     
  6. CrimeSolver

    CrimeSolver Member

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    Excellent overview, Richard. In light of all the witnesses and suspects in this fascinating case, it is hard to believe it hasn't yet been solved. I also can't fathom that Tape Recorder Man has never been located.
    Looking at a satellite shot of where the girls were last spotted, there is a wooded area just southwest of Devin Pl and Drumm. Perhaps they were dragged into there. There is also a pond nearby, but I'm sure it and the woods were thoroughly searched at the time.
     
  7. Richard

    Richard Well-Known Member

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    Those woods (and there were more wooded areas at the time) and the pond were searched very thoroughly by police in the days following the disappearance of Sheila and Kate. Dogs were used for scenting, and divers searched the pond.

    About a month later, a massive ground search was made of Rock Creek Parkway just to the west of Wheaton Plaza by National Guard troops, helicopters, dog teams, and volunteers. That search effort was documented in the newspapers. Although some clothing was found, it was determined that the clothing did NOT belong to the girls.
     
  8. CrimeSolver

    CrimeSolver Member

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    Yes, thanks for clearing that up. One assumes it goes without saying that these areas were searched.
     
  9. amh

    amh New Member

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    Hi. I was in 8th grade with several girls who were friends with the Lyons sisters well from their neighborhood and elementary school (they went to a different junior high; I never met them). I still remember the frantic hallway conversations and tears as their devastated friends spread the news. We were all stunned to realize that something like that could happen at Wheaton Plaza, and there was a lot of speculation about who would have taken them, and why.

    You've done a great job on this site of pulling the information together into some real possibilities. I just found it last night as the anniversary of their disappearance approaches.

    Some people here have asked where exactly the Orange Bowl was. It was in the western wing of the mall (which was not enclosed at the time), about a third of the way between the center of the mall and the end of that wing. Customers could only enter the Orange Bowl from the interior of the mall. There was another store on the back of it that could only be entered from the north parking lot. As you faced the Orange Bowl and looked to the right, there was a People's (I think just to the right, but I'm not sure) that passed completely through the building with entrances into the mall and the parking lot, then to the right of that a Thom McHann shoe store at the end of the building and a walkway so that customers could turn left to go from the center of the mall to the parking lot. As you faced the Orange Bowl and looked to the left, there were more stores. Most of these only had entrances into the mall interior, but a Roy Rogers let customers walk completely through. At the far left (west) of that building, a walkway to the right (just before the Montgomery Wards, which is now a Target) took people to the movie theater (now part of Target) or, by turning right to walk along the rear of the Orange Bowl building), to the parking lot (now Macy's).

    As for those new movie theaters, Checker's, Circuit City, etc., - the only building at the time might have been the South Office Building high rise. That whole area was just a parking lot, where fireworks were held for big crowds on the Fourth of July.

    One other intriguing thing about the mall layout is that at the center of the mall there was a "mall employee only" stairway that descended down below the mall (the top of the stairs were very much out in the open, not in a secluded area at all). Beneath the mall was a tunnel for delivery trucks. The trucks would go down a ramp on the southeastern side of the mall (the same side as the path to the Lyons neighborhood, but a very long walk across the parking lot) and into a tunnel below the mall; from the back of the stores, store employees would walk downstairs into the basement storage areas, unlock the doors, and bring the merchandise inside. Sometimes I wonder if that tunnel could have had anything to do with Sheila and Kate's disappearance, but that only makes sense if they weren't seen walking home later. The child witness who saw them on Drumm Avenue on the way home does sound very credible, though, as long as the date/time of his sighting was definite, and that would rule out the tunnel.

    I hope this helps those of you who aren't familiar with this area have a better picture of the mall layout.
     
  10. joellegirl

    joellegirl New Member

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    Thanks AMH for sharing your memories. I was at the mall in 2005 while on vacation in the area and I remember seeing the Target. I could tell the building was older and wondered what it used to be.I know today the mall (now called Westfield?) is nothing like it was in 1975. Totally enclosed now. Do you happen to remember what used to be in what is now JC Penney? I was in there for a little bit and it seemed old as well. Saw the neighborhood the girls lived in as well. Alot more trees than I pictured.

    Thinking of Sheila and Kate on the 32nd anniversary of their disappearance.....
     
  11. amh

    amh New Member

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    The J.C. Penney's was a Woodies (Woodward & Lothrop) and none of the parking garages were there at the time.

    There are actually a lot fewer trees now than there used to be, even around the mall. A lot of the area was wooded between subdivisions; it's just in the past ten years or so that most of the woods have been razed for development, and also trees have been cut down between lots to convert houses into McMansions as a more affordable option to moving.

    I didn't see anything in the Sunday papers about the case yesterday. It's hard to believe that they'd be in their forties now.
     
  12. joellegirl

    joellegirl New Member

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    Thanks amh. While in the JC Penney I stepped out into the mall for a bit but didn't have much time to explore more. Can you still place where the Orange Bowl restaurant was or has it been so redone it is hard to tell?

    Yes, it is hard to believe they would be in their forties now. Unless they are ever found alive they are forever about to turn 11 and 13.
     
  13. amh

    amh New Member

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    Hi, joellegirl. I still think of them as 11 and 13, their ages when we started to realize that they might not be alive. It sure would be great to have a Shawn Hornbeck type ending to this, though, wouldn't it.

    The Orange Bowl was somewhere around where "Cache" is now (#105 on the Westfield Shoppingtowne Wheaton's directory, in front of Macy's. There was no floor above that level at the time. There was only one main level, with a few additional places like an IRS office in a lower area at the bottom of an exterior stairway in front and to the south of Woodie's (now Penney's). Although it led to a parking lot, not a lot of people used that stairway and it was pretty secluded, so someone could have used it without a huge chance of being noticed. Here's a link to the current mall directory:

    http://westfield.com/wheaton/pdf/Wheaton Tear Off.pdf
     
  14. joellegirl

    joellegirl New Member

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    So there were just two big anchor stores in 1975-Woodies and Wards? Is the floorplan the same was 1975, with the exception of the upper level and the roof? Meaning if I were to walk from Penney's to Target, it would be the same path I took in 1975 to get from Woodies to Wards? If I had just walked a little further I may have walked by the Cache store. Maybe next time. It will be interesting to stand where the Orange Bowl was. I wonder if any stores that were there then are still there. Was the water fountain right outside the Orange Bowl?

    While exiting the parking lot I remember seeing concrete type posts on either side that looked to be original.

    Yes, it sure would be something if they turned up alive. It would be scary to think what they had been through, and if they even knew who they were or had any memories. Being 11 and 13 they should have memories, but who knows what the kidnapper may have done to their minds.

    A year or so ago there was a poster on one of these threads who said she had pictures(or knew someone who did) of the mall taken the very day the girls disappeared, but she never came back as far as I know. Those pictures would be very interesting to see.
     
  15. Rhett

    Rhett Member

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    That ranks right up there with "kinda pregnant".
     
  16. Jeb

    Jeb New Member

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    According to a Mont. Co. Newspaper, the Dutch Psychic Peter Hurkos (who is now deceased) sent a cassette tape to LE indicating where he thought the girls could be found. 135 national guardsmen and police searched a 2 mi. area east of Gaitherburg on the north branch of Rock Creek, but found nothing.

    I do not have a date with this article I mentioned, but I do beleive this search took place shortly after the 2 girls vanished.
     
  17. Richard

    Richard Well-Known Member

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    Both the Washington Post and the Washington Star newspapers mentioned this search. I will have to look up the actual date, but I believe that you are correct about it taking place shortly after the girls disappeared. I believe it was in Late April 1975. The Star featured a front page story and I remember there was a photo of John Lyon, looking very tired, as well as photos of searchers.
     
  18. Richard

    Richard Well-Known Member

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    The Doenetwork has recently changed website location or ownership. To view any previous links to it, simply change the "us" in the address to "org". Here are corrections to the links in my Case Summary. Simply click on them to go to the Doenet site.

    Links:
    Sheila Lyon - The Doe Network: Case File 64DFMD

    http://www.doenetwork.org/cases/64dfmd.html


    Katherine Lyon - The Doe Network: Case File 65DFMD

    http://www.doenetwork.org/cases/65dfmd.html
     
  19. Richard

    Richard Well-Known Member

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    Date 25 March 1975 (Tuesday)

    Between 11:00 AM and 12:00 Noon
    - Sheila M. LYON age 12, and her younger sister, Katherine M. (Kate) LYON age 10 left their home at 3121 Plyers Mill Road in Kensington, Maryland to walk to the Wheaton Plaza Shopping Center in Wheaton, located on the corner of University Boulevard and Veirs Mills Road, a distance of about half a mile from their home. The girls were on spring break from school and it was their intention to view Easter exhibits and to have lunch at The Orange Bowl Restaurant. Their probable route would have been down Jennings Road, then on a path through a large wooded area, coming out on McComas Road, then to Drumm Ave, up a small dead-end street through some woods to the Wheaton Plaza parking lot.


    Some time between 1:00 PM and 2:00 PM
    - They were seen outside the Orange Bowl by a 13-year-old boy "Jimmy" who knew them. He described seeing them talking to a middle aged man in a brown suit who had a cassette tape recorder and a tan briefcase. They were speaking into a microphone that he held. Immediately after talking to the girls, the "Tape Recorder Man" walked away toward Montgomery Ward. The girls walked in the opposite direction toward the fountain in the mall, where they were seen talking to the Easter Bunny by their brother Jay.

    About 2:00 PM
    - The girls were seen in The Orange Bowl Restaurant by their brother, Jay LYON age 14, who said that they were eating pizza together.

    Between 2:30 PM and 3:30 PM
    - Another boy later reported seeing them walking west (toward home) on Drumm Avenue near Devon Street. Drumm Avenue, a residential street, was part of the most direct route from Wheaton Plaza to their home.

    4:00 PM
    - this was the time that the girls' mother, Mary LYON had told Sheila and Kate to be home, but they did not arrive.

    7:00 PM
    - Mary and John Lyon become worried after looking for the girls and called the Montgomery County Police to report them missing.
     
  20. SharetheLight

    SharetheLight Share the Light, Share the Love

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    Richard,
    you have extensive information/research on this case. are you a reporter, or an investigator. it seems you've followed this case a long time. do you have any connections that could get this case out in the public again with maybe more info released? the anniversary date is again approaching and it may be helpful to release more info to get this case solved.
    how is it you have so much info on the case? part of your job? a hobby? just curious.
     
  21. Richard

    Richard Well-Known Member

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    I was a young navy navigator flying in the Western Pacific area in March of 1975. It was the beginning of the end for South Vietnam and Cambodia. So, I did not know of this case when it was in the news in the Maryland and Washington DC area.

    By 1985, however, I was stationed in Silver Spring Maryland - still in the Navy, but now writing technical manuals and books. March of 1985 marked the 10 year anniversary of the disappearance of the Lyon sisters, and all of the area TV stations had news features on it. I did not see any of these shows, but a man that I car pooled to work with had seen them and spoke extensively about what he had seen on TV and what he personally remembered of the case.

    It was closer to 1995, however, that I began my own research into the case. I had by then retired from the Navy and was doing some research into the end of the VietNam war. Newspaper microfilms that I was reading contained articles about the Lyon Sisters. I remembered hearing about them in 1985, and got sidetracked from my VietNam research by all the 1975 press coverage on the Lyon Sisters.

    At some point, I was asked to write up a case summary about the missing girls for a Website which eventually became "Maryland's Most Missing". That summary was "borrowed" by many other websites, usually in total, sometimes in a "rewrite" form. I later updated my summary for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) file on the girls.

    Much of my information on this case has come from newspaper microfilm files. You have to read several news stories by different writers to understand the confusion and separate the facts from the opinions.

    I do not claim to have all the answers, but I believe the only way that the answers will come is to first ask the questions. I have spoken with several of the Montgomery County Police case officers assigned to this case - which by the way - has been continuously open since March 1975.

    I have tried in this forum to present the facts as I have been able to ascertain them, and always try to label my opinions or theories as such.

    It certainly would be nice if more information was made available by police, but they have their procedures and security requirements. Obviously they know much more about these cases than is reported in newspapers or posted here. I certainly have a "short list" of questions concerning this case that I would like to have answered.
     

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