Mother extends yearlong search for missing son, 40 http://www.timesonline.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=14533077&BRD=2305&PAG=461&dept_id=478569&rfi=6 05/16/2005Mother extends yearlong search for missing son, 40 Michael Pound, Times Staff [SIZE=-2]Gene Lysle [/SIZE] WELLSVILLE, Ohio - The last time Sherrill Jackson saw her son, she was dropping him off at a rest stop along Ohio Route 213. Gene Lysle, who was headed to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert at the P-G Pavilion, told his mother not to worry about his plans to hitchhike from the rest stop to the show. "He said, 'I love you, I'll be fine,' " Jackson said. "And that was it." That was nearly a year ago, on June 13, 2004, a steamy Sunday afternoon. Jackson isn't sure whether Lysle, 40, ever made it to the concert, but she knows he has yet to come home. Since that time, Jackson has been combing eastern Ohio, northern West Virginia and western Pennsylvania to try to find out what happened to her son. "It wouldn't have been unusual for Gene to just go away for a couple of days," she said. "But when he had been away for about five days, I knew something was wrong. He hasn't always been one of the good guys, but no matter what happened, he always called me. Always." Lysle, who did not drive, had a ride to the concert, but the friend who was driving him had to turn around so Lysle could get medication for asthma and emphysema when his breathing became rough on the trip out. That's when Lysle called his mother, who lives in Wellsville, asking for a ride. Jackson said Lysle attended at least a couple of concerts at the amphitheater each summer, usually classic rock bands that she isn't familiar with. The shows were always a high point for Lysle, who, Jackson said, lived what many would consider to be a hard life. "He's an alcoholic, and he gets pretty obnoxious when he's drunk," she said. "He's done jail time, in Canton and in St. Clairsville. He had a house where he lived with some friends, and sometimes he did work for the construction business my husband had. He just survived day-to-day. "But he got his GED (high school diploma) when he was in St. Clairsville, and when he was sober, there was nobody better," Jackson is quick to add. "And he always took such good care of me." So when she hadn't heard from Lysle after the show, she began talking to police in Wellsville and East Liverpool. A police investigation eventually turned up word from a couple who said they dropped off Lysle in East Liverpool late that night. But with the exception of that tenuous lead, police have been stymied in their search. Even volunteers with rescue dogs who combed the land between East Liverpool and Wellsville turned up nothing. Jackson has done plenty of searching on her own. She grabbed pictures of Lysle and took a tour of the bars in and around East Liverpool, hoping to find someone who had seen her son or maybe knew where he had ended up. "Everyone was so nice, and you might not expect that from bar people," she said, laughing. "I found people who knew Gene, and I found one guy who looked at the picture and said, 'Hey, I was in jail with him.' But we didn't get any further." Jackson said the community has rallied to help her, from the emergency officials who have volunteered their time, to a Wellsville prayer group that began showing up on Jackson's lawn every Thursday to pray for a resolution. "I've gotten so much moral support - without it, this would have been a lot tougher," she said. "It's tough enough as it is." Jackson said it's hard to judge how she feels about her son's disappearance - it's frustrating and sad, certainly, but Jackson said she also has approached the problem with a matter-of-fact attitude. "I think he's probably dead," she said. "And if that's the case, I'll miss him terribly, just like I do now. But the big thing is that I want to know. I want to know what happened, I want to know where he is. Someone out there knows all that stuff, and I won't stop until I find out for myself." So now, nearly a year later, the search continues, and Jackson continues to show that she's willing to try anything, even consulting a psychic, to find Lysle. It was information from that psychic, Polly Birkhimer of Weirton, W.Va., that prompted Jackson to expand her search into Beaver County. Jackson visited Birkhimer to see whether she could gain any new leads. "The first thing she told me was that she was pretty sure Gene was dead," Jackson said. "And then she said she kept seeing the number 30, like in Route 30, and the word 'beaver.' Jackson immediately thought of Lysle's "back way" home from a concert at the amphitheater - Route 18 north to Route 30 west, through the northern tip of West Virginia and back home. "They always took the back way because they didn't want to get busted for drinking and driving," she said. "When the psychic said that, it immediately made sense." Jackson has already spent time in the woods of Greene Township, poking along Route 30 for any signs of Lysle. "I found a lot of dead deer, but that's about it," she said. "But it got me thinking that I really should do something to get the word out a little bit more in Beaver County." Jackson placed ads in The Times two days last week, with a picture of a bandanna-wearing Lysle standing outside her home. The ad offers a $500 reward - money collected by friends - and says tips may be sent to Mom, P.O. Box 461, Wellsville, OH 43968. "I haven't gotten anything back from the ad yet, but I'm still hoping," she said. "I showed it to our police chief the other day, and he said, "Boy, you're just never going to give up, are you?' "I told him I wouldn't. And I won't." Michael Pound can be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org.