Lyon Sisters: Missing 35 Years

6:45 PM, Mar 23, 2010   |    comments
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KENSINGTON, Md. (WUSA)--Sheila Lyon and her younger sister, Katherine, lived in Kensington, Maryland with their 2 brothers and parents, Mary and John Lyon.  John Lyon was a well known radio personality at WMAL.

On March 25, 1975, just days before both girls' birthdays, Sheila (then 12-years-old) and Katherine (then 10-years-old) left their family home on Plyers Mill Road in Kensington between 11:00 a.m. and 12noon.

The girls were walking to the Wheaton Plaza Shopping Center in Montgomery County, which was approximately one-half mile from their house and located on the corner of University Boulevard and Veirs Mills Road.

Sheila and Katherine were on spring vacation from school and wanted to see the Easter exhibits at the mall, as well as have lunch at The Orange Bowl Restaurant, which was on the mall premises.

A neighborhood child saw the girls outside the restaurant at approximately 1:00 p.m.  He told investigators that the sisters were speaking to an unidentified middle-aged man wearing a brown suit. The man was carrying a briefcase with a tape cassette recorder inside; there were also other children around who were speaking into a microphone he was holding. The witness' description of the man led authorities to view the unknown person as a prime suspect in the Lyons' sisters' case and a sketch of the individual was created.

Composite Sketch of Man Seen With Tape Cassette Recorder
(Source: Montgomery County Police, 1975)

The girls' older brother saw Sheila and Katherine inside The Orange Bowl Restaurant eating pizza together at approximately 2:00 p.m.

A friend stated that the girls were later seen walking westward down Drumm Avenue near Devon Street between 2:30--3:00 p.m.  This would have been one of the most direct routes to their house on Plyers Mill Road from the mall and was the final confirmed sighting of the sisters.

Their mother had instructed Sheila and Katherine to return home by 4:00 p.m.  When they did not arrive by 7:00 p.m., authorities were summoned and an extensive search was conducted.

Several extortion-type phone calls were made to the Lyons family in the weeks following the girls' disappearances. The most serious call came from an unidentified male on April 4, 1975. The individual demanded that their father leave a briefcase with $10,000 inside an Annapolis, Maryland courthouse restroom. The money was left as per the instructions but was never claimed. The caller later maintained that police had surrounded the courthouse and he could not retrieve the ransom.

Before the money would be offered to the man again, he was required to show evidence of the Lyon sisters in his custody. The caller said he would be in touch with the family, but never called back.

A witness in Manassas, Virginia reported seeing two girls resembling Sheila and Katherine in the rear of a 1968 beige Ford station wagon on April 7, 1975. The witness stated that the girls were observed bound and gagged in the vehicle at approximately 7:30 a.m. that day. The witness said the driver of the station wagon resembled the man seen questioning children at The Orange Bowl Restaurant the day the sisters vanished.

The witness says when the driver spotted the witness tailing him, he ran a red light and sped west on Route 234 towards Interstate 66 in Virginia. The station wagon had Maryland license plates with the possible combination "DMT-6**." The last two numbers are unknown due to the bending of the car's plate.  The known combination was issued in Cumberland, Hagerstown and Baltimore, Maryland at the time. A search for the plate numbers came up empty.  This witness's report was at first treated as credible, but was later deemed "questionable."

Fred Howard Coffey, Jr. was viewed with interest in the sisters' cases beginning in March 1987. 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 based in Silver Spring, Maryland one month after the Lyon sisters vanished. Investigators have been unable to determine if Coffey is connected to the cases and he has never been charged in their disappearances.

Investigators considered Raymond Rudolph Mileski, Sr. another potential person of interest in the girls' disappearances. Mileski resided in the 5810 block of Suitland Road in Suitland, Maryland in 1975. He murdered his wife and teenage son inside their home after a disagreement in November 1977. Mileski's younger 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 Lyons' cases, but no evidence was discovered, an no charges were ever filed. 

The girls' disappearances remain unsolved. Today Sheila would be 47-years-old.  Katherine would be 45-years-old. 

Using both art and science, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, Virginia have created age enhanced progression images of the Lyon sisters.


Left: Sheila Lyon, circa 1975; Right: Age-progression image at age 47, circa October 30, 2009 (Source: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children).

Vital Statistics at the Time of Disappearance:

  • Missing Since:  March 25, 1975 from Wheaton, Maryland
  • Date of Birth:  March 30, 1962
  • Age:  12-years-old
  • Height and Weight:  5'2"; 100 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics:  Blonde hair, blue eyes.  Sheila wears eyeglasses.


Left:  Katherine Lyon, circa 1975; Right:  Age-progression inage at age 45, circa November 4, 2009  (Source: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children).

Vital Statistics at the Time of Disappearance:

  • Missing Since:  March 25, 1975 from Wheaton, Maryland
  • Date of Birth:  March 29, 1964
  • Age:  10-years-old
  • Height and Weight:  4'8"; 85 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics:  Blonde hair; blue eyes.  Katherine has a birthmark inside her upper thigh.  Her nickname is "Kate."

If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:

Montgomery County Police Department 301-279-8000 or 240-773-5070.

The National Center for Missing and Exloited Children 1-800-THE-LOST


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