Sisters 'vanished without a trace'; History: Now that the case of Michele Dorr has been closed, the Lyon sisters remain the only unsolved missing-child case in Montgomery County.


Earlier this month, Hadden Clark, convicted of killing 6-year-old Michele Dorr, who disappeared from her Montgomery County home in 1986, finally led Montgomery County police to her grave in a park near the Capital Beltway.

As the discovery of the grave brought an end to the 13-year-old mystery, it recalled the mysterious and still unexplained disappearance of the Lyon sisters nearly a quarter of a century ago from Wheaton Plaza Shopping Center.

Katherine and Sheila Lyon, who lived in nearby Kensington, had gone to Wheaton Plaza on March 25, 1975, to buy a pizza. They vanished without a trace.

Katherine, 13, and her sister, Sheila, 11, daughters of WMAL radio personality John Lyon, were last seen speaking to a gray-haired man carrying a briefcase and tape recorder.

After their disappearance, Montgomery County police spent hundreds of hours following up on leads and tips. They checked and double-checked the whereabouts of known child molesters and sexual deviates.

They conducted a foot-by-foot search of the shopping center and nearby woods. Police went house to house speaking to homeowners, checked Dumpsters, abandoned autos and garages, and even sent patrol officers into the sewer system looking for evidence.

The quest to find the sisters quickly expanded into a nationwide effort.

The Maryland National Guard even joined the search, walking shoulder to shoulder through the thick brush of Rock Creek Park near Gaithersburg, where they had been directed to look by a Dutch psychic.

Two German shepherds were brought in and led police across the Wheaton Plaza parking lot, down a hill and into a gully along a shallow creek, where they lost the scent.

"Police said they have heard from dowsers who want to use divining rods to locate the Lyon girls, from mediums who go into trances and supposedly talk with the dead, and even from a caller who said the girls had been pirated away by white slavers," the Evening Sun reported at the time.

Sgt. George Bowman, a detective assigned to the case, told the newspaper that the case was more difficult than most because, "There is just no reference point; no place to start."

Hundreds of pages of reports and interviews fill boxes that are stored at police headquarters in Rockville.

Twenty-five years later, police remain baffled by the case, which still produces several calls and tips a year.

"The Dorr case has certainly renewed interest in the Lyon sisters," said Derek Baliles, Montgomery County police spokesman, yesterday.

He said the police periodically examine records to see if there was something they might have overlooked.

"During the first year of the investigation, police received over 2,000 phone calls. There were reports of sightings. Pieces of old clothing thought to have belonged to the girls had to be investigated. And we still receive a tip now and then," he said.

Sadly, police are no closer today to solving the case than they were in 1975. It remains the only unsolved missing-child case in Montgomery County.

"They were last seen at 2: 30 p.m. on March 25, 1975, on Drumm Avenue between Devin Place and Decatur Avenue, walking south on McComas Street, en route to the plaza," said Baliles.

Today, John Lyon no longer works in radio. He is a victim assistant in the county's Victims' Assistance and Sexual Assault program and recently helped Carl Dorr, Michele Dorr's father, deal with the discovery of his daughter's remains.

"The one purely speculative theory, and it is only speculative, is that they were abducted and quickly removed from the area. No hostage or ransom notes were ever received," Baliles said. "They simply vanished without a trace."

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