East Liverpool Historical Society

This article originally appeared in Murder will Out! A Unpublished Manuscript by the late Glenn H. Waight.

The 1943 Case of the Vanished Bride became a Tale of a Clueless Corpse for which a killer has never been arrested.

The nude, decomposed body of Mrs. Alice Lyons, 17, of 1718 Pennsylvania Ave. -- missing for several weeks -- was discovered by three school boys in a briar patch in California Hollow.

Her husband of five months, John, 22, a foundry worker, was jailed and questioned by city and county authorities, but denied any knowledge of the crime.

Her remains were found Oct. 2 on a hillside some 25 feet from busy Route 30 about a mile north of the city. The boys -- Junior Gourley, 13, Clifford Oakes, 15, and Regis Watters, 12 -- were walking up the hill to hunt butternuts. They ran to nearby neighbors who called police.

Coroner Arnold Devon said the young woman may have been killed shortly after her disappearance. The remains lay in a "V" shape, the head half-buried in soil washed up by recent rains. He thought the murder took place elsewhere, and the dead victim was "dropped roughly from the shoulder of the person who carried her."

Due to the condition of the body, the cause of death could not be determined, although officials believed it strangulation. The skull showed no marks of violence.

An anklet was on one leg, and a discolored bow of ribbon and rusty hairpin lay near the head -- the only articles of personal attire. Found nearby were the other anklet and a pair of blue pumps lent her by an in-law the day she disappeared.

THE SITE WAS behind a billboard which screened it from the highway. A neighbor living only 100 feet away reported he had noticed an odor of decay a month or so before, but thought it a dead animal.

The victim, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Neilson of Substation Rd., resided with her husband at the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Lyons of Pennsylvania Ave. Her parents were mutes.

She was a native of the city, and had attended East Liverpool High School for a year. She and her husband were married at Cleveland in March. Her mother-in-law said she had born an infant son the previous year, but he died within a few days.

She had walked away from that home Aug. 20, about a month pregnant, leaving a note for her husband. Her relatives said she appeared dissatisfied with the living arrangements, wanting a home of her own.

John Lyons had been arrested two weeks before with a companion after a drunken spree during which they broke out several windows at the Mary Patterson Memorial Home on Fourth St.

Questioned intensely by law officers about his wife's death, he declared his innocence. He had gone to Midland the afternoon she left, he said, to get a pay check at the Mackintosh-Hemphill plant.

He said he came back to East Liverpool to hunt for rooms into which the couple could move temporarily. Returning home around 10:30 p.m. he found her note saying she was leaving and would send and talked to for her clothes.

Lyons asserted his sister had seen Alice downtown and also spoke with her on Labor Day. There were other reports she had been in Chester.

The next day -- Aug. 21 -- he reported to police she was missing. A few days later, he placed a picture and story in The Review, telling a reporter to print that "if she didn't return immediately, he would join the merchant marine."

Her mother subsequently placed a classified ad in the newspaper reading, "Alice, please come home. We will help you."

By then, Alice was probably beyond that help.

Her death marked the third unsolved murder of a woman found apparently strangled in East Liverpool in a four-year period, stirring speculation about a serial killer on the loose.

At least one national publication picked up on the coincidence, and added or imagined another common link. The American Weekly of Oct. 29, 1944, featured a full page report with a photo and drawing about the unexplained killings of Julia Wall found in a barrel in 1940, the unknown woman whose body was discovered along State St. in 1944 and Alice Lyons.

The photo was of Mrs. Wall's body jammed in the barrel, and the drawing was an artist's conception of Sam Winter's pop-eyed finding the shapely victim. This account in the Sunday tabloid of Hearst Newspapers of that period lacked a byline of. the writer who apparently played loose with the facts.

First, the author placed all of the killings in the East End. Mrs. Wall's body, actually found along Jennings Ave. on the North Side, was described as a "stone's throw away" from State St. And Alice Lyons body, discovered along Dresden Ave. Ext., was listed as lying "along the same road" (State St.)

More interesting, however, was the writer's reporting of the "imprint of a massive hand" in the mud or soil near all three victims.

The author declared,

Although police said it was probably coincidence there were many who felt that one man was responsible for what seemed to be a series of perfect crimes, and that in all probability he was still at large in the community, merely waiting for another opportunity or another urge to wrap his sinewy fingers around a woman's throat.

He went on:

Whether one strangler or several have been busy there, a handprint in the mud has come to be the mark of a perfect crime.

But the chances are that these 'perfect crimes,' like similar series of stranglings, will eventually be solved.

He was wrong about that, too.


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