CARTHAGE — Bev Tallent doesn’t cry when she talks about her sister – at least, not like she used to.
After 10 years of telling Nancy Lyons’ story, the pleas for help, for information, for any lead that might solve the Carthage woman’s murder, sound almost scripted. The message, every summer since her disappearance June 17, 2002, has been the same: Help us find our sister’s killer.
But Saturday afternoon, surrounded by friends and family in a small park just four miles from the county road intersection where Lyons’ abandoned car was found, the normally resolute Tallent broke down.
Her voice was thick with tears as she spoke of the community support her family received, from homemade meals to mowed lawns, in the days following Lyons’ disappearance.
Tallent recalled the friends who embraced them four months later when they received the news they’d been dreading: Lyons wasn’t coming home.
Lyons’ body was found in a farmer’s field in Bartholomew County, more than 50 miles from where her car was left. She died from a blow to the head.
Tallent’s grief was echoed by the crowd of supporters who gathered Saturday for the 10th anniversary ceremony. Some clutched tissues, stifling their own cries; others called out words of encouragement as Tallent struggled to go on.
Over the years, Tallent, 59, a retired nurse who lives in Louisville, Ky., has been the driving force behind the search for Lyons’ killer.
She has pulled public records, organized a letter-writing campaign to law enforcement and spearheaded a fundraising effort to offer reward money.
Each summer, she returns to Indiana to remind Carthage residents she will not back down until she sees justice for Lyons, a woman who she says loved children and was a friend to all who knew her.
Tallent’s dogged determination has been praised by those who knew Lyons best.
But Tallent has no use for their compliments.
“They see it as strength – I’m just plain stubborn,” Tallent said.
Tallent has meticulously researched every detail of her sister’s slaying, starting with the discovery of Lyons’ 1993 Nissan Sentra, abandoned off the side of a country road in northwestern Rush County with a flat tire and the engine still running.
Lyons was on her way back to Carthage from the Rushville Wal-Mart. Surveillance cameras captured her leaving the store.
She bought a diet Sprite and a bottle of ibuprofen. Both were still in the car when police arrived, along with Lyons’ purse and cellphone. There was no sign of a struggle.
Investigators scoured the area but came up empty.
A decade later, the leads have dried up. No new information has surfaced.
“We’re 10 years into this, and I’ve never had law enforcement or someone in that capacity really look at me and say, ‘This is what we think happened, and this is who we think might have done it,’” Tallent said. “It still leaves us, basically, where we were 10 years ago in many ways.”
The family believes Lyons knew her killer and suspect her death might have had something to do with the large amount of prescription narcotics Lyons had at her disposal.
Lyons, who was unmarried and had no children, had been on disability for years because of chronic pain following gall bladder surgery and had a prescription for Oxycontin, among other drugs.
Oxycontin is a strong and highly addictive narcotic, and Lyons had been known to share the medication with others.
Some of Lyons’ pills were stolen shortly before her disappearance, but police were never able to make a connection between the two events, Tallent said.
The family holds a vigil for Lyons every June. This year was the first time Lyons’ oldest sister, Trish Consley, 61, of Alabama, flew in to attend.
In some respects, the past 10 years seem to have gone by in a blur. In others, it feels like a lifetime of waiting.
“It’s traumatic,” Consley said. “There’s an empty void there now that wasn’t there 10 years ago.”
This year, a victim advocate from Texas joined the family for the ceremony.
Jennifer Browne, founder of the nonprofit organization Not Above the Law, is undaunted by the time that has passed since Lyons was killed.
“We have cases that were solved after 15, 20 years,” she said. “Things happen, people change. Somebody gets in trouble and says, ‘Hey, I’ll give you this for leniency. They plea bargain, they get a lower sentence, but they give up a case like Nancy’s. There’s always hope.”
Tallent and her sisters are often asked why they don’t give up the search.
They agree that’s not an option.
While years might pass without yielding a single lead, the family firmly believes keeping Lyons’ memory alive and her story in the headlines is their best strategy in bringing her killer to justice.
“I think that giving up means that there would be no hope,” Tallent said. “We’re realistic that this is really, really tough. We’re also realistic that this may not happen, but it certainly won’t happen if we quit. That’s for sure.”