Originally published in The Rock River Times.

Looking back later there was nothing to indicate the day would be any different from others.  It started out as just another typical day.  It was June 9, 1966 and the weather that day was overcast with an occasional drizzle.

Edwin Lyons and his wife, Lauretta had breakfast together before he left for work that day.  They had been married in Dubuque, Iowa on October 20, 1939. Lauretta was only 20 when they married. She had been born and raised in Rockford and it was here that they decided to make their home.

Both Lauretta and Edwin were considered successful.   She had been a secretary but quit her job at the Block and Kuhl Department store to open her own pet accessory store.  Edwin and Lauretta were partners in this venture.  They had a little shop on Mulberry Street in downtown Rockford called the Lyon’s Den.  They also traveled to fairs to display and sell the fancy dog collars from their shop.

Lauretta was a member of the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, the Rockford Women’s Club, Rockford chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star.  She was also a member of the American Kennel Club and the Canadian Club.  She had been a member of the Business and Professional Women’s Association. Lauretta also volunteered in her spare time.  She was a pink lady at Rockford Memorial Hospital.

Edwin worked as a chemist at the Rockford Drop Forge Company.  Edwin’s father was well known in Rockford.  He owned the  Brown’s Business College.  Edwin and Lauretta had operated the school for a while before it was sold in 1942. The school would eventually become the Rockford School of Business.

Edwin left shortly after breakfast, right around 7:30a.m.  The Lyon’s house was a little off the beaten path out on Latham Road where it intersects with Owen Center.  It sat back a little ways from the road and was surrounded by trees and cornfields.  It was not visible to any of the other houses.

Later that day when they were interviewed, the Lyon’s neighbors claimed that they did not know them very well.  Richard T Hare stated that he very rarely saw them.

Before Edwin left, he and Lauretta made plans for lunch.  He was going to meet her at the shop.  When Edwin left for work he had no way of knowing that this seemingly ordinary day would turn out to be anything but that.

Lauretta was next seen by Julian Cwyman, a 38 year old telephone repairman.  He told deputies that he saw Lauretta with her three dogs walking around her yard.  They had spoken briefly and Lauretta even showed Cwyman some of the tricks she had taught the dogs.  He left the area around 9:20a.m.

Edwin went to the shop for his lunch date with his wife.  He was surprised when she wasn’t there.  He tried to phone but received no answer to his attempts.  So he decided he better check on her to make sure everything was well.

He arrived home around 12:30p.m. Edwin noticed that the doors were locked and the dogs were all inside.  He stated he walked into the living room and saw his wife lying on her stomach on the floor in a pool of blood.  There were several of his neckties around her, one was even clenched in her hand.

He immediately called the sheriff’s department and an ambulance.  In the long moments it took help to arrive, he desperately searched for a pulse.  Lauretta’s favorite dogs was curled up next to her and Edwin had to pick him up to get close to her.  He noticed that its fur was still damp from an earlier walk.

Help finally arrived but even though Edwin pleaded with the ambulance crew to “Save her, save her” there was nothing to be done.  They loaded Lauretta in the ambulance and drove her to Rockford Memorial where she was pronounced dead.

Police arrived in full force with the lead investigator, Sheriff’s Lt. Michael Iasparro,(father to Dominic Iasparro) over seeing the investigation.

Police noticed that the doors were all locked and that nothing was taken even though there was a large amount of money in the home and a valuable stamp collection.

There were signs of a struggle.  Furniture had been disturbed, a curtain was ripped down and there was blood on the floor by the front door.  This told investigators that Lauretta had fought her attacker.  When Coroner Carl Sundberg conducted the autopsy on Lauretta he reported that her jaw was swollen and that her lips and tongue were cut.  She had not been raped.  But she had been brutally strangled with one of her husband neckties.  The tie had gouged into her neck.  Lauretta had another tie in her right hand and police discovered it had been cut off cleanly apparently with scissors.  They searched the entire house looking for the missing tip.  It was never located.

Police theorized that someone might have come into the house while Lauretta was out walking her dogs and was there waiting when she returned.  They fought in the living room and Lauretta broke free and made it to the door.  She was then strangled from behind and left there for hours until her husband found her.

Neighbors were questioned. Edwin was interrogated but his alibi of being at work held up.  He told investigators that he had pulled his wife’s car out of the garage for her before he left for work at 7:30 a.m.  Sheriff Kirk King was surprised when five people came forward to state that while they were driving by the home the morning of the murder, they had seen another car in the Lyon’s driveway.  It was described as a 1957 maroon ford.

This case was never solved.  The closest the police came was a few weeks after the murder when there was another attack on a woman.

Charlene O’Brien had finished her shopping at the Colonial Village Mall and walked back to her car.  It was there that 43 year old Sanford Harris forced her into the car and kidnapped her.  She was found 40 hours later, brutally beaten and abandoned along a farmer’s lane near Perryville Road.  Charlene was able to describe her attacker as a middle aged negro man and police quickly picked up Harris.

He was living with his common law wife, Mary Ann Walker.  Walker told police she was 21 but they found out later she was only 15 years old.  Harris was on parole from the state of Michigan.  Harris had killed a 41 year old woman and received a life sentence but was later paroled.

When people were asked to look at Harris and his car, they identified him as being the one they saw around Lauretta’s house the day she was killed.

This story has made the paper several times, always listed as one of the unsolved crimes of this city.  According to the latest article written in the Rockford Register Star in 2007, Rockford had formed a new cold case squad and Deputy Chief Dominic Iasparro has a special tie to this case.  Sheriff Lt. Michael Iasparro was his father.  Dominic Iasparro is quoted in the 2007 article.  He states that “There was significant focus on one suspect but there was never enough evidence to charge that one individual.”

It has been 47 years since Lauretta Lyons was killed in her own home.  Almost as much time has passed since her death as she was on this earth.  The chances are very slim now that her killer will ever be brought to justice. Her family must feel a little comfort that she has not been forgotten.  It must bring them a little peace that the torch has been passed from the original officer to his son who has now made it his mission.

 

Copyright © 2020, 2021 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events