LAKE STATION | The bodies of two pregnant sisters, both fully clothed in red hooded jackets and black boots, were found lying next to each other near a sewer lift station by a city employee more than 36 years ago.
Sharon Pope DeJesus, 20, and Lillian Pope, 18, both were killed by shotgun blasts at close range in December 1973. Their slayings have never been solved, Lake Station Detective Kevin Garber said.
Garber is hopeful someone will come forward with information that would help solve the homicides, one of the oldest cold cases he knows about.
"Someone knows something," Garber said.
Larry Pope, a younger brother of the two women, agrees and continues to push for answers.
He said he's not giving up on his mission to find out who killed them and why.
Pope, who never met either sister because of family circumstances at the time, has tended to their graves in Calvary Cemetery in Portage for the past 20 years. The sisters are buried next to each other with their unborn babies in a gravesite unmarked until recently.
"I didn't know them, but it's been a long time ago, 36 years, and I'd like to see it solved," Pope said. "That's four murders in my estimation."
Pope said he's been hopeful in recent months because someone has carved onto stones the names of both young women, as well as the dates they were born and the day they died. Trinkets, including miniature statues of angels, also have been added to the gravesite.
"I'm wondering if it's guilt or a remorseful tactic that someone has taken," Pope said.
Garber, who said another family member has admitted to adding the headstones, said the case has never been closed. And he realizes time isn't on the side of police, as far as interviewing any of the individuals who were questioned in the 1970s.
"Lots of people were questioned," he said. "A lot have passed away or have moved out of the area."
According to newspaper accounts at the time, the sisters last were seen leaving a drive-in restaurant, Calvin's Grill, at 4701 E. Dunes Highway in Gary, where DeJesus worked. It also was reported the two sisters left the restaurant to go to 12-20 Bowl, 5600 E. Eighth Ave., Gary, which was within walking distance of the restaurant.
The last time the two women were seen alive was when they were walking along Dunes Highway, according to the newspaper accounts.
DeJesus, who was estranged from her husband, with whom she had two sons, was living with relatives in Gary.
Lillian Pope was living at Ted's East Town Mobile Home City in Portage.
Larry Pope, one of women's 12 surviving siblings, said he thinks it's time the case was solved.
"You just don't kill two girls, then dump them, and no one knows anything about it," he said. "This is a doggone shame."
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Lake Station police Detective Kevin Garber at (219) 962-1186, ext. 233, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.