Marilyn and Donald Pope lived in the US state of Indiana and had 14 children, most of whom were raised by family members or put in foster care. Despite coming from a dysfunctional family, sisters Sharon and Lillian were best friends.
Sharon Kay Pope de Jesus was 20-years-old and lived in Gary, Indiana, with relatives. She was married to 22-year-old Douglas de Jesus but the two were estranged. The couple had two sons and Sharon was six months pregnant. She worked at Calvin’s Grill on Dunes Highway in Miller, just ten minutes from her home.
Across the street from Sharon’s workplace, her sister Lillian Mae Pope worked at the 12–20 Bowl. 18-year-old Lillian lived down the street at Ted’s East Town Mobile Home City in Portage. She was also pregnant, nearly full-term.
On the evening of December 13, 1973, Sharon and Lillian left Calvin’s Grill and headed on foot to the nearby 12–20 Bowl.
The sisters never arrived at the bowling alley and were last seen walking along Dunes Highway in East Gary, now known as Lake Station.
The next morning, an East Gary city employee fulfilling his daily duties checked the sewage lift station at the corner of 15th Avenue and Clay Street in Lake Station. In a field near this station, the worker found the bodies of two women.
Sharon and Lillian were lying next to each other, face down, along a gravel road. The spot in which they were found was and still is a common site for illegal dumping. The sisters were fully clothed — they were wearing blue jeans, red jackets, and black boots.
Both women had been beaten, but Sharon had been attacked so severely in her face and head that she would have been unrecognizable. Each sister had been shot once at close range in the back of the head.
Even though authorities questioned many people during their investigation, no one has ever been charged with the double homicide. One of the people questioned was Douglas de Jesus but he was released.
Police do not believe the perpetrator’s motive to be rape or robbery. Neither woman had been sexually abused and one of their purses was found at the scene with money in it. Nevertheless, many people believe the attack was personal, Sharon being the most likely target as she had been badly beaten.
It is likely that Sharon and Lillian were mu*rdered elsewhere and then dumped at the site. It is estimated that they had been killed six to eight hours before being found.
There is no DNA evidence and some records were destroyed in a flood.
Sharon and Lillian were very close but many of their siblings grew up in different states and didn’t even know each other’s names.
Larry Pope, one of their younger brothers, grew up in the foster system in Valparaiso, Indiana, but never met Sharon or Lillian. He was 17-years-old when a caseworker handed him an envelope containing several newspaper clippings about his estranged sisters’ mur*ders which had occurred four years prior.
The first picture he ever saw of Sharon and Lillian was of their mur*dered bodies in a newspaper. It was on that day he decided he wanted to seek justice for his sisters.
As a teenager, Martha Hoag overheard a friend talking about two of her sisters being mu*rdered. Martha had been raised by an aunt and uncle in Florida and did not have any contact with her siblings.
She would later find a newspaper clipping about Sharon and Lillian and was brought to tears. Her aunt laughed at her and remarked, “You didn’t even know them. What are you crying about?”. Nonetheless, Martha wanted answers.
Martha’s daughter-in-law helped her get in touch with Larry and some of her other siblings. She also visited her father in order to get more information on Sharon and Lillian.
As she was in his living room, her step-mother Mary and her daughter Vicky walked in. Vicky got visibly angry upon seeing Martha and stormed out. Mary explained that Martha looked a lot like Lillian. Furthermore, Martha was told that Vicky was supposed to pick up Sharon and Lillian on the night of the mur*der.
This incident led to Martha pondering if maybe Vicky knows more about the mur*ders than she has admitted.
In 2018, a woman came forward claiming she was Sharon’s daughter. The unnamed woman, born in 1969, claimed that her adoptive mother had told her so on her death bed. It is unknown if this woman’s claims have been proven or disproven.
That same year, Larry noticed that someone was leaving various objects at Sharon and Lillian’s gravesite. He often visits his sisters’ resting place in Calvary Cemetery in Portage, Indiana.
He found stones with Sharon and Lillian’s names carved onto them along with their birth and death dates. Some trinkets, including small angel statues, were also left at their graves. Larry thought that someone was feeling guilty but nothing seems to have come from this.
Also in 2018, Case Files Chicago, a true crime series, dedicated an episode to the mur*ders of Sharon and Lillian. The documentary includes interviews with Larry, Martha, and Det. CPL. Mark Adkins from the Lake Station Police Department.
Sharon and Lillian were buried next to each other with their unborn babies. Larry would later have a headstone erected for them.
Larry, Martha, and several of their siblings and family members are still searching for answers, even though it is possible that the killer has died by now. Larry believes the case could be solved, however, someone needs to come forward with information.
Donald Pope died in 2007 but most of Sharon and Lillian’s siblings are still alive.
Douglas de Jesus abandoned his sons and moved away shortly after the mur*ders; the boys were raised by their father’s girlfriend. Sadly, the oldest boy was fatally shot in the neck in 1998.
“To find justice, to get some closure in this case, would mean the world to me. (…) Not only would I finally have some peace, but I believe they would have peace also. That’s what’s important.
They need to know that somebody gives a f***.”
Sharon and Lillian’s headstone / find a grave
If anyone has information about this case, contact the Lake Station Police Department at 219–962–1186 or email Det. CPL. Mark Adkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The m*urders of Sharon and Lillian Pope have been unsolved for 49 years.