Iris Tyson left her home in South Philadelphia around 1:00 pm on Sunday, May 8, 2011. It was Mother’s Day, and the 23-year-old wanted to run to the store to get her mom, Kelly, a card and a gift. She quietly told her father, Joe, what she planned to do, but her mother entered the living room before Iris had a chance to slip out the front door. Kelly heard Iris say she needed to go to the store, so she asked her daughter if she wanted her to go with her. Iris waved her off, telling Kelly that she would ruin her own surprise if she accompanied her. She promised she’d be back soon, told her parents that she loved them, and left the house.

Iris lived with her parents on Ritner Street in the Whitman section of South Philadelphia. Although she hadn’t specified where she planned to go shopping, her parents assumed she was going to walk to the Pathmark on Oregon Avenue a few blocks away. It was a walk that Iris had made many times before; she would have felt perfectly safe walking there on that sunny afternoon.

When Iris hadn’t returned home by 3:00 pm, her parents started to get worried. Although they didn’t know for sure which store she had gone to, Iris had clearly stated that she didn’t plan to be gone long. Minutes dragged by without any word from Iris, and by 6:00 pm her parents were frantic. They knew that Iris had planned on being home for a Mother’s Day dinner with her mom; she wasn’t the type of person who would ever miss out on family plans. Fearing that something horrible must have happened to her, they called the Philadelphia Police Department and reported Iris missing.

Although Iris’s friends and family knew that she wouldn’t have gone anywhere without contacting anyone, law enforcement did not share their concerns. Iris was an adult, free to come and go as she pleased; they assured the family that she had likely just met up with some friends and would return home when she was ready.

Realizing that the police department wasn’t going to look for Iris, her family and friends immediately launched their own search for the young woman. They quickly had missing person posters made and spent hours hanging them up throughout South Philadelphia. Her parents drove up and down all of the streets in their neighborhood, searching in vain for any sign of their daughter.

Those who knew Iris well were adamant that she would never have voluntarily disappeared. She was close with her parents and had an exceptionally strong bond with her mother, who told reporters that Iris was her best friend. Although she wasn’t currently employed, she had been talking about going back to school to become a veterinarian. She had always had a special love for animals and treated her rescued cat, Yum-Yum, as if she were her daughter.

Iris was somewhat of a homebody; although she loved to get dressed up and do her hair and makeup, she tended to stick close to home. She had recently made plans to take a trip to the Florida Keys with one of her friends, but after she had started packing her suitcase she realized that she didn’t want to be away from home and canceled the trip.

Joe and Kelly did everything they could think of to spread the word that Iris was missing, but they were frustrated by the lack of cooperation from police and the local news media. Although several Philadelphia television reporters interviewed them about their daughter, none of these interviews were ever shown on air.

Exactly a week after Iris walked out of her home for the last time, Joe and Kelly got the phone call they’d been dreading. A body had been found in an abandoned lot about two miles away from their home and police believed it might be Iris. Joe drove to the coroner’s office that evening, where he was able to identify Iris after seeing a photograph of her butterfly tattoo. He was inconsolable.

Iris’s body had been found by a person who was collecting empty bottles and cans in an overgrown lot in an alley behind Sydenham Street in the Point Breeze section of Philadelphia. Her friends and family were certain that she never would have willingly gone to that area; they believed she had likely been abducted at some point during her walk to Pathmark and driven to that location.

The coroner determined that Iris had died as a result of blunt force trauma to her head; she had been bludgeoned to de*ath. Although her pants had been pulled down when she was found, there was no indication that she had been sexually assaulted, nor had she been robbed. Detectives had no idea what the motive behind her mur*der had been.

Investigators weren’t sure if Iris had been k*illed in the overgrown lot where her body had been found; it was possible that she had been ki*lled elsewhere and then dumped among the weeds and trash. Either way, they believed that her body had been left in the lot within hours of her disappearance the previous week. It was almost too much for her family to bear, knowing that she had been so close to home the entire time they were out looking for her.

Since detectives had shown little interest in the case when Iris was first reported missing, they now had to scramble to try and determine her movements in the hours before she was kil*led. Based on witness reports, Iris had last been seen near the intersection of 4th and Ritner, not far from her home. She had been headed in the direction of the Oregon Plaza shopping center, but they were unable to confirm if she had made it there.

Investigators interviewed all of Iris’s friends and family members, but none of them could think of anyone who might have wanted to hurt Iris. She was known as a genuinely sweet young woman with no apparent enemies.

Iris didn’t appear to know anyone in the neighborhood surrounding the abandoned lot where her body had been found, and detectives were unable to come up with any reason why she might have voluntarily headed to that area. Although it was only two miles away from her home, it was a world apart in terms of atmosphere. Many of the homes were little more than abandoned shells in various states of decay and there were no markets or other commercial destinations.

Sadly, Iris’s m*urder received little publicity, garnering only a few articles in local newspapers when her body was first found. No suspects or persons of interest were ever named and the investigation went cold almost immediately.

In September, Iris’s parents announced that they were offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for brutally k*illing their daughter. They were desperate to get the ki*ller off the streets before he ki*lled again, but if there were any witnesses to the crime they never came forward.

The family held a benefit to raise more money for the reward fund; by October it was up to $3,500. Kelly pleaded for anyone who had information to call detectives; addressing the k*iller, she stated that Iris was her best friend. “That’s all I had. And you took it away.” Unfortunately, no progress was made on the case.

In 2017, Joe told reporters that the passage of time had done absolutely nothing to heal the family’s pain. They continued to think about Iris every day and could only hope that her kil*ler would eventually be brought to justice.

Iris Tyson was just 23 years old when she was mu*rdered in Philadelphia in 2011. She was known for her magnetic personality and her love of entertaining others. She loved to sing and wasn’t shy about belting out tunes on her karaoke machine. She had a contagious laugh and a bright smile, but her future was stolen by a brutal kil*ler who has never been caught. Although she was an only child, Iris was part of a large extended family with many cousins, aunts, and uncles. Along with her parents, they have all been waiting for justice for more than 10 years now. If you have any information about Iris’s mur*der, please contact the Citizens Crime Commission of the Delaware Valley at 215–546–8477. You may remain anonymous.

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