Cover Story: Missing mom


In an exclusive interview, Heard’s daughter talks about her mother’s disappearance for the first time

Heard Family
The Heards and their children on July 1, 2000. Seated: Donald and Dorothy Heard. Standing: Teresa Hall, from left, Cindy DeVol, Rex Heard, Lou Ann Sylvester and Judith DuVall.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” Hebrews 11:1.

Inside Dorothy Heard’s family room, Lou Ann and Larry Sylvester of Noblesville sat on a couch as a “Miracles can happen” embroidered pillow sat on top of the furniture in the space between them. A religious woman who loved Gospel music, Heard’s home is full of angels, Bibles and photos of her family.

“She always ended conversations with ‘I love you and God bless,’ whether in person or on the phone,” said Lou Ann.

Lou Ann said Heard loved to play games – especially Yahtzee – with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“She liked to cheat so her great-grandkids would win,” said Lou Ann. “The kids liked to play Yahtzee with her because they knew they were going to win.”

Lou Ann described her mother as very active and involved in the lives of family members – a nurturer and a “person that took care of everybody.”

“Her family was her whole life – her kids, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” she said, adding that Heard would visit and help around her family members’ houses by cleaning, babysitting and dog sitting. “She’d help anybody who needed help – nieces, nephews, she’d borrow money for them. If you needed help, you knew where to go. She’d help them if she could.”

Heard talked daily with her daughters in Arizona and Paragon, Ind. during their commutes to work.

“If we didn’t hear from her, everybody was worried,” said Lou Ann. “She always called and let her kids know if she was away from the house in case someone called and she wasn’t there.”

Lou Ann said she knew something was wrong when she didn’t talk with her mother on June 13, 2011.

“It’s really hard to explain,” she said while wiping away tears. “I felt guilty because I wasn’t there. I just couldn’t believe it – it’s like a blur now.”

“When she didn’t answer the phone, everybody knew something was wrong,” added Larry. “It’s worse than a nightmare. You’re always looking. You can never go anywhere without looking at rivers, creeks and woods when we’re out driving.”

“We’ve looked everywhere. It’s just like she’s disappeared,” said Lou Ann. “She had to feel like she was helping – needed to be needed. She’s done a lot for a lot of people. It’s probably her downfall too.”

It’s hard to express in words the emotions when a loved one is missing.

“The whole family has been going through the same thing since June. Life hasn’t been the same for any of us,” said Larry.

“We left her phone hooked up. We’ve caught ourselves wanting to call and say ‘Mom, are you there?’” Lou Ann added.

Larry said the worst part for the family is not having Dorothy’s body.

“We wonder what happened, but we still have hope, we haven’t given up,” he said. “We hope she’ll be found and we’ll get justice. It’ll never be alright, but we’ll have closure.”

“She has a space out there next to Daddy, but there’s nothing there but her name. You can deal with someone dying, being there as they die, going to the funeral, but when you have nothing …” said Lou Ann. “If anybody has a mother out there, they need to talk to her every day. Tell her you love her. I wish I would have done that on the last day I contacted her.”


By Robert Herrington
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Robert is the managing editor of Current in Noblesville.