The Herald Bulletin

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August 14, 2010

Memorial ride for slain girls quadruples turnout in 5 years

Riders come from as far as South Dakota

ANDERSON — Five years ago, two fathers asked friends and family to ride their motorcycles in the names of the two princesses they had lost to violence.

“I get teary-eyed every year that we take off from here,” said Rob Lyons, after the fifth annual Jessica and Lynsey Memorial Ride on Saturday. “It gets bigger and bigger every year.”

That first ride of about 80 motorcycles has become an annual event that has more than quadrupled, bringing motorcyclists from around the nation to Madison County.

“This is one of the biggest ones I’ve been in,” said Bill Smith, who joined the ride for a second year from Louisville, Ky. “I enjoy it each year, and it’s for a good cause.”

Dressed in pink shirts with “Jessica’s Dad” and “Lynsey’s Dad” on the back, Lyons and Mike Schildmeier stood in the middle of picnic setting with hundreds of motorcycles as far as the eye could see.

Rob Lyons said annual event was the biggest non-corporate motorcycle ride in the nation, as far as he knows. This year, he said, 312 riders registered for the ride, bringing motorcyclists from as far as South Dakota.

“We probably picked up more along the way; we usually do,” Lyons said, adding that a strong morning downpour deterred some riders.

This year, Lyons and Schildmeier bought 900 steaks, 1,000 rolls, 1,000 baked potatoes for the picnic that follows the ride. The event is getting so big, the men are going to have to start making changes, Schildmeier said.

“It’s just getting harder to keep all the bikes together,” Lyons said.

Over the past five years, the event has delivered an unforeseen benefit: a relationship between the two fathers and the father of one of their daughters’ murderers.

“His dad wanted him in jail; it’s the system, not his mom and dad,” Lyons said Saturday.

A next-door neighbor, 17-year-old Joshua Davies, who Lyons barely knew, killed his 13-year-old daughter Jessica. The man now resides at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, and Davies’ father has joined Jessica’s memorial event.

“It makes me feel good,” Lyons said of his neighbor’s involvement. “It wasn’t always easy to think of it that way, but we’re trying to make something good out of tragedy here.”

Seven years after Jessica’s murder, her best friend, Lynsey, was the victim of a double murder in March 2006. Craig Shank, 24, is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, at the Pendleton Correctional Facility.

It was then that Lyons and Schildmeier, who were both members of the Moose Lodge, decided to ride in their memories, they said.

Every year, motorcyclists swarm the city. The group begins at the lodge in the 200 block of East Pine Street, and makes pit stops at businesses in surrounding businesses for short events. They also stop at Anderson Memorial Park Cemetery, where Jessica and Lynsey are buried.

“Every single year, it gets to me, pulling up to the cemetery,” said Alicia Rector, a best friend of Jessica and Lynsey. ”It’s tears of sadness and tears of joy.”

Funds raised through riding fees and raffles are split down the middle. Half is donated to the Madison County Community Foundation, which issues the Jessica Lyons Memorial Scholarship. The other half is donated to Hopewell Center, where Lynsey worked.

This year, the ride stopped at the American Legion in Middletown, Meadowbrook Pizza in Anderson, The Curve in Alexandria, Scampy’s, and the Eagles Lodge in Lapel.

“When you look in the front of you and you look behind you, and you can’t see the end of the line,” Rector said, “it’s amazing to know they’re here for the girls you loved.”

Contact Christina M. Wright, 640-4883, christina.wright@heraldbulletin.com.

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