The Herald Bulletin

July 25, 2013

Mother: Daughter set on fire by tormentor

Family says 37-year-old unlikely to survive

By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — A woman who was severely burned this month is in the hospital and unlikely, according to relatives, to survive.

Her mother says she is the victim of a murder attempt, claiming that a man being held in the Madison County jail persuaded someone to attack the woman to keep her from testifying against him in a sexual-misconduct case.

Melanie Lyons, 37, of Anderson, was seriously burned on July 10, hours after her birthday, in her home in the 1100 block of Indian Mounds Drive. She was flown by helicopter to the Wishard Burn Unit in Indianapolis, where she was in very serious condition Thursday night, with burns over 90 percent of her body.

Anderson Police Department detective Joel Sandefur said investigators are examining whether she was burned as the result of an accident or foul play.

"There are a lot of anomalies to this whole investigation," Sandefur said. "Those are a few of the things we're trying to piece through. And on top of it all, we can't talk to Melanie right now. We're waiting to see if that's even going to be possible."

Sandefur said he couldn't speak to the validity of the Lyons family's accusations.

What police do know is Lyons, a mother of five, was sleeping downstairs on a living room couch after a birthday celebration. At about 1 a.m., the woman started screaming for help, and her husband, Chad Lyons, 40, rushed downstairs to find her on fire.

According to Sonya Troub, Melanie Lyons' mother, doctors have told the family the only parts of Lyons' body not burned were her feet and head. Troub believes somebody entered the home through the patio door, threw accelerant on Melanie and set her on fire.

"There's a direct line from the door to where she was," Troub said Thursday.

The mother is accusing James Kilgore, 43, of Anderson, of orchestrating the attack. Troub said Kilgore has harassed the family for years and has focused on Lyons. She said it isn't the first time he's tried to kill her daughter.

Chad Lyons said he's not ready to accuse Kilgore, but he's not ruling it out. More than anything, Lyons just wants to know what happened. He spent Thursday at the hospital getting a report on his wife's condition, which has slightly stabilized after a difficult weekend. However, she's still on life support and has less than a 10 percent chance of survival, according to Chad Lyons.

He said he's disappointed in how police have handled the investigation.

"I haven't really heard anything. They interviewed me, but I haven't been told anything about the investigation," Lyons said. "One way or another, I'd like some answers."

According to court records, several cases involving the Lyonses are pending against Kilgore. He's charged with a Class C felony of sexual misconduct with a minor for an incident last August. The Lyons family accused him of molesting a 15-year-old girl.

Kilgore was also arrested for alleged invasion of Melanie Lyons' privacy in November, and the two charges were set to go to trial in Judge Thomas Newman's Circuit Court 3 on Aug. 8. Melanie Lyons was scheduled to testify against Kilgore in the trial. Troub believes the alleged attack on her daughter was intended to keep her from testifying.

Kilgore, who has an extensive criminal history with felony convictions dating back to 1988, was in the Madison County jail the night Lyons was burned and, as of Thursday night, was still incarcerated and not available for comment.

Troub is convinced that Kilgore is responsible for what happened to her daughter. "I think he hired someone," she said.

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