MILTON — Sisters Cheryl Penrod and Donna Stephens have mourned the disappearance of their sister, Linda Kay Carroll, for 32 years. She's been missing since Sept. 25, 1984.
At 5 p.m. Sunday, the Milton residents will hold a vigil for Carroll at 197 E. James Lee Blvd., where Highway 85 and Highway 90 meet in Crestview.
The vigil is open to any family with a missing loved one. It’s important to know others have experienced the same thing, Penrod said.
"People don't understand what you're going through if they don't know what it's like ... I didn't feel my sister's story was better than anybody else's," she said.
Stephens said she’s seen how other families would try to get media attention to help find loved ones, so she wanted to share the spotlight and help bring closure.
Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks will serve donuts and coffee for the event; UPS donated fliers so Stephens and Penrod could spread word of the vigil. Megan Jernigan, Stephens' daughter, owns Alpha Mom Creations, a company that created shirts with Linda's picture and when she was last seen.
Stephens and her siblings (including David Dawson, who now lives in Tennesee, and Tim Dawson in Port St. Joe) were teenagers when their sister disappeared.
Penrod shared this history of Carroll's disappearance:
●In 1984, Linda, 24 at the time, and her husband, Dennis Carroll, were separated. He took the children, Melissa and Jason, to Tennessee. Linda lived at the house they started to purchase. "She never had a license or a job ... She had babies right out of high school,” Penrod said.
●Linda got a job at Showell Farms in DeFuniak Springs and had a regular ride to work. Weeks after she started working there, the man giving her a ride came to the house of Linda's mother, Irene Heller, to see if Linda was there because she wasn't at her home.
●An investigation began shortly thereafter and passed through police and then cold case investigators. Dennis was in the process of moving his mother from Mississippi to Tennessee, so Linda's remains or any evidence or witnesses could be anywhere between the three states, the sisters said.
●While Dennis was the prime suspect, Penrod said all evidence was circumstantial so police couldn't charge him. The only physical evidence was a clump of hair wedged into a door strike plate, but it wasn't enough.
Stephens said her mother, Irene Heller, regularly talked with police and media about the case. Heller for years would have to see the face of any recovered young woman with strawberry blond hair or double-check a voice that sounded like Linda’s.
“Our goal for Linda is to let people know the prime suspect, Dennis Carroll, is now dead, and if anyone had any information that they didn’t tell for fear of him, that it is safe to tell now,” Jernigan said.
Contact Donna Stephens, 698-9433, or Cheryl Penrod, 490-6983, for more information about the vigil.