Debbie Kelly, age 21, went missing from Baltimore, Maryland in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s.
As you’ve probably already gathered from the lack of a definite year she went missing, this case is rather bizarre. It also contains some rather disturbing statements, so please use discretion before reading further.
In January, 1979, a man by the name of Marvin Cecil Lemons was arrested in Baltimore, for an offense unrelated to this missing person. A few days after Lemons’ arrest, investigators spoke with Eva Appelgate, who was Marvin’s live-in girlfriend at the time. Eva told investigators that she’d had a conversation with Marvin back in 1974, about a woman named Debbie. According to Eva, Marvin told her that he’d met a woman named Debbie in 1970, while working at the White Coffee Pot restaurant at Broadway and Eastern Avenue, where Debbie was a waitress. He relayed to her that he’d brought Debbie home to 1713 Hollins Street in Baltimore one evening, and knocked her in the head with a baseball bat, killing her, and the proceeded to dismember her body on the kitchen counter, then cut it into smaller pieces in the cellar. He told her that he bagged the bones and met the garbage truck, and placed the bags in the back. After telling Eva this story, he told her it was only a joke.
Investigators then spoke to Marvin, who waived his Miranda rights, and spoke with them willingly. He admitted that on November 4, 1971, he took her home from their workplace, and it was raining. After having sex, she went to sleep. Marvin then hit her in the head with a club, and and he had sex with her again after she was dead. He said he enjoyed the thrill of “cold sex and sucking the blood”.
Several psychiatrists, along with Marvin’s girlfriend Eva, claimed that Marvin suffered from hallucinations due to prolonged drug abuse and mental disease. They said that Marvin was unable to differentiate reality from fantasy, and that he would often invent embellished tales to fill memory gaps in his past.
In an effort to substantiate Marvin’s confession, investigators examined another statement Marvin made at the same time; that he had mutilated and robbed the grave of an elderly woman in 1974. He claimed that he had taken her jewelry, and he described a gray dress worn by the decedent. Investigators checked the grave in question, and found that it had indeed been tampered with.
State prosecutors brought charges against Marvin Lemons for her murder, and the case went to trial.
The manager of the White Coffee Cup, where both Debbie and Marvin worked, stated that Marvin was a good worker, but that Debbie was flirtatious and flighty, and that she had given him three different stories about where she lived. He claimed that when the two of them were working together, that Debbie would spend more time back in the kitchen with Marvin than in front helping her customers. He said that he talked to Debbie because he suspected a relationship between the two, which was not allowed between co-workers. Debbie told him that she would have a talk with Marvin, and she never returned to work after that. He claimed that her last day of work was December 14, 1969.
Prosecutors also presented a list of names that had been found, in Marvin’s handwriting, on a page from his father’s funeral guestbook. The page, entitled “Deaths of Death” listed names of several women with dates and places noted. Debbie Kelly was included in the list, as was a woman from Indiana with a 1958 notation. Marvin stated that he had been with a woman from Indiana and that he left her home to get some coffee and sober up, and was arrested for being in a dive bar. When he was released, he learned that the woman was dead.
They also presented a book of drawings by Marvin Lemons, which depicted women nude and beheaded. One drawing portrayed a woman laying on a couch, with a man holding a club over her head. The drawing was titled “Welcome to the Club” and was dated November 5, 1969. Another drawing was dated October 23, 1977.
Marvin Lemons was found guilty, and sentenced to life in prison. It was a precedent for murder-without-a-body convictions, and had never before been successful in the State of Maryland. However, that ruling was overturned on appeal.
Marvin’s defense team argued that a confession alone cannot result in a guilty verdict, but that there needs to be independent, corroborating evidence to support the confession. Since no weapons or remains were located, they argued that the required corroboration was not present, and that the ruling should be overturned. They stated that the only corroborating evidence was that Debbie failed to return to work, and claimed that failing to report to work does not imply that someone is dead. The defense also used the lack of investigation against the State, asking why, if the State believed Debbie was dead, did the State not perform any investigation, and why was there no evidence that her family was missing her as well?
The ruling was overturned, and prosecutors indicated that they had at least three other missing women who they believed Marvin Lemons was responsible for, but they had chosen to prosecute Debbie’s due to the working relationship. They stated that if Marvin were acquitted on Debbie’s case, they would try him on another one. I can’t find any record that this was ever done.
Although it appears that Debbie’s family was not active in her case, her mother spoke with a reporter and said that she believed Debbie was dead. She said that when she last spoke to her daughter, Debbie was frightened. Debbie said that she’d stumbled across a drug party, and was threatened not to report what she had seen.
I’m curious as to why there was no input from Debbie’s family during the trial, which would have supported the fact that Debbie was truly missing, and not just a no-show at her job.
I’m also curious whether DNA could remain in the cellar where Marvin claims to have dismembered her.
Of course, I’m also very curious as to what other missing persons cases he was suspected of – prosecutors stated that there were no bodies found for any of them. Have they been found? It’s very possible that they are still missing and just not listed anywhere – Debbie is still missing, and isn’t listed anywhere. I’m not sure she was ever officially reported missing. It seems investigators were unaware of her until Marvin’s statement, nearly 10 years later.
I also find it interesting that she was last seen at work in December 1969, while everything else seems to point to November 1971. Another thing her family could have confirmed, if they’d appeared at the trial.
I don’t know that Debbie can ever be found. I think the prosecutors had it right, with Marvin telling the same story twice, five years apart, coupled with the drawings and list of names. I also don’t know if Marvin Lemons is still alive. I did find a Marvin C. Lemons in the SSDI who died in 2002 in Baltimore, but I can’t be sure he’s the same guy.
Marvin Cecil Lemons at an unknown time.