Editor’s note: This is part one of a two part series. Please look for part two in next Saturday’s Edition of the Daily Times.
Behind every image of those who have been murdered or have disappeared from Scioto County, stands family members and friends that are still searching for answers; some even after decades.
Individuals who have often been written off by members of their own community for their struggles with addiction, and some for venturing into the dark world of selling sex, have taken with them irreplaceable pieces of those that call them daughter, sister, mother, and friend.
On the six year anniversary of her disappearance, The Daily Times sat down with Mary Andrews and Marcella Lancaster, aunt and mother of Megan Lancaster who went missing from Wheelersburg in 2013 at the age of 25.
Both Andrews and Lancaster described Megan as a fun-loving, outgoing, and beautiful soul that could always put a smile on your face. “Megan was a good little kid,” said Lancaster. “She played sports, she’d make you laugh. I mean she played every sport, she was so good. She went to church and rode the church bus, she knew the Bible. She wore that little T-shirt so proud saying that she knew the whole book. I always thought she was just a beautiful little girl, and she would always say she wasn’t because of her freckles.”
Lancaster said she would always reassure Megan that her freckles made her beautiful. “She meant the world to me, and I never thought she’d end up on drugs,” said Lancaster. “She wasn’t raised like that. Let alone go missing.”
Megan’s mother stated that while during the six years Megan has been missing she’s had to have thick skin due to harsh comments. Lancaster said recent comments in a Daily Times article from March 20, made by Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Ware stating a number of social factors play into the numerous disappearances, listing poverty, lack of formal education, and drug abuse as some of those factors, really bothered her.
In an interview with the Daily Times, Ware said he wasn’t speaking specifically about one case but social economic indicators that often come into play in cases such as these.
“Megan graduated Votech with honors, she graduated from Glenwood High School. We didn’t live in poverty. We were middle class citizens. My husband has worked for this county. Her dad works for the Scioto County Engineer. So for him to say that, does he know the families real well? No. Do they return phone calls? No,” said Lancaster. “Here’s what they do know, they want to assume that everybody that has a drug problem is worthless, and came from some hole, with families that don’t love them,” said Andrews.
“-But I love my daughter,” said Lancaster. “Ware is not thinking that these women have children. Megan’s son was seven when she went missing, he’s 13 now. Does he not think that their children can read papers? That they have got to go through so much and are already missing their mom? He doesn’t have to say they are uneducated and live in poverty. I did the best I could, and my husband worked all his life for this county.”
Lancaster went on to say these women are human beings, and most of them mothers.
Even while struggling with addiction, Lancaster says Megan still very much loved her son who was being cared for by his grandmother. “She might have chosen to take a pill, but I guarantee she would have never chosen that lifestyle, it just took over,” said Andrews.
“She loved her son deeply,” said Lancaster, “I never stopped her from seeing him because I knew she would be there for him no matter what.”
Megan’s mother and aunt said that leading up to her disappearance Megan would still make contact and come by one of their houses every day.
When asked if they feel the investigation has progressed at all in the years since Megan disappeared, Andrews and Lancaster both say they feel the investigation never had a fair shot with certain evidence being neglected more than six months after Megan went missing, and calls to investigators going unanswered in regards to tips and other inquiries from the family.
“They say they don’t have the manpower, then get the man power to find these girls. Get the man power to investigate,” said Lancaster. “They tell me it’s not, but I feel the case has gone cold.”
With no progress being reported to the family in regards to Megan’s missing persons case, the family is left feeling that it is up to them to keep Megan’s name and photo circulating in the hopes that someone will eventually come forward with information. “If it wasn’t for these groups trying to reach out to bring answers, I don’t think anything would be done. I really don’t,” said Andrews.
Megan’s mother also said that while she was glad to have Megan’s name out there by including her in documentaries like “Gone: The Forgotten Women of Ohio”, and the recent video published by the Cincinnati Inquirer that accompanied their investigative article into alleged sex trafficking in Portsmouth, some details about Megan have been wrong. Lancaster said Megan’s drug use did not begin in high school as some have reported and actually began years after the birth of her son, and stated that Megan was not a user of heroin. According to Lancaster, on the night Megan went missing she was supposed to be returning to her parent’s house to spend the night after running errands, but never showed up. The next day Megan’s vehicle was discovered abandoned at the Portsmouth Rally’s location.
While Megan’s aunt and mother feel there is so much more to who Megan is than her addiction or involvement in prostitution, both say they feel those factors were bad choices which they believe are important pieces of the puzzle that connect Megan’s disappearance with that of so many other young women.
“She was still my niece, and still my sister’s daughter, and still my mother’s granddaughter, no matter how everyone else wants to perceive her,” said Andrews “But, all these girls are gone, not just Megan. They all matter.”
When the body of Rebecca Kerns, 26, who had been missing since October 2018 was discovered on March 19, in the hours before the remains were identified, Megan’s family said a flood of emotions came over them. Lancaster said she heard the news of the body being badly decomposed, and thought that it would be the same condition a body would be found in after six years.
“I was crying and praying, ‘Dear god please let this not be my daughter, I don’t want it to be her’”, said Lancaster. “But at the same time I was praying, ‘Dear God help this poor mother of whoever it is’”.
Lancaster said when the remains were identified she felt grief for the Kern’s family. “My heart breaks for this girl [Kerns], because she had a little girl,” Lancaster said. “I don’t know much about her, I can’t really talk about all these girls, but we do believe that they are all being sold short and thrown under the rug and not treated fairly by the police department.”
For Megan’s mother, the past six years have dragged on with no information or leads into Megan’s case. “I’ll go through these spells where I just sit all day long and think about her, and wonder what happened to her,” Lancaster said. She refuses to move, or change her phone number out of fear that someday Megan won’t be able to get in touch with her. While Lancaster still holds on to hope that Megan would come home, both she and Andrews indicated that they just want to know what happened to Megan. “We want her brought home. We want to know what happened to my daughter,” said Lancaster.
“We just want answers. We want closure. Six years is a long time to wait,” said Andrews. “One way or another however this turns out, good or bad. It needs to be brought forward.”
Lancaster stated that since Megan’s disappearance she’s had a difficult time knowing who to trust since there are still so many questions left unanswered.
“If I see a car going by my house staring I’m wondering, did you do something to my child? It’s an everyday battle with me,” said Lancaster. She said that even vehicles parked near her home leave her on edge. “I want to know who’s sitting in that car. Why are they sitting there so long? Do they have my kid? Did they kill my daughter? Is she alive? You don’t know and it’s hard,” she said. “I always have to say dear God give me the strength every day to make it through, to take care of her son. I want to know what happened to her, and we’re not going to give up raising cane in Scioto County until she’s brought home.”
Both Lancaster and Andrews, who have remained somewhat out of the public eye since Megan’s disappearance indicated that they felt compelled to do the interview to let people know that Megan has a family who loves her, and will continue to look for her.
“There are a lot of people that love Megan,” said Lancaster. “I want people to know she is still missing, she is still out there, and I want answers.”
While Megan’s mother and aunt continue to pray for Megan, they also keep other young women who have fallen on hard times in their prayers.
“I pray to God this never happens to anyone else,” said Lancaster. “I think that’s the key thing, we pray to God that this doesn’t happen to any other kids. There are predators here and they’re preying,” said Andrews
Reach: Ivy Potter (740) 353-3101 Extension 1932