Nearly 1 year after lesbian Lisa Stone vanished, case to be featured on CBS’ “48 Hours Mystery”

Sherry Henry

Thursday will mark 11 months since Dallas lesbian Lisa Stone’s unsolved disappearance. On Saturday at 9 p.m. Central time, CBS’ 48 Hours Mystery will air an hourlong episode about the case.

The 48 Hours episode, called “The Facebook Detectives,” will focus on Stone’s friends use of the social media site to keep the search for her alive. Watch a promo for the episode below.

The episode also includes an interview with Stone’s former partner, Sherry Henry, who is the only “person of interest” in her disappearance. Dallas police have long believed the then-52-year-old Stone met with foul play, but say they don’t have enough evidence to make an arrest.

Sgt. Eugene Reyes, of DPD’s special investigations unit, told Instant Tea today that he was surprised to hear about Henry’s interview with 48 Hours, given that she hasn’t been talking to other media or cooperating with police.

“We have nothing new, and some of the DNA tests that we were waiting for just didn’t pan out, so we’re back to square one with only one person of interest,” Reyes said. “Everything’s circumstantial. There are plenty of pointed fingers, but it’s not going to be enough to get a conviction. … Some of these cases go on forever and ever.”

Reyes said he hopes the 48 Hours episode leads to a break in the case, but he isn’t counting on it. The show’s producers have told him not to expect any major revelations, and he noted that a billboard advertising a $10,000 reward for information about Stone’s disappearance generated zero tips.

But Stone’s friends remain optimistic.

“We will find answers and justice for Lisa soon!” Tina Wiley declared on her Facebook page today, after announcing that she’s canceled her birthday plans so she can fly to New York this weekend.

Wiley said after the 48 Hours broadcast, she’ll appear on CBS’ Early Show this coming Monday. But first, Wiley will appear on the the Channel 11 News, at 10 o’clock tonight.

—  John Wright

Vigil to mark 6 months since Lisa Stone vanished

The first vigil, outside Stone’s home in July.

Last week we reported that Dallas police say they have “nothing to go on” in the disappearance of 52-year-old Lisa Stone, a lesbian from Dallas who’s believed to have met with foul play.

Over the weekend one of Stone’s longtime friends, Tina Wiley, sent along word that a vigil will be held this coming Friday, Dec. 10 to mark six months since Stone vanished.

“The first vigil was held in the heat of summer on July 4,” Wiley said. “With heavy hearts over our missing friend and the long wait for justice, we are now holding a Christmas prayer vigil for Lisa. Please join us in a show of support for our fellow classmate and beloved friend.”

The vigil will be from 7 to 8 p.m. Friday outside the home Stone shared with her partner, in the 3300 Block of Truxillo Drive in Dallas.

For more info, visit the Facebook page.

—  John Wright

Nearly 6 months after gay Dallas woman Lisa Stone vanished, some national media attention

Dec. 5 will mark six months since the disappearance of Lisa Stone, a 52-year-old gay woman from northeast Dallas. But Stone’s friends remain optimistic that the case will soon be solved, and their hopes have been buoyed this week by some national media attention.

America’s Most Wanted posted a story about Stone’s disappearance on its website Monday, and her friends plan to meet with producers from CBS’ 48 Hours on Wednesday.

“We have worked for five months to get this kind of national exposure,” said Tina Wiley, one of Stone’s friends who’s been leading the effort to find her. “We need this to get answers.”

Wiley said Stone’s friends are also hearing rumors that arrests in the case may be imminent. A Dallas police investigator who’s handling the case couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Wiley said nothing is planned to mark the six-month anniversary of Stone’s disappearance. However, the group known as the Sisters of ’77 — Stone’s friends who graduated from Mesquite High School in 1977 — plans another reunion on Dec. 11. It was during the first-ever reunion of the Sisters of ’77 in May 2009, WIley said, when Stone came out to many of her former classmates.

“It was a huge deal to her, so I think it’s going to be a really emotional party,” Wiley said. “She was real hesitant at first about going even. She was so worried about what everyone would think, but she was very pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t an issue to anybody.”

—  John Wright

Rewards for info on Lisa Stone’s disappearance

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest and indictment in the disappearance of Lisa Stone, a lesbian from Dallas who’s been missing since early June. To submit a tip to Crime Stoppers, call 877-373-8477 or go here.

In addition, Stone’s longtime friend Tina Wiley says a separate $5,000 reward is being offered by an anonymous source for info leading to Stone’s safe return, as well as the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for her disappearance. For information about the second reward, e-mail lookingforlisastone@yahoo.com.

About 75 people reportedly attended another vigil Aug. 6 outside the northeast Dallas home Stone shared with her partner. Relying heavily on Facebook, Stone’s friends have done a remarkable job of keeping her disappearance in the news, as the Dallas Observer, White Rock Lake Weekly and Mesquite News all reported on the vigil.

Above is a video featuring scenes from vigils outside Stone’s home. The video, posted by Wiley, is fittingly set in part to the Williams Brothers’ “Can’t Cry Hard Enough,” which was featured in “Brokeback Mountain.”

With police reporting no new information in the case, the outlook of Stone’s friends is perhaps best summed up by Tammye Markle in the White Rock Lake Weekly: “Our first hope and prayer is that Lisa will come back to us. However, it has been two months and the reality is that the chances of that happening are slim.”

—  John Wright

WATCH: Another prayer vigil set for Friday as search for missing lesbian Lisa Stone continues

Looks like another prayer vigil is set for this coming Friday outside the home of Lisa Stone, a lesbian from Dallas who’s now been missing for almost two months. Stone’s home is at 3323 Truxillo St., and the vigil will be from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tina Wiley, Stone’s longtime friend, reports that items will be for sale at the vigil to raise funds for the search. Also, above is a slideshow memorial Wiley put together for Stone. And below is a recent segment on Stone’s disappearance from HLN’s “Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell,” who concludes that the case has “foul play written all over it.” For more details on Friday’s vigil and the search for Stone, stay tuned to the Facebook page. Anyone with information about the case can call Dallas police at 214-671-4316 or e-mail lookingforlisastone@yahoo.com.

—  John Wright

Partner denied sick leave by AT&T

Bryan Dickenson, left, and Bill Sugg hold hands in Sugg’s room at a rehabilitation facility in Richardson on Wednesday, Jan. 27. (Source:John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Despite 100% rating from HRC, company won’t allow gay man time off to care for ailing spouse

JOHN WRIGHT  |  News Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Bryan Dickenson and Bill Sugg have been together for 30 years.

For the last 12 of those years, Dickenson has worked as a communications technician for Dallas-based AT&T.

After Sugg suffered a debilitating stroke in September, Dickinson requested time off under the federal Family Medical Leave Act to care for his partner.

But AT&T is refusing to grant Dickenson the 12 weeks of leave that would be afforded to a heterosexual spouse under the act.

As a result, Dickenson is using vacation time so he can spend one afternoon a week at Sugg’s bedside at a rehabilitation facility in Richardson. But Dickenson fears that when his vacation runs out, he’ll end up being fired for requesting additional time off to care for Sugg. Dickenson’s attorney, Rob Wiley of Dallas, said he initially thought AT&T’s refusal to grant his client leave under FMLA was just a mistake on the part of the company. Wiley said he expected AT&T to quickly rectify the situation after he sent the company a friendly letter.

After all, AT&T maintains the highest score of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which ranks companies according to their treatment of LGBT employees. And just this week, HRC listed AT&T as one of its “Best Places to Work.”

But AT&T has stood its ground, confirming in a statement to Dallas Voice this week that the company isn’t granting Dickenson leave under FMLA because neither federal nor state law recognizes Sugg as his domestic partner.

“I really couldn’t be more disappointed with AT&T’s response,” Wiley said. “When you scratch the surface, they clearly don’t value diversity. I just think it’s an outright lie for AT&T to claim they’re a good place for gays and lesbians to work.”

Wiley added that he’s disappointed in HRC for giving AT&T its highest score. Eric Bloem, deputy director of HRC’s workplace project, said Thursday, Jan. 28 that he was looking into the matter. Bloem said a survey for the Corporate Equality Index asks companies whether they grant FMLA leave to same-sex couples, and AT&T replied affirmatively.

“I’m not exactly sure what’s going on, so I don’t really want to make an official comment on it,” Bloem said.

Walt Sharp, a spokesman for AT&T, said the company has “a long history of inclusiveness in the workplace.”

“There are circumstances under which our administration of our benefits plans must conform with state law, and this is one of those circumstances,” Sharp said in a written statement. “In this case, neither federal nor state law recognizes Mr. Dickenson’s domestic partner with legal status as a qualifying family member for a federal benefit program. There is no basis for this lawsuit or the allegations contained in it and we will seek its dismissal.”

Sharp didn’t respond to a request for further comment.

Wiley said Sharp’s statement doesn’t make sense. No law prohibits the company from granting Dickenson an unpaid leave of absence, which is what he’s requesting. Wiley also noted that no lawsuit has been filed, because there isn’t grounds for one.

The federal FMLA applies only to heterosexual married couples, Wiley said. Some states have enacted their own versions of the FMLA, requiring companies to grant leave to gay and lesbian couples, but Texas isn’t one of them.

Wiley said the couple’s only hope is to somehow convince the company to do the right thing, which is why he contacted the media.

“At some point in time this just becomes really hateful that they wouldn’t have any compassion,” Wiley said of the company. “I think the recourse is to tell their story and let people know how AT&T really treats their employees.”

Through thick and thin

This isn’t the first time Dickenson and Sugg have endured a medical crisis.

Sugg, who’s 69 and suffers from congenital heart problems, nearly died from cardiac arrest shortly after the couple met in 1980.

At the time, Dickenson was a full-time student and didn’t have car. So he rode his bicycle from Garland to Parkland Hospital in Dallas every day to visit Sugg in the intensive care unit.

In an interview this week at the rehab facility, Sugg’s eyes welled up with tears as he recalled what a Parkland nurse said at the time – “If that isn’t love, then I don’t know what the hell love is.”

“And sure enough, it was,” Sugg said over the whirr of his oxygen machine, turning to Dickenson. “As long as I have you, I can get through anything.”

Dickenson said in addition to visiting Sugg each Wednesday afternoon, he wakes up at 7:30 on Saturday and Sunday mornings so he can spend the day with Sugg at the rehab facility.

This past Christmas, Dickenson spent the night on the floor of Sugg’s room.
“That would have been our first Christmas separated, and I just couldn’t bear that, him being alone on Christmas,” Dickenson said.

The worst part of the whole ordeal was when he had to return to work after taking 13 days off following Sugg’s stroke, Dickenson said. Sugg didn’t understand and thought his partner had abandoned him for good.

“He called me over and over every night, begging me to please come see him,” Dickenson said. “And I said, ’Honey, you don’t understand, I had to go back to work to save my job.’

“That’s what really hurts about what they’ve put me through, not my pain and anguish, but his,” Dickenson said.

Dickenson said it was 3 a.m. on Sept. 22 when he rushed Sugg to the hospital. Doctors initially said it was “the worst sinus infection they’d ever seen,” but within 48 hours Sugg had suffered a stroke affecting his cerebellum.

Sugg lost the ability to swallow and his sense of balance. He’s still unable to walk and suffers from double vision.

Because he wasn’t out as gay at work, Dickenson initially told supervisors that his father was sick.

When he returned to work after 13 days at the hospital, Dickenson explained that his domestic partner was ill and he needed more time off. His supervisor managed to get him an additional 30 days of unpaid leave.

In the meantime, Dickenson phoned the company’s human resources department and asked whether he’d be eligible for leave under FMLA, which allows 12 weeks (or about 90 days) per year. Dickenson said he was told that since he lives in Texas, he wouldn’t be eligible.

Dickenson filled out the FMLA forms anyway and sent them to the company, but he never got any response.

When Dickenson returned to work, he asked to be reclassified as part-time employee, so he could spend more time with Sugg. His supervisor refused and told him his best bet was FMLA leave, even though he’d already been denied.

That’s when Dickenson contacted Wiley.

Sugg is scheduled return to the couple’s Garland home from rehab in about a week, but he’s still on a feeding tube and will require nursing care. With any luck, he’ll someday be able to walk again.

Sugg bragged that he was able to drink his first cup of coffee last week, and he’s looking forward to getting back to his hobby of raising African violets.

Dickenson said he knows of at least seven medical appointments he’ll have to arrange for Sugg once he returns home. He said his vacation time likely will run out by April, and he fears that if he loses his job, the medical expenses will eventually cause him to go broke.

But Dickenson, who’s 51, said he’s committed to taking care of Sugg, even if it means living on the street someday.

“When it runs out, I’ll be fired, and it really hurts to be in a situation like that, because I’ve worked very hard for AT&T,” Dickenson said. “We suffer now, but maybe other people in our shoes in the future, if they work for AT&T, they won’t suffer like we do.”

—  John Wright