A 15-year mystery unresolved

Strasburg woman who lost daughter, grandchild blames state police

By Joe Beck

Fifteen years after her 20-year-old daughter was stabbed to death and her 10-week-old granddaughter disappeared, the long, frustrating wait for answers to the crime continues for Angela Stover.

Stover received the grim news of Sylena Jo Dalton’s death from a sister who lived across the street and was the first family member to see the victim’s body in the apartment at 175 S. Charles St. in Strasburg.

All had seemed fine hours earlier when Stover left the infant Allyson and Dalton at the apartment where all three lived. Stover remembers being called away from work hours later and listening in horror as her sister described what had happened.

“My sister told me that Sylena was stabbed to death, and they can’t find Allyson,” Stover said in an interview Friday. “Needless to say, I just fell to the floor and started crying for my mother.”

Allyson Dalton has not been found. Stover said police searched the Shenandoah River and some Dumpsters without success.

Sylena Dalton’s killer remains at large.

Angela Stover and her mother, Bonnita Smith, say they know who killed Sylena Dalton and took Allyson. They blame the Virginia State Police for failing to make an arrest in the case.

Stover said she was last in contact with the state police about three months ago and came away discouraged. She said the conversation followed a pattern that has become all too familiar to her over the years.

“We’re angry and upset,” Stover said. “We don’t feel they’re working on the case. They don’t contact me. I contact them.”

A reporter’s telephone message asking state police about the status of the investigation was not returned.

Stover said she believes the state police are “dead ended” in the investigation, despite the male suspect she has in mind.

“I think they’re waiting for him to slip up, to tell somebody something,” Stover said of the state police. “I think they’re waiting for a break in the case, but right now it’s at a stand still, a cold case.”

Strasburg Police Chief Tim Sutherly said his department has more investigators now than it did in 1998. He said he recently contacted the state police to offer his department’s help in the Dalton case.

“It was my concern that the case was just collecting dust on someone’s desk,” Sutherly said. “I was assured by state police that was not the case, that it was still being actively pursued. I reiterated my offer of assistance to take any role in the case that was needed. We have not heard anything since.”

Dalton remembers her daughter as what she calls a typical Strasburg girl who grew up participating in Girl Scouts and high school volleyball and basketball. She stood only 5 feet tall, but her mother describes her as “feisty.”

“She was a person who told you what she thought, but she was a good kid,” Stover said.

Grandmother Bonnita Smith said the family learned from police that Sylena Dalton was probably asleep or nearly asleep when she died around 9 a.m. She said her granddaughter had been up much of the night trying to calm a colicky Allyson. Sylena Dalton was found lying covered up on the sofa when a visitor to the apartment discovered the body.

“She must have been asleep or relaxed or something because there wasn’t any blood spattered or anything like that,” Smith said.

Angela Stover moved to West Virginia and now lives in Stephen City, where she is relieved to move about without being recognized as the mother of a woman who died a violent death.

Stover said the crime has left her fearful like she never was before. She locks the doors and recently turned down a television interview because she didn’t want to want to be seen on camera.

“I was scared that someone would come after me,” Dalton said. “I’m still afraid of everything.”

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com