Tragedy and Mystery at Marco Island Cemetery

[] Once part of the remote interior of Marco Island, Florida, Marco Island Cemetery stands as a testament to the resiliency of the island’s inhabitants. Spanish explorers named the island La Isla de San Marco, and it is the largest barrier island within southwest Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands region. Today, it is home to over 17,000 residents, as well as thousands of vacationers who visit every year to enjoy the beautiful weather. In the early 1970s, however, less than 4,000 people resided there. Many had left earlier in the century due to economic hardship and the Great Depression. Old Marco Cemetery, as Marco Island Cemetery was called at the time, was all but abandoned, left to nature and the social outcasts who came there to drink and race dirt bikes and motorcycles along its trails. Then, in 1973, a tragedy occurred that triggered its renewal.

Linda Walters, 16, and Lisa Nankevill, 15, were staying at Lisa’s father’s home on Pepperwood Court, which according to newspaper reports was, at the time, located about two blocks from the cemetery. Lisa’s father awoke during the night to hear music coming from her bedroom. Thinking nothing of it, he went back to bed. When he woke early the next morning, the music was still playing, and when we went to investigate, he found the two girls missing with a note taped to a picture of Lisa’s mother. He did not report them missing to police because they had taken off on their own before. Many teenagers on Marco Island hung out at the 7-11 convenience store a few blocks away, near Old Marco Cemetery, which was open 24 hours. Later, eyewitnesses placed them at a party that night. They left around 9pm.

The monument to fallen children at Marco Island Cemetery. Photo by Michael Kleen

The monument to fallen children at Marco Island Cemetery. Photo by Michael Kleen

Shortly after noon on Wednesday, April 11, 1973, a man named Paul Smith drove onto a deserted road about 100 feet south of Marco Island Cemetery and discovered Linda and Lisa’s bodies. According to newspaper reports, both were wearing blue jeans and blouses. Linda lay on her back and Lisa on her side, about a foot apart. A .38 caliber revolver lay under Lisa’s left knee, and both had been shot through the temple. Police initially ruled it a murder-suicide, but it just as easily could have been a double suicide.

The incident shocked the small, tight-knit community, particularly because Linda and Lisa seemed like typical American high school girls. Both girls were described as “quiet” and “gentle.” Lisa Nankevill had recently lost her mother, an event that matured her beyond her years. She collected scraps of verse and love poems. Outrage by the senselessness of the act, local residents banded together to reclaim the cemetery. According to Florida Fringe Tourism, “The Island took action by rebuilding the cemetery to honor those who came before. After years of cleaning and mapping out the original grave sites, the cemetery was once again opened and is still in use to this day.”

Today, a loving memorial to lost children, featuring a cherubic angel with open arms, stands in the garden-like cemetery. The 7-11 still sits at the northwest corner of the intersection of Elkcam Circle and Bald Eagle Drive, just north of the burial ground, but all traces of its troubled past have been erased. The road running past the cemetery is heavily traveled, and many visitors come and go without ever knowing of the tragedy that took place there some 42 years ago. Whatever happened that fateful night, however, is a secret Linda Walters and Lisa Nankevill took to their untimely graves.

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  1. My boyfriend and I just got back from visiting the Cemetery. Our experience was a little unsettling to say the least. First it took awhile to figure out how to drive to it. I guess this is not uncommon as we were never here before. We parked the car and started walking up the walkway to the old church. At the beginning of the walkway there was a plot and the flowers had been knocked over so my boyfriend carefully placed the flowers back out of respect. We approached the church and after noticing it was locked, we looked in the windows and started reading the plaque about the history of the church/cemetery. I was looking around and my boyfriend freaked out. I looked over and he was jumping around hysterically, I looked back at him to see what he was getting hysterical about and this snake literally jumped into the bushes from his direction. I lost it and let out a scream and right then and there I decided that it was time to go. as we were walking at a steady speed to the car, he told me that it felt like someone was reaching their hand up his pant leg and he looked down and the snake had made it to his calf.
    We almost made it to the car and this giant wasp out of nowhere started buzzing around him!!!
    We left the cemetery with our hearts racing and trying to take in what had happened.
    Now, I know that not everyone believes in the paranormal, my boyfriend for one, but I do. I couldn’t help but think that this was the girls (or maybe someone else) not at peace and trying to detour us away! I realize one would try to make sense of this, possibly the snake just happened to be there at the same time, it is a tropical paradise after all, but generally snakes do not be line for humans that are moving around and I have never heard of one crawling up someone’s pants!!!! As far as the wasp, yes there were groundsmen taking care of the lawn and landscaping, but seriously, just one single wasp out of nowhere? We did not see more than that one wasp!!!
    I have read that this place is haunted but haven’t actually read any actual reports as to what kind of activities people have encountered.
    Maybe you can direct me to more articles on these girls and the cemetery and church as well



  1. […] part of the remote interior of Marco Island, Florida, Marco Island Cemetery stands as a testament to the resiliency of the island’s inhabitants. In the early 1970s, Old […]


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