This blog post describes the method of murder of a child. The content may be disturbing to some readers.
So much about Cheryll’s case is horrific– the circumstances, the sad back story, the fact that is was her birthday, how long it took to find her….but for me, the most disturbing part of Cheryll’s story is how she was killed. I hope Moira was right and that Cheryll didn’t feel any pain because her soul quickly left her body. I hope that is true with all of my being. I envision the angels walking her into the light where she was met by family and the face of Jesus and she had no need to even look back at her earthly body. These visions give me comfort. Because otherwise, my mind won’t even let me fully process what Cheryll was experiencing during her last moments on earth. I sometimes mull it all over in my mind, say a prayer for Cheryll, and let myself feel the sadness of the crime. I’ve realized though that I can’t dwell on it. I have to keep pushing forward and discovering as much as I can. In order to learn more about the case and who could have possibly perpetrated this crime, there is something to be learned from the method by which Cheryll was killed.
I was at home one day watching the television show Cold Justice on the Oxygen channel. On the show, Kelly Siegler and her team investigate cold cases and try to solve them using modern methods. The episode I was watching that day covered the unsolved death of Eloise Payne from Flint, Michigan where Ms. Payne was found stabbed to death in her own home. An investigator spoke about the crime and said that a stabbing death like that shows that the assailant was filled with rage in order to repeatedly deliver blows to someone in that manner. Furthermore, stabbing usually indicates a personal connection to the victim because it brings the perpetrator close to the victim while they’re stabbing them. I stood at my kitchen counter stacking dishes when I heard the investigator say those words and I paused for a moment to listen. Immediately after he finished speaking, my TV froze. The episode wouldn’t continue to play. I tried to rewind and fast forward the live TV to no avail. I said out loud, “Okay Cheryll. I got the message.” And then I turned off the TV.
Someone stabbed Cheryll twenty-six times. TWENTY-SIX times. I sometimes find myself making a fist as if holding a knife and moving my fist up and down counting to 26, just trying to imagine the rage, force, anger, and commitment to delivering those blows to another person. If Cheryll was stabbed repeatedly in the back and so hard at times that the wound cut through to her front, I would imagine that Cheryll was laying facedown for that. Did her assailant knock her down and sit on her backside while stabbing her? Was the circular pattern they found on her back a deliberate design or, when stabbing her, did the knife wounds occur one after another, moving in a sort of clockwise motion? The back area of a ten-year-old wouldn’t be a large area to cover. There would have been only so much open space to stab her as many times as he did. I do not know what kind of knife was used–whether it was a large or small blade. I do know that her cause of death was internal hemorrhaging so the wounds had to be significant enough to obviously cause death. Did the killer bring the knife with him? If so, was it something he just carried or did he bring it knowing he was going to kill Cheryll? It is doubtful to me that he would have happened upon a knife at the scene to use to kill Cheryll. Could Cheryll have been stabbed to death elsewhere like inside the perpetrator’s car or even in his home and then she was transported to New Hope Road already deceased?
There are other ways that a child could be killed. The fact that Cheryll was not killed those ways also says something. She was not strangled, or shot, nor did she die from blunt force trauma–she was stabbed. Why? Why the rage? Why the overkill? What did Cheryll do to cause the rage? Reject his advances? Realize she was in a terrible situation and fight back? Use her words and say she was going to tell on him for what he was doing? Use her words and hurl an insult his way that totally set him off? Or could it be something totally different? Did Cheryll represent something else– the anger was about something totally unrelated to her, but yet he took it out on her? Was he irate with someone else, possibly another woman or girl, so he took that anger out on Cheryll who wasn’t in any way involved in that situation? Again, I believe the method of her death is a huge clue.
The response to this blog sharing Cheryll’s story has been amazing. I’ve been getting information and leads and new perspectives about Cheryll’s case. But one of the positive things that has come from this is the sharing of stories about Cheryll. People have reached out and either emailed me, commented, or even met me in person to talk about Cheryll. Here is some of what I’ve learned since starting this blog:
Cheryll usually had a cheerful personality. For the most part, she was chipper and happy at school and friendly with the other kids and teachers and staff. She had a little dog, Sparky, that she enjoyed playing with. It makes me smile thinking about her loving on her dog. Cheryll’s brothers didn’t seem to mind having a kid sister hanging around them while they were out in the neighborhood. When the kids on the street were out playing, the older boys seem to accept Cheryll being a part of the activity. Were her older brothers used to looking out for their kid sister? Did they embrace the role of protective big brother? One of Cheryll’s childhood friends fondly remembers putting Cheryll’s younger brother in a stroller and walking to a little corner store down the street. Having a little freedom to leave the street and purchase a little treat is something that girls Cheryll’s age found fun to do.
It was known to people that Cheryll was turning 10. One of the things Cheryll told people around the time of her disappearance was that her uncle would be taking her to see her grandma for her birthday. Through my research I have learned that Cheryll stayed with her grandma–her mother’s mother– for sometime after the divorce of her parents, before Billy Joe remarried and moved the family to Rose Avenue. I can imagine getting to go see her grandma on her birthday would have been something she was looking forward to and an exciting treat for Cheryll. Other school friends have shared that there was possibly going to be a birthday party for Cheryll the weekend after she went missing but of course it never happened. I visualize Cheryll looking forward to seeing her grandma and having a party with her friends. I desperately hope that these stories are true so that Cheryll did have happiness in her life.
Just like the life story of any person, for every happy story there are sad ones too. It sounds like Cheryll was trying to live her best life while also having to face some hardships behind closed doors. But just how hard was it at home? Were there secrets within the walls of 78 Rose Avenue? 47 years later, a few stories have come leaking out that make me once again feel so sad for Cheryll and continue to question who could possibly be involved in her death. With these stories, the tangled web of Cheryll’s case grows even further, all the while wrapping in it the life of a young girl helpless to free herself.