22. Phone Calls

“You know, after Cheryll went missing and was found dead, some of us received phone calls.” I heard this when talking to Rose Avenue childhood friends of Cheryll’s who are now grown women. I was struck with one part curiosity and one part fear.

“What kind of phone calls?” I asked, intrigued.

“My mom would answer and a male voice would say, ‘yours is next’. We thought it was teenage boys in the neighborhood possibly playing jokes, but we don’t really know.” Undoubtedly, that would be an unnerving phone call to receive especially in the wake of the horrific fate of Cheryll.

Another woman recalls her mom receiving calls that used the word “pu–y.” When the male caller would talk using sexually explicit language her mom would immediately hang up. Both of these women are grateful that their moms answered those calls so that they didn’t have to hear what the caller had to say.

I listened to these memories of phone calls from long ago and filed it away in my head, not quite sure at the time what to make of it. But as more women began to reach out to Bridget and me to tell us about bizarre phone calls they received years ago, I began to wonder if they could all possibly be related.

Recently, I received a message from a reader of the blog who had quite an alarming story to share. First, some background. This woman knew the man on the porch because he was related to her by marriage. She was a teenager in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The man on the porch would hang out from time to time with a member of her family, but her mother made it known that he was not welcome in their house. Not only had her mom heard the talk about the man on the porch, she also sensed that there was something about him that made her uneasy. Occasionally, he would have reasons to call their house and in time, the teenager became familiar with his voice on the other end of the line. But one summer day, she received a phone call from him that was different than all the others. It was the type of frightening experience that a person never forgets. She recounted the following: “The phone rang and woke me up. It was him. He asked for my mom, and when I said she was at work, his entire voice changed. I’m chilled even thinking about it. It was a deep menacing growl and he said, ‘Do you have great big tits like your mama? Do you have a pretty c–t?’ It was like an animal voice and I slammed the phone down. I was so terrified, I got up and left the house immediately–terrified he was coming there! It was awful. I will never ever forget the instant change that I heard. It was an entirely different presence.”

Her story stirred so many emotions inside of me. It was hard to breathe thinking about how desperate and scary that would have been. And I too felt chilled to the bone as she so vividly recalled the words spoken to her that day.

She continued, “I don’t want to think about that voice and connect it to a little innocent girl dealing with it. But I do….there was zero doubt that evil was on the other end of the phone that day.” I believe it was him. She knew his voice and knew to whom she was talking. Was this the voice of a man who had killed a little girl ten years prior?

****

A few years after the women above received their phone calls, a woman who was 10-years-old in the early 1990s, moved into a house on the same street as the man on the porch. She and her mom moved in to the house with a female friend of her mother’s and recently, that 10-year-old girl who is now a grown woman in her late 30s, shared her experiences from that time with Bridget and me.

We asked her what her earliest memories of the man on the porch were and she said, “He would sit on his porch and stare at all of us kids. Also, he would drive by me on my bike and slow down and stare. I would be playing in the front yard and he would drive up and down the street. Other kids would run into their houses. I’m telling you his speed would change when he saw kids and he would slow down and literally turn his head 90 degrees to stare out the window at us. I’m seriously getting the uh-oh feeling thinking about it. I remember how it made me feel and it’s been 28 years.”

She continued with more. “My teenage cousin was about 17 or 18 at the time and she would babysit me sometimes. She would receive phone calls all the time when she babysat me on our landline. He would tell her what she was wearing and the curtains and blinds were shut. One night she and her best friend were babysitting me and when one of them walked down the hall to the bathroom they saw a man trying to break in through the front door. They both ran and woke me up and put me into the closet with them and called 911.”

“This is terrifying,” was all I could muster in response.

“We were in the closet until the police came. I remember it like yesterday.”

“Did they see his face?” I asked.

“No,” she explained. “Just the top of his head through the window.” She went on to describe how, by the time the police arrived, the prowler had escaped into the dark of night, on foot, most likely back to his own house. The police stayed with the girls until her mom arrived back home.

“My mom found out about the man on the porch that night because the police told her they suspected him but couldn’t prove it.” She also explained that her mom was livid with her friend, the one with whom they lived, because that friend admitted after this night that she knew the man had been suspected as the killer of a young girl, but she decided not to tell her mom because she “didn’t want to scare her.” Because her mom was upset with her friend, because the house had been the scene of an attempted break-in, and because she as a child was so traumatized to the point that she didn’t want to go outside anymore, her mother and she moved out of the house not long after that night.

In a bizarre footnote she also added this: “When we moved the same guy called my cousin at HER house in Dayton, Kentucky and asked her where she went and why she wasn’t watching me anymore. And then she saw someone one night stand on her roof outside her second floor window, in the middle of the night, staring in the window. Whoever the caller was, he stalked her for a bit.”

This whole story is chilling regardless of who the caller really was. The visuals being painted in my mind were like scenes from a scary movie. He knew what the babysitter was wearing, so everyone suspected that in order to know what she was wearing, he had to have actually seen her each time prior to placing the calls. This woman explained how this was one of the scariest and most traumatic events in her childhood and when she started reading the blog she exclaimed, “‘HOLY SHIT!’ I was so taken aback that I had to reach out to you.”

And she isn’t the only one. Just this week, I heard a story about another young girl who was once walking down the street alone, near the house where the man on the porch lived, in attempt to see a hot air balloon that was floating overhead. Out of nowhere, the man on the porch appeared, and chased the young girl down the street until she was able to dodge him and make it back to her home. The thought of her young legs running as fast as they would possibly go to get away from a man behaving like a crazed animal, makes my heart race and my stomach turn.

I think about the endless nights that I walked and rode bikes on my own neighborhood street, sometimes with friends and sometimes alone. I think about walking home carefree from school on days we decided not to wait for the school bus. I’m grateful that I have no memories of a creepy man following me or chasing me or watching me– that I was able to live a young, idyllic life. And all the while, the man on the porch was driving around, one town over from me, watching and chasing kids. It bothers me that no one outside of that little stretch of highway and Rose Avenue knew that danger was lurking. Were all of these phone calls connected? Was the man on the porch the one who tried to break into the home? Was the man on the porch the one who continued to stalk the teenage babysitter? We don’t know, but all of these stories in totality paint a disturbing picture of the kind of man that he was. And for anyone who has lived through harrowing events like the ones above–when you’re scared for your life–I believe that you never, ever forget those moments and the emotions attached to them.

Were the phone calls and the drive-bys the man on the porch’s way of possibly scouting out his next victim or was he just a creepy older man who enjoyed watching the kids and frightening people? Could someone stab a young girl to death and have no history of having done something so vile before or after? Or, could the sick and twisted monster living within the killer have peeked out at times, just waiting to show itself completely? Was Cheryll’s death caused by the eruption of evil inside of someone that just couldn’t be contained any longer? I ponder these questions. At times I find that calm place within myself that tells me to keep on pushing ahead–that all will be revealed in time. But on nights like tonight while I write this blog, it’s like the weather outside can sense my mood–it’s dark, and with the thundering storms and howling winds, I find myself desperately almost pleading for the answer to be revealed to me….Who killed Cheryll?

Cheryll, to whom this blog is dedicated
Link to the GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for a headstone for Cheryll
Narration for Entry #22

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