As we continue to delve into the mystery of Cheryll’s case, we, and others, have questioned whether her murder was carried out by one person and one person only. Or, could two people have worked in tandem to commit the crime? If one person committed the crime, might he have solicited help to transport Cheryll to New Hope Road? If Cheryll was killed on New Hope Road she may have been easier to subdue on the trip there if someone else was in the car (as Moira the intuitive has “seen” it). If Cheryll was already dead, the killer may have needed help finding a location to put her body and turned to a trusted confidant for help. Or, none of this is correct and the killer worked alone the entire time and took her to a place with which he was familiar to kill her or to dispose of her after she had already been killed.
There is risk involved in all of these scenarios. If the murderer killed her on Rose Avenue or nearby, he then ran the risk of her being seen or heard by neighbors during the commission of the crime or after, when he loaded her in his car, especially as the sun was rising on the morning of October 19, 1971. If the killer transported her alive to New Hope Road, he ran the risk of her being spotted in his car, though she could have been incapacitated at the time and it was still dark at 6:30 in the morning. If he killed her on New Hope Road, he could have been spotted with a girl–either dead or alive– which would have caused alarm bells in anyone who may have happened to pass down that road. And though the road was not highly traveled, there WAS still that risk. And if there was possibly an accomplice involved then more risk factors/variables enter the narrative. Did all the events of that morning happen quickly or over the course of several hours? I wish I knew the answer. It’s so morbid to confess that I see various scenarios in my mind and at times think: The story of that morning is probably more simple than you realize. And then other times I think: There could be so much more to the story that you’ve yet to discover.
Referring again to the 2006 report “CASE MANAGEMENT for Missing Children Homicide Investigation” conducted by The United States Department of Justice, in conjunction with the Attorney General of Washington State, a few more statistics have caused my wheels to turn even more. This is difficult to discuss, but it’s important. The method by which Cheryll was killed is not the leading method used. “Death by strangulation was the leading cause of death of victims (33.2%), followed by blunt force trauma (23.9%), and stabbing/cutting (23.3%). Firearms….only accounted for 11.8%.” It almost makes her death seem even more sadistic because of how violent it truly was–26 times she was stabbed. If Cheryll was murdered before her body was taken to New Hope Road, the killer would have had to have her body stored somewhere prior to transport and potentially there would have been a lot of blood present. “The killer kept the body in his residence (53.0%), in his car (21.0%), or in a variety of other places within easy reach”. “These child abduction killers chose rural locations for the body disposal location in 52.6% of the cases.” We know this to be true for Cheryll as well. “The killers deliberately chose the body disposal location in 48.0% of cases. It was a random selection in 32.6% of cases….killers were forced by circumstances to choose the body disposal location in only 10.4% of the murders…Killers concealed the body in 55.4% of cases and were unconcerned with the location of the body in 36.4% of cases…” Having been to the Body Recovery Site several times, it just feels like it wasn’t a random place for the killer to have gone with Cheryll. And it’s a fact that Cheryll was definitely transported in someone’s vehicle to New Hope Road that morning.
This next statistic is very shocking and not something I had ever considered in regard to Cheryll’s case before I read the literature about these types of killings. “Almost one-fourth (23.7%) of the killers returned to the body disposal site after a significant period of time. Of those killers who did return, an incredible 83.3% did so prior to the discovery of the body, and 33.1% did so within three days after the murder.” We have no way of knowing if the killer or killers went to New Hope Road at any time after the murder, but if the killer had connections to the area out there, might he have been tempted to check on what was under that pile of rocks? Was that pile put there to help the killer quickly find the location if he returned? Was it an odd sign of guilt–a grave marker of sorts? Or perhaps the rocks were there to shield Cheryll, a covering, since she was without her clothes.
Recently, someone commented on one of the blog posts about a local news station covering Cheryll’s story over the years. I have heard about this from multiple sources and am hoping to correspond with the reporter who covered the case (stay tuned). The commenter went on to ask if anyone remembers the news broadcast stating that the police believed the perpetrator returned to the Recovery Site through the years. In light of the above statistic, I found this idea to be intriguing. Could Cheryll’s murderer have returned to New Hope Road over the years? Like always, I have questions. First, did the police and/or the news actually report this? And second, how would anyone know that the killer returned to the recovery site? I doubt the police were staking out the site. I guess they could have been, but in my gut I just don’t feel like they did. So again, how would the police and/or the news know that fact? And if they DO know that somehow, then who was it that they saw returning to the recovery site?
“The bodies of abducted children were recovered within 24 hours of when the killer and victim had their initial contact in 39.0% of cases, within 48 hours of 52.6% of cases, and within a week in 73.0% of cases.” Clearly, Cheryll does not fall into these categories. I had to keep scrolling through the charted research to find her percent. “7 days to 14 days….7.2%”. This was just one of a couple instances of when Cheryll was in the minority, statistically speaking–it was almost two weeks before the milk man discovered her body. In regard to who discovers an abduction murder victim, in the majority of cases (55.3%), the discovery was made by a passerby. Sadly, Cheryll was probably there all that time and it had been just a matter of time before she was found. And though the end of her life was horrific, I find an odd sort of gratefulness that she was found and able to be laid to rest. Her family didn’t have to live their lives always wondering where she was like so many families of missing children endure. Once she was found, the mystery of what had happened to her was solved while the heartbreaking mystery of how she spent her final hours and with whom she spent them, remains. And I question, will we ever know that answer?
Word continues to spread about our efforts to collect money for Cheryll’s headstone and we are beyond grateful. I’ve been in contact with a couple of monument companies to secure the best deal and best design for Cheryll’s headstone. One day, my phone rang and it was a woman who is an owner of a local monument company. A friend of hers is the retired police officer I had talked to previously and he reached out to her about being involved in the endeavor.
“….He shared with me that Cheryll is a victim of an unsolved homicide and that she has never had a grave marker. I want to tell you that I am very touched by this and I would be honored to design her headstone.”
I told her I would be willing to work with her as I have been with other headstone companies to compare cost and designs and she said she understood and wanted to share with me what she was envisioning.
“The headstones we design are unique for the individual, more than just a stone. Cheryll has been without a headstone for almost fifty years so now that you’re putting one in, I would love to help make it truly one of a kind.”
I explained that that was what I was hoping for as well and as she again began to speak, her next statement immediately struck me.
“I really associate an angel with Cheryll because it is my belief that she certainly went with the angels when she died.” First, Cheryll’s mom’s side of the family had shared with me that in 1971 they had wanted her headstone to include an angel (and were told by Cheryll’s dad that that is what he’d eventually get for her) and second, the first thing Moira had said during our session is that Cheryll was with the angels who escorted her from her body and on to Heaven.
“Absolutely,” I replied. “I would very much like to incorporate an angel into her headstone as well.” I went on to explain that I would, of course, like to include Cheryll’s name and her dates, as well as possibly an etching of her photograph. She took notes about my requests then continued.
“And besides her name, an etching of her photo, and an angel, maybe we could include one other emblem like a bird of some sort or a butterfly or an….” she continued to talk for a moment, but I didn’t hear the words she was speaking because I was in awe that she first had said a bird.
I cut her off. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but throughout this whole endeavor, we have been seeing cardinals flying around Cheryll’s grave and around us sometimes when we speak about her. Interestingly, you mentioned a bird first so yes, we’d like to somehow include that as well.”
I could hear her smiling through her words. “This happens sometimes. I name a few things and the suggestions are ones the family is already considering including.”
“That’s amazing,” I said, smiling as well. With further consideration, I have decided it’s not just amazing, but divine. I felt like I was a part of the conversation, but it was more than a two-person dialogue. Is it odd to suggest that it felt like Cheryll and her parents were there too, guiding the conversation along? Almost like their spirits were leaning close to the phone receiver trying to hear what was being said and eagerly nodding and smiling about particular suggestions. I know it sounds crazy, but that is the only way I can describe what it felt like. And we–everyone living and dead who cares about Cheryll–are inching closer to accomplishing the goal of getting her that one-of-a-kind headstone.
- K. Brown, R. Keppel, J. Weis, M. Skeen. CASE MANAGEMENT for Missing Children Homicide. Rob McKenna Attorney General for Washington & U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. 2006. <http://www.pollyklaas.org/media/press-releases/wa-abduction-homicide-study.pdf>