One morning an email appeared in my inbox. The sender shared that he’d been reading the first couple of blog posts and once he read where Cheryll’s body had been found, he contacted me because memories of long ago stirred in his mind and he felt that he wanted to share a connection he had made. For the purposes of this blog entry I will refer to this man as Joe.
After reading about the man on the porch being a possible suspect, Joe suggested that I really should consider researching another person, a “convict” who lived on the same street as Cheryll. He shared the initials of the person with me and it matched the name of the second suspect. I told Joe I would research anyone that may have played a role in Cheryll’s death and to please share with me what he wanted me to know. And with that, a little ray of light shone into the first crack in the cave of dark memories, leading eventually to it being fully illuminated.
As Joe began to unburden his long held suspicions, he shared that “for years this has bothered me” and reading the blog prompted him to feel that it was finally time to share his memories. He explained that he knew ________ and a couple of his buddies. The core group was tight and occasionally Joe would hang out with them as they worked on their souped-up cars. “He always had something new and shiny to look at” (regarding his car), and so Joe found himself hanging out with _______ off and on through the years, bonding over their passion for cars, “always out tinkering with something mechanical.” The main suspect had a very close friend and Joe remembers the two of them being together a lot. There were a few other guys who hung out with the two of them, forming a tight group. As a young man, he marveled at how the friends in the circle all took care of each other and they “all were bad so no one talked about the others” and their criminal behavior, mainly the theft of cars. Joe was aware that the gang “stole, stripped, and stashed cars” and by selling the car parts were able to make money to help support their drug habits. During the commission of the crime of stealing cars, other guys would be lookouts and would help stash the stolen car and then drive the others home. Joe said that the suspect had access to all sorts of vehicles, but certain souped-up cars of the suspect were his pride and joy. He was known to keep his car meticulously clean– so clean that to the police in 1971, this may seem out of the ordinary, but to those who knew him, was not strange at all.
The suspect needed a place to unload stolen goods and other evidence he no longer needed or didn’t want discovered. Joe recalled that the suspect would dump those things in a “deep lake right next to US 27 south of Falmouth. ______ would brag that’s where he got rid of stuff if the cops got close on his tail. _____ would say, ‘I have the perfect place to dump stuff NO ONE will ever hear from it again.'” Years later, when Joe was driving with another friend from that group, they passed that lake, and the friend said, “I bet if the lake could talk it’d tell you there are some real goodies in there.” My wheels were turning….how do we search that lake and if we could, what might we find? Joe also described to me a place out along Route 8, fairly close to where New Hope Road emptied out, that was the suspect’s “hideout and party pad.” Sometimes after committing the car thefts, the gang would meet at that old house and stash the cars. “He and his friends would use drugs and hide from the law there and God only knows what else.”
Joe described ______ as “a big dude, at times crazy” and people knew that he was “not one to cross.” Joe felt fortunate that this guy was good to him and “never said one bad or foul word to me or threatened me in anyway”–ever. I read his words and understood that we all can relate to valuing having a friend that others might be intimidated by–it’s good to have a person like that on your side. But Joe also shared that, in time, he started to see glimpses of a person who did and said things that first made him uneasy, to later, causing him to feel fully alarmed. Joe shared that he once listened to the suspect describe killing cats from his neighborhood and when he’d tell the guys about it he had “the most evil laugh I had ever heard on a human being.” It also bothered Joe that ______ would try to “sell his girlfriend to me or to others for drug money.” He repeated that this was a behavior that would happen occasionally and Joe would respectfully decline and the suspect would move on, not being offended that each time his offer was declined. Other times he saw the suspect’s girlfriend with black eyes and missing teeth and he would quietly question in his own mind how those injuries were sustained, knowing they could have been inflicted by the suspect.
Over time, the behavior Joe witnessed became even more frighening. Once, while hanging out at a local service station, the suspect got into a verbal argument with another man. “I had a front row seat as he beat the guy. He got a chain out of his trunk and destroyed the guy’s car. He was screaming, ‘Don’t ever F with me again! I let you live this time!'” Another thing he seemed to enjoy doing was to “drive a stolen car into Cincinnati to terrorize people with the car. He would find black people and would get beat-red faced, veins, and eyes-popping, screaming ‘I’ll kill you!'” at random people just for fun. And last, he recounted a time the suspect was driving one of his beloved cars when “an older lady pulled out in front of him. He got out screaming and broke out her windshield.” Hearing about his violent temper was terrifying to me and Joe shared that those violent outbursts and the heavy drug use were two big reasons he chose to keep his distance from the suspect. And then, he noticed that “all at once one day he was gone. I was older then and hadn’t been paying much attention to him, but heard he went to prison for car theft or drug charges.”
Joe vividly remembers when Cheryll went missing and how scary it was that a young girl could just vanish off of her street like she did. He admitted that the thought of _____ being involved had crossed his mind, knowing that the suspect lived very close to Cheryll and knowing how violent he could be. But it wasn’t until years later, when a conversation with an old friend brought him back to that time in 1971, that he started to seriously consider it. One of the other guys who had, years ago, hung around the car thieves became close with Joe again later in life. They would occasionally reminisce about some of the crazy things that had happened when they were younger. And one time as they talked about those years long ago, Joe’s friend reminded him that at that time (in 1971) he was a trapper, and ran trap lines “in culverts and overgrown fence lines.” (Curious about the practice of trapping? Read “The Trapper” which has been added as a Page on the Blog Menu above). The trapper recalled how he ran trap lines everyday– a lot of time at night and into the early morning hours– and the place where he ran those lines? All along the area of New Hope Road. Joe’s friend “would not have been noticed as doing anything or being a stranger in the rural area by the people that allowed him to trap on their property.” This friend, Joe recalled, was very close to the suspect at the time, hanging out with him frequently, and because of that friendship he fears that the trapper friend may have suggested that culvert as a place to dump something. “I never put this together until I recently read where Cheryll was found. I hate myself for having these thoughts about a friend, but my gut is telling me otherwise.” Could this good friend of Joe’s have either willingly, or, unknowingly, helped the suspect choose a location to put Cheryll after she’d been killed? Besides the dumping of car parts and the nearby hideaway house, now there could be a possible connection to the site because of the friend who ran trap lines there.
After Joe shared all that he remembered and how all these memories were fitting together, I asked him some questions in return.
Do you know about the man on the porch or have any memory of him?
He confirmed that he knew who I was referring to and based on his observations of him from over the years from being in the area, said this: “He was different. Mind you, if he lived near me today, I would be concerned also from the way he acted. He was weird, but he may be getting a bad rap here. He just seemed like a drunken freak, but not a killer.”
Do you think your friend the trapper could have actually been involved in the murder of Cheryll?
“I knew him well enough to know he did not kill anyone. But cover up for a buddy, that is possible. He would have been in and around the area of her grave daily. As I said, I feel so bad about thinking he could have been involved in this, he was a good friend of mine. He never spoke a word of knowing Cheryll, but he would often talk about how crazy _____ and his friend were. If they needed a place to hide evidence he may have told them about that area.” Joe went on to explain that if his trapper friend had known something, he would never have told a soul, including him, because that group had a code of silence when it came to crimes they had committed.
Based on what you knew of ______ do you think he was capable of killing a child?
“I would put nothing past ______ or him and his closest friend to have done this. It’s really hard for me to explain to you in words. They were bad people and I think he was capable of doing the crime. At the time, he was heavy into drugs, a junkie. He was a freaky person, terrible temper, and my definition of a true nut walking free.”