The collateral damage that was created because of Cheryll’s murder is immeasurable. Many of the now-grown kids from 1971 Rose Avenue have shared that they’ve had failed relationships, failed marriages, and some have no children. They have shared how the death of a childhood friend deeply impacted their life not only as a child, but in all the years following. Many have trust issues and some of the women shared how they are mistrusting of men. Their parents were extremely protective after Cheryll was killed as well, paranoid that the fate that befell Cheryll could also happen to their child so some aspects of their upbringing varies from other kids’. Some have shared how it’s affected their own parenting and the anxiety they have about letting their kids go anywhere alone. The fear is overwhelming at times. One of Cheryll’s childhood friends believes she may have PTSD, never having received any type of counseling after her friend’s death. My heart breaks when they share these things. I keep thinking, “So…many…lives…affected.”
By all accounts, the families of the suspects defended their loved one regarding Cheryll’s murder. Being able to concede your family member might not be a great person is hard enough, but then trying to defend them against murder accusations when you believe whole-heartedly in their innocence has to be absolutely draining. The families of the suspects didn’t kill anyone and their lives were and are forever impacted by having a loved one being accused of the heinous crime of the murder of a child. I can’t imagine being in their shoes.
I think about all of the school children who remember a student at their school going missing and being killed and I think about the teachers. It ripped the innocence carpet out from under the feet of children and taught them at an early age how the world can be a cruel and awful place. Many people who went to school with the Spegal children talk about how haunted they still are over the unsolved murder.
And that poor milkman who was just out doing his job that fall day, stopping for a break, only to discover Cheryll’s body. He had to not only live with the awful memory of Cheryll’s body being found where and how it was, but also had to live amid the accusations of him being her murderer. His good name and his reputation were unfairly tarnished for many years. It’s a reminder that how on any random day, any one of us can have our entire life turned upside down because of a dastardly deed of another. The respectable law enforcement men have said they will never be able to get the crime scene photos out of their minds. They will never forget what was done to Cheryll. They can’t unsee or un-know what they learned when investigating the case. These kinds of cases affect how they parent and how they view the world.
And I think of Cheryll’s heartbroken family. They lost their only granddaughter (on both sides of Cheryll’s family), their only daughter, their only sister. How special she was. The only girl who was doted on by so many. Their lives–the extended family and immediate family alike–were impacted in unimaginable ways. A member of Cheryll’s family shared with me that her brothers and her parents never healed from this. Her parents went to early graves partly because they had broken hearts that never healed and carried stress and guilt about what happened to Cheryll. This same family member explained it well. “Cheryll is the victim. What happened to her is horrible and tragic and so unfair. But her suffering ended that day. There are other victims. It’s those of us who loved her and who feel cheated by the fact that someone took her from us. We’re victims too and our suffering has never ended. The agony that we feel is constant. Our lives were negatively impacted by her death in so many ways.” And it’s all so true. There are living victims of Cheryll’s killer. He may have killed a girl that day, but he permanently wounded others for the rest of their lives and altered so many aspects of how they navigate through, what should be, a beautiful world. I almost envision it like, prior to October 19, 1971, Cheryll’s family was able to see things in color, but after that day, their world now can only be seen in black and white.
There are so many victims of Cheryll’s murder. The pain is immense. And nearly 50 years later, it is prevalent in all of the correspondence, phone conversations, and face to face meetings I have with people impacted by her death.
Revisiting Cheryll’s story and sharing it with anyone willing to read about it, has created some amazing and unexpected side effects. It has been extraordinary to see people in Highland Heights communicating with people in Pendleton County. Social media has allowed people to share their memories and confirm or dispel thoughts or misconceptions the other has had. Old friends are being brought together. The kids of Rose Avenue have started talking again and sharing in memories, good and bad, of living on the same street. People have done self-reflection and have had some come to Jesus moments, needing to admit what wasn’t necessarily comfortable for the sake of telling Cheryll’s story.
For me, I’ve been so fortunate to have met so many people– so many GOOD people. People who care about each other. People who can unite for a common cause. People who are willing to speak up when they see an injustice. People who are willing to rally around a girl who went missing in the fog and become a collective voice for her.
The relationships that I have developed with people throughout this journey are so special. I have made friends with people who are like big sisters and brothers to me. They were Cheryll’s friends and now I’m like the kid sister. Bridget and I have been invited into people’s homes, to social gatherings, and to family reunions because people feel a connection to us. We whole-heartedly believe it’s Cheryll bringing us together and working through all of us. I count her as a blessing in my already blessed life.
Beth and Bridget
When I started this whole journey people would ask me, “How many blog posts do you intend to write?” I’d answer that I didn’t really have a plan– as long as there was a story to tell, I’d continue to write. And here I am at the 40th blog post. 40 is just really astounding to me. I never anticipated having so much to write about along this journey. I credit Cheryll for continuing to lead me where I need to go. I am certain that my father-in-law is helping us put pieces together from the other side. And I am grateful for all of the good-hearted people who have reached out to share their memories, thoughts, and information. It’s been a special four months of telling Cheryll’s story and along the way, Bridget and I have been shocked at how many unexpected twists and turns the narrative has taken and how many people are intertwined in the vine of her story.
Now, Bridget and I have some important next steps to work on. We have to wait to see what the state police will share with us and continue to persist in asking them for the case file. We wait with patience to see if Cheryll’s brothers will be willing to talk to us, respecting their right to privacy and having compassion, not wanting to open old and awful wounds. We continue to (politely) request that the police consider talking to old cronies of the suspects’ to see if those people have anything they want to share. We are beginning the process of learning about how to write to Eugene Gall in prison to see if he has anything to say about a girl from Highland Heights, Kentucky who vanished on her way to school in 1971. We continue to correspond with residents of Pendleton County about the possibility of dragging or diving into the lake where suspects dumped evidence they didn’t want to be found. We continue to research any and all names sent to us as possible players in Cheryll’s story. There is much work to be done. (See Blog Page, “The To Do List”).
But here, friends, is where the story has finally caught up to current time. We now need time to work on the list above and therefore, the blog will have a pause in the action as we research and discover new information. We want to keep the momentum moving, however, so please keep sharing Cheryll’s story and talking about your memories and knowledge of aspects of her case. And, thank you. Thank you to everyone who has supported all parts of this endeavor. I feel like we’ve created an army of warriors who care about this child and want to fight for her. I’m proud to have so many people united for this cause.
Cheryll’s story is tragic. It is awful and it is disgusting and it makes you realize how horrible human beings can be. I feel an overwhelming sense of terror when I think about Cheryll’s last moments on her birthday and how I’d move heaven and earth to somehow prevent what happened to Cheryll from happening. What a shitty hand she was dealt. Her death is just so unfair and the fact that her right to justice was denied makes me twice as angry. She deserved so much more. I will continue to fight for her. We will continue to fight for her. She may have disappeared into the fog 48 years ago, but by telling her story we are lifting her into the light. The light she deserves.
There were 49 donors to the GoFundMe campaign for Cheryll’s headstone and we raised a total of $1,235.00. I was given money outside of the GoFundMe and with those donations, we have $1,435.00. Our goal was $1,500.00 and a former investigator and a couple of friends of mine have told me that they would cover the difference and any overages we may incur. In this sad story, a positive outcome is that Cheryll finally will have a headstone and it, as well as the cost of installation, are paid for! They’re paid for because of you, the readers– the people who have traveled this road with Bridget and me and will continue to as we press on in search of the truth. I will post updates on the blog regarding the installation and dedication of the headstone once it comes in. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a gathering for Cheryll to collectively celebrate her life?
So, here it is. Here is the design for Cheryll’s headstone. It has been a labor of love and Cheryll absolutely deserves it. She deserves this and so much more. Let’s continue to journey on together. Cheryll is with the angels and she’s helping guide us. The cardinal continues to assure us of this truth.