This blog entry briefly describes the murder of a child. The content may be disturbing to some readers.
On a dreary winter morning, I gently woke my daughter in preparation for a mid-morning dental appointment. “Mom,” she called out as she opened her eyes and rolled on her back. “I had that same dream again.” I sat down on the side of her bed.
“What dream?” I asked. (My daughter dreams frequently and often wakes to tell us in full detail every part of her dream from the night before).
“The one about Cheryll.” As she continued, I immediately recalled in my mind a dream she had had previously about Cheryll.
“It was just like last time. You and Rebecca (my friend) and I were standing in the garage and Rebecca was wearing this big headset and holding a little radio. You and I were standing there watching Rebecca with the radio and she was messing with the knobs on it and it was making all kinds of jumbled noises. And then all of a sudden she goes, “shhhh” and we got really quiet and then this little voice came through the radio.” I stared intently at her as she continued, knowing this was just like the dream she had shared with me on a previous occasion. “And we heard the voice say, ‘All is small. Small is all.’” I could feel my jaw clench a little as my daughter quietly, steadily, and with definite certainty repeated, “‘All is small. Small is all.’”
“Again? The voice said that again this time?” I asked her.
“Yes. It was just like last time. But as we heard the voice, we all looked at each other kind of excited and kind of scared and before any of us said anything, I woke up. But when I woke up, I was laying there thinking, ‘It’s Cheryll.’ It’s like in my dream I wanted to tell you and Rebecca that I knew it was Cheryll talking to us, but both times when I dreamt it I woke up before I could tell you.”
“Did you actually hear her voice saying ‘All is small. Small is all?’” I asked.
“Yes. It was a child’s voice. I don’t know why I always hear those words.”
Just like the last time my daughter told me she had this dream, I struggled a bit with what to say. I believe she dreamt it, but I didn’t know what to make of it. All I could utter with a sigh was, “hmmm.”
“What do you think it means? Isn’t it weird? It was exactly the same as the last time.” I responded honestly. “I really don’t know. I’m not sure what it means.”
I guess this is where I should share that my daughter has come to learn a little about my quest to solve Cheryll’s murder. She knows I’m researching and talking to people about the mystery and understands that someone killed Cheryll a long time ago. She hasn’t asked many questions about it, but will ask from time to time if I’ve solved the mystery yet. Also, my daughter has always had a slight case of intuition–knowing when someone is going to call or visit, sensing when someone she cares about is hurting, talking about deceased family members when we hadn’t shared details about those people with her, etc. So her having a dream about Cheryll was not surprising, though I was uncertain to what it meant, if anything.
Our day continued. We made the trip to the dentist and then afterward I decided to stop by the cemetery to visit the graves of my father-in-law and Cheryll. Stopping at Cheryll’s grave first, my daughter, five-year-old son, and I stood side by side looking down at the shiny new stone bearing Cheryll’s name and etched photo. As we stood there, a strong wind whipped up, blowing a blanket of leaves moving in the same rhythm toward the corner of the section of the cemetery where we were. My daughter looked up at the leaves moving and spoke. “Look at how the leaves are all blowing in the same direction back here. I was thinking in my head about what my dream meant and then that wind started.” As she spoke, the wind continued to blow strong gusts all around us. I stood there quietly, a shiver of chills coming over me, in awe of the moment.
“Should we go on and visit Pawpaw’s grave?” I asked. She said yes and I waited a moment, quietly saying a few words in my head to Cheryll. As I turned to leave, my son’s hand in mine, my daughter spoke. “My mom is gonna figure it out, Cheryll.” As I heard those words, I gave my son’s hand a squeeze, smiled slightly, and then I calmly called back to her, “Let’s go.” She quickly joined us as we climbed back into my vehicle to continue on our path to Tom’s grave.
I’m not sure what it was about that day but the combination of my daughter’s dream and the odd visit to the cemetery created an eerie pall that matched the dreary weather outside.
The next day, the phone rang and it brought the news that a copy of Cheryll’s autopsy report was waiting for my pick up. I drove immediately to get it, talking to Cheryll the whole way there. I found myself asking her to show me what, if anything, I needed to learn from it. I prayed for an open mind and a calm heart so that I could read what the contents of the report contained with clarity.
After I returned home, I sat in a chair on my front porch with a blanket covering my lap and legs. The day was dreary just like the day before and though the wind had died down, there was still a steady breeze moving through the trees. As I breathed in the fresh air and opened the ten page stapled report, I began to read it. It was hard to do. Navigating the medical terminology was one thing, but reading the horrific details of what was done to Cheryll was so much worse. Every so often, I stopped, looked up from the paper, took a deep breath, and whispered Cheryll’s name in a sort of apologetic, heartbroken tone. Then, I’d gather myself and read more.
In summary– it was horrible. Here is what I learned: Though the newspapers said Cheryll was stabbed 26 times, I kept track as I read and my count had it more like 50. 50 stab wounds. Whoever perpetrated this murder had a lot of rage inside of them in order to be able to do that to a child. I also learned that while a swab was taken, nothing useful was detected on it. I’m working to find out what became of that swab, but have come to be realistic in the knowledge that there probably is not any DNA associated with her killer on that swab, probably because Cheryll laid in the elements for two weeks. This is a deflating reality, but one I’ve decided I’m going to have to accept.
And last, when reading about the stab wounds themselves, I learned that all of the wounds were little. The blade used had to have been very small, maybe something like a pocket knife as a previous police detective had suggested. The internal hemorrhaging Cheryll endured had come from repeated punctures. I sat quietly rocking in the chair in which I sat after I finished the last page, the report laying in my lap. My head was spinning as I worked to process the enormity of it. After awhile my husband stepped out on the front porch.
“Are you okay? You’ve been out here awhile.”
With a sigh and with a slight twinge of anger I said, “She was stabbed so many times. It turns my stomach. And I hope she didn’t suffer because those wounds…they were all small. All of them.” And as I finished uttering those words, I froze, then sat upright in my chair as all the tiny hairs on my arms stood straight up. Instantly, I heard my daughter’s voice recounting her dream in my mind. “All is small. Small is all.” Could this be what the dream meant? Was this Cheryll’s way of validating her presence? Is it just a coincidence that my daughter dreamt of Cheryll the day before, hearing the words that seemed to match information found in the autopsy report?
I continue to ask Cheryll to send me signs to show me I’m on the right path. In that moment, I felt like she had.