After Cheryll’s cousin sent me that message saying that the cold case detective from the Kentucky State Police wanted to talk to me, I (like always), had so many questions spilling out of me. “What did the two of you talk about? How was he? Are they opening the case again? How did you go about asking him to talk to me? Do you think he’d meet with me in person?” I usually pace how many questions I ask someone regarding Cheryll’s case, but this time I just couldn’t help it! This was what I had been hoping for for so long, I just couldn’t believe it. The exhilaration that I felt during that moment was truly indescribable. The blood was still pumping rapidly through my whole body.
“I’m shaking still,” she wrote to me after I bombarded her with questions. “He was easy to talk to. He has been reading over her case and he knows all about your blog.”
“Holy shit,” I wrote. “I’m so happy.” Hearing that he’s been reading the blog was flattering, but then I felt a twinge of nerves pass through me knowing the state police were familiar with all the work we’ve been doing.
“I’m still shaking,” she wrote again. “I prayed last night that good news would come through. Please call him. He’s willing to talk to you. You got this.”
And there, in that moment, I found another beautiful instance of connection– this time to a member of Cheryll’s family–someone I had never met in person–giving me encouragement and by extension, strength. I DO have this, I thought. And that afternoon I picked up the phone to call the state police detective.
It was a few days of calling back and forth before he and I finally were able to talk. He was as he had been described to me–nice, enthusiastic about looking at the case, well-spoken, and professional. When I asked if he’d be willing to meet with me in person so that I could go over all of the information that I had compiled, he readily agreed. And it wasn’t long before the day arrived for our meeting.
Driving to the state police post was a surreal experience. The opportunity that was about to unfold was one that I had prayed for, hoped for, imagined, and for which I was already grateful. I had a lot going on in my mind. I was talking to myself repeating in my mind what I wanted to say and thinking again and again about how I was going to say it. Be yourself, but be direct and confident. Stay calm and think clearly. I also found myself talking to Tom and Cheryll. You got me this far, please help me keep going. You’ve been helping me move the pieces. Move some more today. Speak through me. Let me know what to ask. And before long I found myself in the parking lot, the lobby, and eventually face to face with the police detective.
“Are you Beth?” he asked with a slight, endearing, “country” accent as he came to the lobby to meet me after I rang the buzzer by the front door.
“Yes!” I said with a quick smile, gripping my “Cheryll” notebooks. (These are the two big single subject notebooks I’ve filled with notes over the years).
“Come on this way. We’re going to get set up in a conference room down the hall.” I followed him further into the police station until we entered the typically-arranged and generic-looking conference room. I sat on one side the long table while he sat across from me on the other side. I placed my notebooks on the table with my pen on top, set my purse down on the floor beside me, and found myself chatting with him for a just a couple of minutes. He was, in-person, as I thought he was during our phone call– polite, professional, focused, and interested in all that I had to say.
I did a lot of the talking and though I was prepared and ready, I did feel at times as though I was being guided by two special spirits, helping me stay clear-headed. I shared with the detective my findings about the morning of Cheryll’s abduction and probable murder, the goings on in Highland Heights at the time, potential suspects and why they may or may not be the killer, the location of where her body was found, points of interest from the autopsy report, and other information that I’ve learned throughout my journey. I posed questions to him that I still had about the day of October 19, 1971, the investigation, the evidence, etc. And all throughout this time, the detective listened intently, asked me questions, and took notes. I learned something new when I was there with the detective as well– I could tell he was very, very smart. The way he absorbed information that I was sharing with him made it seem as though he was composing a sort of figurative notebook in his mind, organizing and comparing notes of interest as any skilled detective would do.
It became clear that he wanted the same thing I did– to answer the question of who killed Cheryll. He shared that he too had been diligently reviewing the entire case file of Cheryll’s murder and had some things he intended to follow up on, but because it’s an open case and an active investigation he could not share those specific things with me. I reassured him that while a whole lot of people read the blog and care deeply about Cheryll’s case, ultimately we all want the case to be solved even if that means not having all the information immediately. Before I left him that day I said, “We’ve waited for answers for 49 years. We can wait more if it means allowing you to do your work.” He repeated that he would be working on the case and would do all that he could to get answers, but cautioned me too that there couldn’t be absolute guarantees. He probably could tell that though I understood that reality, it’s not one I spend a lot of time considering.
Before I stood up from my seat to leave that conference room, I felt compelled to say with all sincerity, “Truly, I just appreciate all the time you gave me today, the time you’ve given to reading the blog, the time you’ve taken to review the case, and the time you’re going to give to Cheryll’s case. All of this is more than we could have imagined and I am already very grateful.” He nodded politely and with that, our meeting concluded.
I walked from the building to my car and sat in it quietly for a moment. That feeling of electricity pumping through my veins returned as I took some deep breaths realizing that all my pleading with Cheryll and Tom, had paid off. Those times of quiet whispers at Cheryll’s grave and on New Hope Road, had come full circle. Was this even real? The case was open. The case was being actively investigated. I just spent an hour and a half with a cold case detective. I repeated it again in my mind. The case is open. The case is being investigated. You’ve just spent time with the cold case detective. I gripped the steering wheel and smiled and squealed with excitement. Oh my God, this is happening. Cheryll, we’re doing it! It’s happening. The time I had just spent with the state police were the metaphoric shock paddles we’d been so desperately needing. Where there before had only been a flat-line, in that moment, a faint flicker of rhythm had manifested, and now there was almost an audible, though soft, “bee-beep….bee-beep….bee-beep….” pulsating in my eardrum. The case finally had a new pulse. As I settled into my seat and inserted the key into the ignition an image appeared in my mind– it was Cheryll, emerging from the fog and stepping into a ray of sunlight.
And with that, I set off on my return drive home.