It was a summer day when Bridget, Erin, and I met for lunch. We were finally able to find time free of the stress of work, the busyness of life, and all the figurative noise that usually surrounded us when we tried to talk together. Sitting at the table sharing the goings on in our lives was much-needed and eventually we started talking about that special girl we’d never met, but had all grown to care so much about…Cheryll. We discussed the latest leads we were working on, I shared the newest developments, and Erin finally opened up about what she had been sensing and feeling from Cheryll. After we finished lunch, we loaded into my car to drive out for a visit to New Hope Road.
Even though it was a warm summer day, the canopy of trees that draped their full branches and green leaves over the culvert, shifted in the wind and created a cool, comforting breeze. Just like the other times I had been there, I found the setting to be serene, but when my thoughts shifted to Cheryll, a tinge of eeriness would come over me like a small, rippling wave. Throughout our time there that day, small currents of cool air would breeze by us as we spoke about Cheryll. It felt like it was her way of saying, I’m here too!
When we arrived, we stepped out of the car and the sound of gravel crunched under our shoes as we walked to the embankment to look at the creek below. A soft chorus of locusts softly sang together in tune and a singular bird calling to us echoed from somewhere in the trees. Bridget and I watched as Erin started walking. “Let me get my bearings,” Erin said as she walked to the other side of the small bridge and pointed to a tree that was forked into two. “There’s something down there,” Erin stated matter-of-factly. “I feel like something is buried down under that tree.” We stood three across and all peered over the side of the embankment in front of us.
“Do we start digging?” Bridget asked, as I let out a slight laugh, showing both my discomfort at the thought and also the urge to do the very thing Bridget was suggesting. “I wonder who owns this land,” she continued. “Maybe they’d let us climb down there to see what we can unearth.”
“There is some significance to that double trunk,” Erin said affirmatively again, directing her line of sight to the nearby tree.
“Maybe it was a marker for the killer to remember where he put the items.” I suggested, still uncertain as to whether I believed something could actually be buried out there.
“I want to get a shovel and start digging!” Bridget exclaimed again. And I knew that if I had been able to produce a shovel at that very moment, she would have gotten to work.
Erin walked to look over the side of the small bridge into the creek below. “I don’t think this was pre-planned. They used the rocks to bury her probably because they didn’t come with a shovel. What is under that tree was buried with other rocks that would have easily been overlooked amongst all the garbage and debris in the creek at the time.” Again, I listened intently at the theory, mulling over the possibility in my mind.
“You know, Beth,” Erin said in a soft tone, “Cheryl Segal is holding Cheryll Spegal’s hand and I see them walking away. Cheryl Segal was definitely there to welcome Cheryll Spegal, but I get no sense they were connected on the earth prior to their deaths.” I nodded slightly as I processed what Erin was saying.
“Was Cheryll ever really here?” I asked Erin and Bridget, though I felt more like I was posing the question to the universe at large. “I know her body was here, but was her spirit?” I questioned.
Erin responded. “Her spirit is everywhere. Wherever you are when you think about or speak to or of her, she’s there with you. But I don’t think she was ever alive here.”
“That makes sense,” I commented, but Erin continued and I wasn’t prepared for what she said next.
“She’s here now though, because we’re here talking about her. She makes it a point to say, ‘I am with you.'” The three of us grew quiet and a warm rush swept over me. I felt a comfort and a closeness to Cheryll that is difficult to describe.
“I like it here.” I said quietly, the irony not lost on me of the significance of the ground on which we were standing. As we looked over the side of the bridge into the creek bed below at the very spot where Cheryll’s body had been found almost 50 years prior, a ray of light shone through the trees, illuminating the water in the creek. I stood and took a photo of the scene laid out in front of me still longing for something tangible to grab onto before we left.
The three of us turned and stood in the middle of New Hope Road and Erin had some urgent words. “I still feel like Jon is involved in this. You’ve heard just a little bit about him from the detective and learned even more about him from Cheryll’s brothers. If you could find one of his victims or someone he actually talked to about Cheryll’s murder, that would be huge.”
How will I ever find these people? I thought to myself. And then I did what I so often do– I asked Cheryll for help. As we walked back to my car to leave New Hope Road that day I thought, Show me the next step, Cheryll. Who do I talk to next? And within days, the answer came…. in the form of a Facebook notification.
Throughout the past two and a half years of researching and telling Cheryll’s story, Bridget and I have been blessed to have made connections with people who we now consider to be friends of ours. These people are ones we would never have met if it hadn’t been for Cheryll bringing us together. The list includes friends and family of Cheryll, police detectives, podcasters, special people like Mrs. Smith who was Cheryll’s neighbor, and spiritual guides, Jill and Moira. As we’ve worked to pursue a resolution in Cheryll’s case, we’ve been able to consult with some local prosecutors who explain to us what is needed in order to pursue any type of legal recourse in Cheryll’s case (more about that in future blog entries). We’ve come to consider these people to be friends of ours as well. Recently, because of the connection we’ve made with the prosecutors while working on Cheryll’s case, they asked Bridget and me to be mock jurors for a murder trial they were preparing to prosecute. We were flattered to have been asked and eagerly agreed.
As we settled into our seats in an office conference room and they prepared to tell us about the case, I felt the weight of responsibility on my shoulders knowing these attorneys were seeking our input as they pursued justice for someone who had been murdered–gunned down senselessly, caught in the awful horror of domestic violence. But I also felt a surge of energy coursing through my veins knowing that this victim’s killer was actually being brought to trial for his actions– a huge step that never occurred for Cheryll.
The attorneys began to tell us about the woman who had been killed. And from the moment they said her name, I knew we were a part of something other-worldly–something greater than ourselves. “Let us tell you a little bit about the victim. Her name was Cheryl. Cheryl Allender…”
Bridget and I slowly turned our heads and locked eyes. “May I ask– what was her middle name?” Bridget questioned as we remained stunned.
“Ann. Her full name was Cheryl Ann Allender.” A surge of energy swept over me, even greater than before, and I got a tingly set of goosebumps all over my body. And we knew without any question that our presence there that night was not a coincidence. Bridget and I felt good about the feedback we gave the prosecutors that evening (though their case was very strong even without our opinions of it) and within the month, they were able to accomplish what they had set out to do– they got a conviction against the man who had ended the life of a special woman–another person named Cheryl–Cheryl Ann Allender.
I celebrated for the victim who received the justice she deserved, but also quietly longed for our Cheryll’s turn. I still do.