The devil is in the details. We’ve all heard that saying before, and when it comes to old and cold cases, it is true–the small details can add up and help shine light on the truth. In working with the cold case detective assigned to Cheryll’s case, and by still talking to friends and family members of Cheryll’s, little details have emerged that have piqued my interest. It’s important to include these with previously known information to keep us moving toward answers.
The Man on the Porch, as he will forever be known in this blog, was an obvious prime suspect even when the investigation began in 1971. I’ve come to learn that authorities became interested in him after Cheryll’s body was found in the creek on New Hope Road because a few individuals who knew the man called the state police to share their suspicions of him. He seemed to be very interested in the fact that a girl’s body had been found and was discussing it, almost with excitement, with some family members. It gave those people pause and they felt the police should know that The Man on the Porch seemed really fixated on this murder. That is when the investigators discovered that he lived across the street from the Rose Avenue bus stop, would oftentimes park his car and sit in it at the top of the street, and that he grew up in the very area where Cheryll’s body was found. When police went to talk with him, he answered only very basic questions, refused to take a lie detector test, and avoided meeting with police again. Because of these details, and along with all the strange and inappropriate behavior he displayed in the years following the murder, he has always been high on the police, and my own suspect list.
But, there IS another important fact that I’ve come to learn. The Man on the Porch DID have an airtight alibi. He worked nightshift at a warehouse in Cincinnati where he loaded freight onto large trucks. His time card showed him clocked in at approximately 10:00 p.m. on the night of Monday, October 18, 1971, and he clocked out a little after 10:00 a.m. on the morning of Tuesday, October 19, 1971. This would have been the exact time frame when Cheryll went missing. His time card was signed off on by supervisors, and co-workers shared that he wasn’t very well-liked at work and they believed no one there would have covered for him by doctoring his time card, especially when they all learned what had happened to Cheryll. Because of the alibi and because of his refusal to cooperate with the investigation any further (which he legally had the right to do), it seems that the investigators could get no further traction with him.
The Trauth milk truck delivery driver, the man who discovered Cheryll’s body under all of those rocks, also provided some time ago details of his movements in the days before and about the day of the discovery of Cheryll’s body. He lived in Grant County, Kentucky, but drove to Newport, Kentucky in Campbell County in the mornings to load his truck with the milk. He took various routes depending on the day of the week, but most mornings he would travel south on U.S. 27 from Newport, through Southgate, into Fort Thomas, and then through Highland Heights, passing Rose Avenue around 6:30 a.m.. He would deliver milk throughout the southern end of Campbell County and into the Northern part of Pendleton County, and on Mondays and Thursdays, would end his route on New Hope Road. So when the milk truck driver was ending his normal Monday route on New Hope Road on that fateful day of November 1, 1971, and from the roadway spotted that sickening stacking of rocks piled up in a large mound in the creek bed, his curiosity couldn’t be contained. That is what compelled him to venture into the creek and to pull the rocks away, thus discovering Cheryll’s hand protruding from under the large pile that had been put upon her.
It seems that the milkman willingly talked to the police on more than one occasion when they interviewed him. He also agreed to take a polygraph examination and he passed it. People who knew him have always maintained that he was forever haunted by not only the discovery, but also by the quiet whispers of speculation about his possible involvement. There was never any witness that saw a truck stopped on the highway, a report of a girl entering the truck, no forensic evidence, nor any accounts of a girl traveling in a milk truck for an entire day of deliveries. But because he passed by Rose Avenue in the mornings when kids were gathering to wait for the bus AND because he discovered Cheryll’s body, it puts him in the area of where she disappeared and in the area where she was found. Furthermore, there is no way to officially disprove his involvement, so the truck driver has continued to be a person of interest for some.
The school bus stop: The Rose Avenue kids who are now grown adults recall setting out for the top of the street to wait for the bus in the mornings. Some would get there earlier than others to wait together and to chat and sort of socialize before school. The police accounts from the time Cheryll was missing recount that Cheryll’s brothers left around 6:20 to head up the street to catch the school bus. Cheryll was running behind and left about 5 minutes later, at 6:25 according to her dad, to catch up to her brothers and to get on the bus. Of course, that never happened. It dawned on me recently that I had never asked anyone what time the bus actually came to pick up the kids in the morning. The answer, quite honestly, shocked me. Three various kids from that time, independent of each other, all gave me the same answer. “The bus came around 6:55-7:00.” It astonished me that the kids were leaving their houses as early as 6:20 to head to the top of the street only to wait for up to 40 minutes for the bus to arrive. The walk there is not nearly that time consuming. So if Cheryll’s dad is correct in saying that she left at 6:25 and her brothers left at 6:20, it would seem that she could have easily caught up to them and they would have then waited for the bus all together. When Cheryll bolted out the door at 6:25 to catch up to her brothers, in the dark and fog, someone would have had to have snatched her very close to her house before she was spotted by any watchful parents or other children on the street. If Cheryll’s dad was incorrect on his time, and Cheryll left later than 6:25, that still should have given her plenty of time to get to the top of the street by 6:55 to catch the bus and again, someone would have had to have grabbed her then. If she left closer to 6:55 (a whole half hour later than her dad recalled her leaving), then and only then would she have had to walk to school thus increasing the probability that someone snatched her off of Rose Avenue after the other kids were gone and parents back inside their homes, or off of U.S. 27, or heading up Main Avenue toward school, etc. This time frame, almost to the very minute, is so critical to the case because in those minutes, Cheryll’s fate, sadly, was being sealed. I can’t help but think that yes, literally the devil himself, is most certainly found in these details if only we can spot who was lurking in the foggy shadows that morning.
Perhaps like the loved one of anyone who has died, I’m always eagerly awaiting another story about Cheryll, an insight about her, some new details about the investigation, any nugget of information at all that can keep us moving forward in our pursuit of answers. Recently, a reader of the blog who I’ll call Gregg, reached out to me to share his small part in Cheryll’s story and I found it to be not only interesting, but telling in regard to the police work at the scene of where Cheryll’s body was found– the creek on New Hope Road.
Gregg shared that he was in his late teens at the time of Cheryll’s murder and unlike today, the news of the murder had not spread immediately. The day after Cheryll was found by the milk delivery driver in the creek, Gregg was driving on New Hope Road on his way home from a friend’s house, unaware of the discovery that had been made the evening before. He recounted the details saying he saw two state policemen in the creek bed with buckets and he asked them what they were doing and they shared with him that they were looking for crime scene evidence because a “murdered little girl” was found there. When Gregg offered to help the two officers who were making slow headway with their two buckets and an entire creek of water, they accepted, and told him to bail the water out of the creek while looking for “a knife, a sharp instrument, personal belongings of hers or the perp.” When I asked Gregg if he recalled any major, or minor discoveries, he shared, “They seemed disappointed when most of the water was gone. There was nothing that I saw in a container, or evidence bag.” Eventually a local police officer arrived to assist the state troopers and this cop told Gregg he needed to move along, so he did just that and left the area. When I asked Gregg if he recalled the creek being filled with trash as it had earlier been described, he responded with, “it was very clean in and around the creek.” Gregg recalls no piles of trash or bags of garbage in the creek on November 2, 1971, the day after Cheryll had been found in the otherwise serene country lane.
To follow up with Gregg’s account, I reached out to the cold case detective to see if in Cheryll’s case file there are any reports of items discovered in the creek bed on New Hope Road. He shared with me that no items were logged into evidence after that search in 1971, so it leads us to believe nothing was found. Cheryll was either killed somewhere else and placed there after the fact or, she was killed there, and her murderer took care to take her clothing, shoes, and murder weapon with him, or he buried those things somewhere in the woods surrounding the creek. Any biological matter found on or in her body–hairs, semen, blood, etc. were not known to have been collected at the scene or during autopsy, or after two weeks of laying in the elements, was all washed away by the water in the creek bed.
Gregg recently returned to New Hope Road, visiting the place where he helped bail water and search for clues in Cheryll’s murder. “That place looks exactly the same. It’s how I remembered it.” In corresponding with Gregg, I’ve met someone else who even 50 years later is still affected by Cheryll’s death and who too is moved by the paradox of a place being so serene while also being so dreadful. It’s the only place on earth where I find comfort and discontent simultaneously.