Excerpt for Bogeyman: He Was Every Parent's Nightmare by , available in its entirety at Smashwords













BOGEYMAN

He Was Every Parent’s Nightmare







When the woods are black as night
That's the bogeyman's delight.
Better run away, better run away
Pretty little maiden run away.”

-- Author Unknown









By Steve Jackson




Some names have been changed to protect the privacy of a few of the individuals discussed in this book. Also, some conversations are recollected from the memories of characters in the book and presented as quoted dialogue for dramatic purposes; efforts were made, however, to corroborate the accuracy and context of the conversations.


As with any book comprised of the blending of a number of individual stories, some personal accounts received more attention and space than others; other worthwhile accounts do not appear at all. The author may have decided to use one account over another as representative of others, but the intention was not to slight the importance of events on any individual or group. The “ripples in the pond” caused by David Penton washed over far more people than this book can record.















BOGEYMAN published by:

WILDBLUE PRESS

P.O. Box 102440
Denver, Colorado 80250

Copyright 2014 by Steve Jackson


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.


WILDBLUE PRESS is registered at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Offices.


978-0-9905573-0-2 Trade Paperback ISBN
978-0-9905573-1-9 eBook ISBN

Interior Formatting by Elijah Toten

www.totencreative.com






Acknowledgements


The author wishes to express his grateful appreciation first to the law enforcement officers who participated in the writing of this story, especially Gary Sweet, Bruce Bradshaw, and Jeff Heck. And even more than their help with this work, I’d like to thank them, as well as other officers such as Bob Holleman and Jerry Schrock, who have passed on, for their quiet, often unappreciated and unrewarded, service to the people they take an oath to serve and protect. Far too often the only notice the men and women in law enforcement receive is when a “bad apple” makes headlines, but those individuals do not represent the vast majority who accept the dangers, hardships and stress and do their jobs well on behalf of their communities. There are dragons in the world, and we should be thankful that there are also dragon-slayers.

I would be remiss if I didn’t note the considerable contributions of the spouses of some of the detectives to this book so that we may appreciate from their unique perspectives the dedication and sacrifices their husbands make; the families also make sacrifices. So thank you Julie Sweet, Gail Bradshaw and Molly Robertson.

I would also like to thank my extraordinarily talented editor, Jenni Grubbs, and my partner at WildBlue Press, Michael Cordova, without whose expertise, extraordinary efforts and belief in this brave, new world of indie publishing, this story and the others found at WildBluePress.com might have never seen the light of day.

Lastly, I wish to thank the people in my life who make all the work, long hours, and absences worth it. First are my family starting with my parents, Donald and Charlotte, whose love, belief in me, and encouragement has never wavered; my sister, Carole, her husband, Bob, and my nephew, Michael, who supported me not only with their love but with shelter from the storm; my sister, Mary, who makes me laugh; and my much-missed brother, Donald, who reminds me of what it means to be a good man, a good brother, and a good son. A special tummy rub for Winkie the Wonder Dog—some might wonder why I’d want to acknowledge a crazy, sometimes frustrating canine, but in the hardest and loneliest times of my life, he has been my big-hearted companion. I also count on the love and support of my children, Mackenzie, Hannah and Lillia, and their fine, young men, Eric and Iaian; and my newest reminder that there is no bottom to the well of love, my grandson Callum. I also thank Roger, Patti, Doug, Linda, Brian, Tom, Kathy, Tim, and Carla; I am so grateful that when I need someone to talk to, a shoulder to cry on, a beer or a kick in the ass, you are there. And last, never least, my companion Janet Roll, without whose love and support these past few years, I would have been truly lost but instead am truly happy, there are no words to express my gratitude and love.

If the measure of a man’s worth is the people who love him and are loved in return, then I am wealthy beyond all measure.




He stands on the edge of a foul dark pond as the cold winds of hell howl around him. In his cruel hands, he holds a collection of shiny pebbles that represent every child he took, subjected to unspeakable horrors and pain, and then remorselessly killed in the most terrifying manner imaginable. With each murder, the monster, this bogeyman, this nightmare, tosses a pebble into the bottomless waters causing ripples of misery and devastation to spread outward, engulfing his victims, their families, friends, police officers, communities, and even, as these sorts of beyond- the-pale atrocities becomes public knowledge, the national consciousness. They erode how secure we feel in our homes, how safe our children are playing in the yard, whether evil is winning the battle...


PART I

Every Parent’s Nightmare


CHAPTER ONE


January 19, 1985

After several days of cold, the weather on that Saturday in Mesquite, Texas, had turned downright balmy, with bluebird skies and temperatures climbing into the mid-seventies. Many of the town’s citizens were out enjoying the sunshine in the parks, playing softball, and watching their kids laughing and chasing each other on the playgrounds. Others used the opportunity to go for a drive in the countryside around Mesquite, a satellite city fifteen miles due east of Dallas.

Detectives Bob Holleman and Bruce Bradshaw were home with their families enjoying a quiet Saturday afternoon when they got the call about 3 p.m. It was a moment that would forever alter the partners’ lives, though in drastically different ways.

Holleman was watching television with his wife, Molly, and their seven-month-old daughter, Emily, when the phone rang and he picked up. He listened with a frown, then Molly heard him say, “Well keep me updated,” before he set the receiver down. Thirty minutes later, the phone rang again. This time he asked her to hang it up after he walked back to his home office. When he returned, he was dressed for work. “Looks like we’ve got a child abduction; they think it’s the real thing. … I don’t know when I’ll be home.”

Molly understood. A seven-year veteran with the Mesquite Police Department, her husband worked with Bradshaw in the Crimes Against Juveniles unit. Most of these calls about missing children turned out to be false alarms; the child would be found at the neighbor’s or playing in a field and handled quickly. Occasionally, a parent locked in a custody battle took, or didn’t return, a child, but those cases were usually resolved within a few hours.

After five years of marriage to a cop, especially a dedicated officer like her husband, Molly was used to the long hours and sudden calls to work when other families would be enjoying their weekends and holidays off. So she had no way of knowing that in a very real sense, their lives had been changed forever by a stranger.

Bruce Bradshaw was also enjoying an afternoon off with his wife, Gail, and their two daughters, Jodi and Laci, ages three and one, when Holleman called him. A little girl was missing from an apartment complex over near Highway 80, a main thoroughfare that runs east to west through Mesquite. He didn’t give a lot of other details, but Bradshaw could tell from his partner’s voice that he was stressed. “I need your help,” Holleman said.

Bradshaw sighed and went to change his clothes. Their lieutenant, Larry Sprague, insisted that they dress professionally in a suit and tie whenever they were called out. Properly attired, he kissed his wife and headed for the door.

Gail watched him go and expected that he’d be home in time for dinner. Sometimes people asked her if it was hard saying goodbye to Bruce when he’d leave for work because of the dangers inherent with the job. She’d answer that it was really no different than when their spouses went to work, except that her husband was fully aware of the evil he might face and carried a gun for protection. No, she’d say, the hard part wasn’t watching him go; it was learning to live with the darkness he sometimes brought back home with him.

Bradshaw had been born and raised in Comanche, a small farming and ranching community in central Texas. His core values and strong Christian faith were instilled in Comanche. He’d grown up inspired by John Wayne westerns, the Lone Ranger, and other tales from the Old West in which justice prevailed and the bad guys paid for their crimes. An uncle who’d been a deputy sheriff, William McCay, influenced his career choice. McCay was what you’d picture an old-time Texas lawman to look like: tall in the saddle—a former ranch hand, he was good with a horse—and always dressed in a cowboy hat and boots. Such was his influence that Bradshaw, his brother, and three cousins all ended up in law enforcement, a job that Bradshaw saw as an ongoing battle between good and evil.

Bruce met Gail, a Dallas native, when they were both attending Tarleton State University in Stephenville. Tarleton was a small “cowboy” college with a good science program. Perfect for a small town boy who’d never been on an escalator until Gail took him to a mall after he got the job with the Mesquite Police Department.

As he drove to meet up with his partner, Bradshaw, a medium-built man with intense hazel eyes behind thick-rimmed glasses and a bushy reddish moustache, also thought he’d be back in a couple of hours. However, this bright and shiny day was about to turn dark.

Arriving at the Charter Oaks apartment complex in a lower-middle-class, residential neighborhood, Bradshaw met up with Holleman, who briefed him on what was going on and what he’d learned from the witnesses so far. The call for help had come from Linda Meeks, the distraught mother of five-year-old Christi Meeks. She’d tearfully explained that she was divorced and that her daughter and son, Michael, age seven, were visiting for the weekend. She’d been inside the apartment getting supper ready when Michael and a nine-year-old neighbor girl named Tiffany Easter ran in to tell her that Christi had gone off with a stranger.

XX[P1-Christi Meeks]

As they were talking, Lt. Sprague and their sergeant, Maggie Carathers, arrived and were also briefed. They called in more detectives and began assigning them to start canvassing the neighborhood. Meanwhile, Bradshaw was tasked with talking to Michael Meeks and Tiffany Easter.

Traumatized, Michael wouldn’t say much. However, Tiffany was more forthcoming. She said the three of them were roller-skating on the sidewalk when a young white man approached. She described him as about the same height as Bradshaw, around five-foot-ten, a hundred sixty pounds, with medium-length brown hair and bangs, unshaven, possibly with a moustache. He was wearing a pullover shirt, shorts, and tennis shoes.

Tiffany said he asked if they’d like some cookies. Older and more wary, she tried to get her two younger friends away from the man by inviting them to her house; she said she had cookies, too. Michael followed her, but Christi stayed behind.

Meanwhile, Holleman located two young Hispanic boys in the building south of where Christi was last seen. They claimed that they saw Christi get into a car with a man. The car was small, they said, but couldn’t agree on whether it was yellow or gray.

The detectives knew that Christi was in danger. But these were the days before cell phones, Amber Alerts, and the internet, so all they could do to get the word out to other law enforcement agencies was send a statewide teletype. They were also starting to worry about a change in the weather. A ‘blue norther,’ a swift-moving cold front named for its gunmetal-blue sky and cold winds, was racing in from the north. Within minutes, the temperature dropped thirty degrees, and the searchers worried that the stranger might let the little girl go somewhere in a rural part of the county where she’d be exposed to the elements wearing only a “Color Me The Rainbow” T-shirt, blue jeans, and Cabbage Patch Doll shoes.

More officers were called in to help search nearby parks, fields, and drainage ditches. But as night fell and temperatures plunged, there was no sign of Christi or the man who’d taken her. Bradshaw and Holleman drove home to dress in warmer clothes, but other than a quick word with their families, they were soon back out knocking on doors. Yet, despite the number of people who’d been outside the day before, they couldn’t find anyone else who’d seen anything suspicious. They also drove past all of the motels and hotels in the area looking for a car that matched the description of the suspect’s vehicle.

Members of the community volunteered to help, and the search widened, including by aircraft. Photographs of the little girl with brown eyes and sandy-blonde hair—possibly wearing a gold necklace with a red stone in the middle of a heart—were distributed. But she’d simply vanished.

The process of elimination began with the detectives asking the immediate family to take lie detector tests to remove them from suspicion; both parents passed. Christi’s father, Mike Meeks Sr., was tough to deal with; he angrily blamed his ex-wife for letting Christi out of her sight and as the days passed, constantly called the detectives demanding updates, though there was little they could say.

A reward generated telephone calls and leads to follow. Psychics contacted the police to offer their help or claiming to have some other-worldly information. The days turned into weeks, and then two months passed with nothing concrete to go on.

In March, a young man named Bruce Greene, a graduate of the Art Department at the University of Texas, called the Mesquite Police Department and said that perhaps he could sit down with Michael Meeks and Tiffany Easter and create a composite drawing of the suspect. The two children were brought to his art studio, where they described the young white male with longish dark hair, parted in the middle, and pale blue eyes set below a wide forehead.

Posters were made of the composite and distributed around town, as well as given to the news media. The drawing caused a new flurry of “tips,” which the detectives had to record and then track down.

In 1985 there was no such thing as a sex offender registry, so Holleman and Bradshaw developed a priority system for leads. If a person called in and had pertinent information or knew of someone who looked like the composite and also had a history of committing sex crimes, they gave the lead a Priority One status. If the information was less pertinent to the investigation, they assigned it as a Priority Two. If the caller simply thought they knew someone who looked like the composite but had no other information, it was Priority Three. There were no computers for filing their information, so they kept a card file to cross-reference the leads by hand. But none of the tips led to Christi or her abductor.

Then on April 3, two fishermen spotted what they at first thought was a large dead bird floating in a cove of Lake Texoma, a sizeable body of water seventy-five miles north of Mesquite on the border of Texas and Oklahoma. However, on closer inspection the fisherman realized, to their horror, that the “bird” was a dead child.

Found below a cliff in a remote, heavily wooded area of the lake, the body had been in the water for a long time and was badly decomposed. In fact, the justice of the peace initially called in to identify the remains, believed them to be that of a boy. A few days later, the body was delivered to a medical examiner’s office; the ME then called the Mesquite Police Department with a different story. He said the body belonged to a little girl, and she might be their missing child. She was wearing a Cabbage Patch Doll shoe, blue jeans, and a “Color Me The Rainbow” T-shirt.

These were the days before DNA testing, so Bradshaw called Christi’s father, Mike, and told him that the body of a young female had been found in Lake Texoma and she might be his daughter. He said they needed to locate dental records for Christi, if they were available, to make a positive identification. Christi’s father told him how to find her dentist, who reported to the medical examiner’s office and confirmed everyone’s worst fear: The dead child was Christi Meeks.

At the same time, Christi’s family also reported to the medical examiner’s office to identify her clothing. Holleman went with them.

In one way, finding Christi’s remains was a relief. At least her parents didn’t have to wonder if she was still out there somewhere, terrified and alone with the mysterious bogeyman who’d taken her. She could be given a proper burial. Still, there was no closure; not for her family or the lawmen assigned to find her killer.

Bradshaw and Holleman, along with several other officers from the Mesquite Police Department, attended the funeral, writing down license plates and photographing the crowd at the funeral on the possibility that the suspect might be there. They then watched the gravesite for several days afterwards, stopping people who visited the grave and asking for their identification. Many citizens dropped by to leave items such as flowers, stuffed animals, cards, letters, and even the lyrics to the John Denver song, “Rhyme and Reasons.”

So you speak to me of sadness
And the coming of the winter
Fear that is within you now
It seems to never end.”

The detectives collected many of the items brought by mourners and tried to lift fingerprints so they could identify the visitors. But if the suspect attended the funeral or left behind some token of his presence, they couldn’t find proof of it, and the questions remained. What sort of monster could have done such a thing to an innocent little girl? Was he a member of the community? Or was he a stranger, just passing through as he carried out his depredations?

The questions became an obsession for Holleman and Bradshaw. But of the two, Bob took it to another level and paid a price for it. The husband Molly Holleman watched walk out of the door following what she came to think of as “The Call” never came home again—at least not as a whole man.

The first night, he’d returned home just long enough to put on warmer clothes, but over the next few days Molly hardly saw him at all. She was working, and he was coming back to the house only long enough to grab a few minutes on the couch, shower, and put on clean clothes before he was gone again. But his clothing wasn’t all that changed; his personality did, as well.

When they met and married in 1980, Bob was funny, witty, a real gentleman, and the smartest man she would ever know, constantly hungry for knowledge. Born and raised in Dallas, he’d always wanted to be a physician and even after becoming a police officer continued to take classes towards eventual entrance to med school through the University of Texas. College textbooks were his choice when reading for pleasure.

XX[P-5 Hollemans]

He also loved being a cop and never missed a day or shirked an off-duty call. He cared about people and was well-regarded by his peers and supervisors as a detective and the department’s hostage negotiator. When he went to work, he always smiled and told Molly, “Time for me to go crush some crime.”

Away from the job, he was a loyal friend, a loving husband, and, after Emily was born in May 1984, a dedicated father, who insisted on taking the 4 a.m. feedings and made sure he read to her at bedtime every night he was home. He couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but he would rock his daughter to sleep singing “The Battle of New Orleans” as a lullaby.

In 1814 we took a little trip, along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip. We took a little bacon and we took a little beans, and we caught the bloody British in the town of New Orleans.”

The Call changed all of that. From that moment forward, he was totally consumed by what happened to Christi Meeks. Every waking moment he was thinking about the case, going over and over the facts, searching for something they’d missed. If a lead came up, he’d run it to the ground until he’d exhausted all possibilities. He spent a lot of time with Christi’s parents, especially Mike Meeks. Molly always thought it was because as a father, he identified with the other man’s suffering. As such, he witnessed the horror the other family was going through and felt guilty because he was helpless to do anything about it. The formerly life-loving detective slowly began to withdraw and grew morose and gloomy.

The psychological impact on Bob Holleman worsened after Christi’s body was found. He went to the medical examiner’s office to see the body and later told Molly that at first he, too, thought the remains were those of a little boy. Except for one thing: the single Cabbage Patch Shoe the dead child was wearing. He came home and broke down when he saw his wife. “They couldn’t even tell what she was,” he sobbed.

Yet, instead of taking some solace in the fact that at least the question of what happened to Christi was answered and her remains returned to her family, Holleman’s depression deepened. Molly worried. She never once asked him to stop or give it up—she was proud of the sort of detective he was—but she knew it wasn’t healthy; not for him, nor their family.

She was slammed by that fact one day when she came home from work. She saw his car in the driveway and knew he was home, but she couldn’t find him, and he wouldn’t answer her calls. The last place she looked was the closet in their bedroom, and there was her strong, smart, funny police officer husband curled up on the floor, crying in the dark with a gun in his hand.


CHAPTER TWO


February 12, 1986

The darkness sat in the driver’s seat of his white van waiting patiently as the little girl walked towards him on her way to the nearby elementary school. Like any predator, he’d scouted the lay of the land, checked for hidden dangers—such as police cars and potential witnesses—sized up the pretty, brown-eyed, dark-haired child, and now he waited for her to move to within striking distance.

Metaphorically, as a predator he was no lion willing to take on prey larger than himself or capable of harming him in the process. A base coward, he relied on stealth and cunning to surprise and ambush victims much smaller than himself and unable to put up any sort of defense. He was persistent; if he missed, or his intended victim got away, he kept hunting until he succeeded.

With pale blue eyes, a thick but neatly trimmed moustache, and brown hair with long bangs swept left to right, he didn’t look like a monster. His most distinguishing feature was a large mole above his right eyebrow; otherwise he was just an unexceptional-looking, young white man of average height and weight. But beneath the exterior he was much more than that.

For years, he’d stalked elementary schools, neighborhoods, and playgrounds looking for young girls to abduct, rape, and murder. With some exceptions, he concentrated on black, Asian, or Hispanic girls living in low-income areas. He thought of them as “throwaway kids”—hardly missed and soon forgotten, except by those who loved them; just sad cold case files gathering dust in police records rooms.

As though invisible, he brazenly struck in broad daylight, pulling children into his van or cars, or he crept into homes in the dead of night to carry away little girls while their families slept. He was every parent’s worst nightmare: the bogeyman they warned their children about, disguised as the friendly stranger who offered candy, cookies, and ice cream to entice his victims close enough to grab; the fiend who lurked in the shadows outside of bedroom windows.

Then, when he was finished with his atrocities, he’d dump the tiny bodies in remote areas, crossing jurisdictional lines in order to confuse the efforts of law enforcement agencies. Weeks, months, even years passed before someone would find the remains … if they were found … during which time the grieving families wondered what had become of their little girls. And even if their horrific fates became known, time passed agonizingly slow with no answer to the question of who could have done such vicious things to a child.

The bogeyman hunted with impunity while authorities scattered across multiple states weren’t even aware that a single killer was responsible for so many child-abduction murders. It gave him a sense of invincibility. He believed that he was smarter than the police, that they’d never catch him. And so far, he was right. Hell, he’d had that little blonde, Christi Meeks, in the trunk of his car when that Mesquite police officer pulled him over on the way out of town. But he’d talked his way out of it and was soon on his way to Lake Texoma to enjoy his prize.

On this day, he was parked on Waterfall Lane in a lower-income, working-class neighborhood in North Dallas, Texas, near Dobie Elementary School when he spotted ten-year-old Tiffany Ibarra. With her dark hair and olive complexion—her father was Hispanic and her mother Caucasian—she fit the physical profile of his preferred victims.

However, Tiffany’s appearance wasn’t all that put her in danger. Far more perilous was that she was alone, though that was not by choice or her parents’ lack of oversight. Normally, she would have walked to school with several friends. However, a bird had defecated on her clothes that morning, so she’d returned home to change and then had to walk back to school by herself.

Now, as the little girl approached the van, the killer climbed out and moved towards her. Although he was smiling, something about him warned her to run. She bolted, but it was too late. He caught her within ten feet, grabbing her by her backpack. He then wrapped his arms around the struggling child and carried her back to the van. Opening the side door and pushing her in, he climbed up behind her.

XX[P7-Tiffany Ibarra]

The killer planned to take Tiffany to a secluded wooded area in the country he’d already picked out. There, he could sexually assault the terrified little girl at his leisure before choking the life out of her. Then he’d throw her away like so much garbage and be on his way, satiated for the moment, laughing to himself about how he’d once again struck while the stupid police were helpless to prevent him from hunting wherever and whenever he wanted.

However, on this day something was different. The killer stared at Tiffany for several minutes before asking her for her home telephone number. When she told him, he called the number on an early version of a cellular telephone known as a “bag phone,” a new technological marvel in 1986, and then handed it to her.

“Tell your mother you’ve been kidnapped,” he demanded.

Tiffany did as told when her mother answered. But before she could say anything else, the killer grabbed the phone back and hung up.

“You better not walk to school alone again,” he warned the girl. “I’ve been watching you, and the next time I won’t let you go.” He then opened the door of the van and told her to get out.

Tiffany ran home terrified and in tears. The killer followed in his van until she reached the driveway of the apartment complex where she lived. He then sped away.

When her daughter burst through the front door screaming, Theresa Ibarra was getting dressed to go out and look for her. She thought Tiffany had made up the story she told her on the telephone as an excuse to get out of going to class and was more angry than worried. However, the girl insisted that she was now telling the truth so they drove through the neighborhood looking for a white van. When the search proved fruitless, they went to the school, where Theresa had her daughter tell her story to the principal, who then called the Dallas Police Department.

The officers arrived and took statements from Tiffany and her mother. But with nothing else to go on, they returned to their other duties. Who knew if the little girl was telling the truth or wanted to skip school, as her mother thought possible? No one else had reported a suspicious white van and a man stalking children. And why make the effort to grab her from a sidewalk just to warn her and then let her go?

Tragically, Tiffany wasn’t a liar. Three days later, on February 15, the day after Valentine’s Day, Christie Proctor was walking home from a friend’s house on Waterfall Lane when the bogeyman struck again. No one saw him take the little dark-haired girl who was just a few days shy of her tenth birthday and dressed in a pink-and-white sweater, blue jeans, and old white tennis shoes. The only clue left behind to indicate that she had passed that way was a crushed heart-shaped plastic box given to her by her aunt for Valentine’s Day. Searching for her daughter, Laura Proctor saw it lying on the ground and knew that was where her daughter had been taken. She’d felt in that moment, the terror her daughter had experienced.

However, there was only one witness. A resident of the neighborhood, Alberta Abundis, told police that she noticed a strange man driving a white van with brown stripes slowly through the neighborhood. She’d got a pretty good look at him, too—a white man with a large mole on the right side of his face.

XX[P-8-Christie Proctor]

The Dallas Police Department investigators realized that a predator was hunting the area around Dobie Elementary. They returned to the Ibarra house and this time interviewed Tiffany more thoroughly. A police artist created a sketch from her description of her kidnapper, an ordinary-looking, young white man with dark hair parted in the middle, and a thick, neat moustache.

Now the police knew Tiffany was telling the truth; only it was too late. This time, the bogeyman did not release the pretty little maiden.



CHAPTER THREE



October 5, 1986

Dorothy Sherrill stepped outside her home in tiny Thorntown, Indiana, to call her children in for lunch. It was an unseasonably warm and sunny afternoon for that time of year, and the children in the small trailer court they lived in were making the most of it, playing hide-and-seek.

Six-year-old Shannon and two-year-old David had spent the weekend with Dorothy’s estranged husband, but now they were back home. She immediately spotted David in the front yard and some of the other children running through the neighborhood. But she didn’t see her daughter.

“Where’s Shannon?” she asked her son.

“Sissy went behind the trailer.”

Dorothy walked over to where her son pointed, but Shannon wasn’t there. Twenty more minutes of calling for her and hunting around the neighborhood also came up empty. Shannon’s playmates didn’t know where she’d gone. And although many people were out working in their yards and enjoying the pleasant Sunday afternoon, no one had seen the little barefoot girl in the white sundress with blue trim.

Starting to panic, Dorothy contacted the town marshal, Gary L. Campbell, who responded at 1:53 p.m. and talked to some of the other children and neighbors. He figured she’d just wandered off and surely someone would have seen her. But when that line of questioning didn’t result in any answers, he really began to worry and knew he needed help. Campbell only had one other officer working for him in Thorntown, a small, farming community forty miles northwest of Indianapolis with a population at the time of maybe fifteen hundred, so he called for assistance.

Typical of a small, rural county, the various police agencies in Boone County, where Thorntown was located, often covered for each other, monitoring each other’s radio calls and responding with assistance. And that’s what happened when the call for help went out: The Indiana State Patrol and Boone County Sheriff’s Office soon had officers at the scene. By 2:30, members of the volunteer fire department, the various law enforcement agencies, and a volunteer group of more than one hundred and fifty citizens began combing the area.

They checked wooded areas and creek beds, inside sheds, and under porches, and went door to door, asking if anyone had seen Shannon. One volunteer even flew his private plane over the town and surroundings. But the sun set, and still there was no sign of her.

The ground search continued throughout the night, and the next morning the hunt for Shannon ramped up. Helicopters flew over the area, and lawmen from more outside agencies, including the FBI and the Indianapolis Police Department, arrived to help. Children on bicycles distributed copies of her photograph from house to house.

Bloodhounds were brought in, and they quickly hit on a scent trail that led searchers to a field where they found what they believed to be her footprints. The prints headed towards the town cemetery. Two more sets of tracks belonging to men were also located near the child’s prints, but there was no telling if they were all connected, and they all ended in the cemetery.

As the day passed with still no sign of Shannon, there was a growing sense of helplessness among the law enforcement officers and the community. They’d done everything they knew how to do and come up empty. It was clear that Shannon had not just wandered off—someone had taken her, and they all knew that the more time that passed, the less chance they had of finding her unharmed and alive.

Fear gripped the townspeople. A monster who took children from their yards in the middle of the afternoon was loose, and everybody was on edge. This sort of thing didn’t happen in Thorntown. It wasn’t the big city with those kinds of crimes; the entire county only had a population of 35,000. Fear fueled anger and paranoia. There were instances in which volunteers going house to house attempted to break into residences when the inhabitants were slow to answer the doorbell.

As night fell on the second day of Shannon’s abduction, the ground search was called off. No amount of shouting her name or hoping for the sight of her was going to locate the little girl; she was gone.

In the days that followed, the investigation changed from searching for Shannon to looking for a suspect. The children who were playing with Shannon were also hypnotized to see if they’d remember anything or anyone, but there was nothing of any substance. Detectives questioned Dorothy and Mike Sherrill. It wouldn’t have been the first time that a child had disappeared during a divorce, even if, as in their case, there was no animosity between the parents or a custody dispute. They then took lie detector tests and passed.

There was just so little for investigators to work with. It was hard to believe that no one in the neighborhood of the trailer court had seen anything. People were out taking care of their lawns, or working on their cars; one guy was roofing. Yet, there were only three reports of anything even remotely unusual. One man said he glimpsed a little girl riding in a red pickup truck. Two other people reported seeing a white van they didn’t recognize driving slowly through the neighborhood.

But even if the truck or the van was the suspect’s vehicle, where had he gone? Thorntown was just a few miles from Interstate 65, which ran a hundred and fifty miles north to Chicago, and forty miles the other direction to Indianapolis, and then on to Louisville, Kentucky and other points south. Or Shannon’s abductor could have turned onto Interstate 70 in Indianapolis and headed to Ohio towards Columbus, two hundred miles east, or west to St. Louis.


Purchase this book or download sample versions for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-18 show above.)