Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Abduction of Cherrie Mahan

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“A black hole opened up and she fell in...”
by Robert A. Waters

Twenty-five years. In the span of time, it’s nothing. But to the family of a missing child, it’s a lifetime. On the afternoon of February 22, 1985, eight-year-old Cherrie Ann Mahan stepped off her school bus with several other children. The kids scattered towards home, each going separate ways. When the dust cleared, Cherrie was gone. Vanished. Disappeared into the dark fog of time. The question remains unanswered: who snatched the brown-haired, brown-eyed girl with the beautiful smile?

It was about 4:00 p.m., and Cherrie was slightly more than fifty yards from her family’s mobile home in Winfield, Pennsylvania when she went missing. Due to the cold weather, she wore a gray coat, blue denim skirt, blue leg warmers, beige ankle boots, and brown earmuffs bearing the logo of a Cabbage Patch doll.

An article in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review outlined the events surrounding the disappearance: “Cherrie's stepfather, Leroy McKinney, usually drove her the 50 yards from the bus stop at Cornplanter and Winfield roads in Winfield to the family's mobile home at the end of a steep, wooded driveway. The home was not visible from the road. But that day, [Leroy and his wife Janice] decided to let Cherrie walk [home].”

Leroy heard the bus pull up and leave. But when Cherrie hadn’t arrived within a few minutes, he drove down to the bus stop to check on her. She was nowhere to be found. Leroy raced back home and Janice called police.

The only real clue in two and a half decades was the sighting of a unique-looking van. After interviewing neighbors and the children on the school bus, investigators determined that a bright blue or green 1976 Dodge van had been seen following the bus. It had an unusual mural painted on it that covered the entirety of both sides of the van. The painting showed a snow-capped mountain with a skier headed down the mountain. The skier was dressed in red and yellow clothing.

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Now it should have been easy to find that van. But alas, the vehicle was never located. As the years drained away, Pennsylvania State Trooper Frank Jedesky continued to work the case. Commenting on the mysterious van, he recently said, “By now it’s probably in a junkyard or somewhere.”

“It's the not knowing that kills you,” a heart-broken Janice McKinney said. “Every day you wonder and you look at some girl who's 33 and you wonder, ‘Is that her?’ I look at little kids and wonder, ‘Is that my grandchild?’”

Janice speaks of her child today as if Cherrie had fallen into a black hole. The pain never leaves, never goes away.

Who took Cherrie Mahan? Why did no one report that unusual van to police? Today, someone might still remember it. If so, please call the Pennsylvania State Police Missing Persons Unit at 1-412-284-8100.


William Owens said...

I have always found this to be spooky.

Unknown said...

I live in Cabot and I always remember this story its so sad and crazy at the same time this is such a small town nothing her by a bar a ice cream shop and a post office can't believe no one knew who had that van i like right around where she went missing and there is nothing here so someone knew something they had to

Bobbie Metevier said...


Are they sure it wasn't a volkswagon?

Bobbie Metevier said...

Can anyone guess the year of the van in my link? I might send it to law enforcement?

Debbie T said...

It was a 1976 Dodge

anthony reno said...

Debbie said it was a 76 dodge. They have been looking for a 76 dodge for 32 years. Maybe its not a dodge. Seriously do you think other 8 year olds on the bus are going to remember a 76 dodge or do you think they would remember a mountain scene better. Start looking for that Volkswagen. Bobbie is right. This case bothered my since i was 20 years old. I really thought a few years ago they had a lead that looked like this was going to have some type of closure. I cant imagine. This is the reason i dont let my 15 year old go to bus his self at 6:40 in the morning. I pray they find her, and hang the SOB that took her.

Patrick said...

It wasn't the kids who said it was a 1976 Dodge. It was an adult who was in the area.