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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Target 11: 26 Years Later, Missing Girl May Still Be Alive

PITTSBURGH — Cherrie Mahan vanished from a Butler County neighborhood 26 years ago. Target 11′s Rick Earle has uncovered a new lead in the case that has investigators working on new interviews and a DNA test in Michigan.It was February 22, 1985, when a school bus dropped Mahan off at her stop on Cornplanter Road in Winfield Township. That was the last time she was seen. Witnesses said she got into a blue van with a skier mural painted on the side.
State police said they are now tracking a possible sighting of the girl that happened months after she vanished. Police said that girl may now be a woman living in a small Michigan community.
The woman in question denies that she is Mahan, but investigators said they have a lot of questions and interviews to do before making any determinations.
Earle traveled to Michigan to track down the source of the tip. After finding her, he asked many times about what she could remember from the possible sighting. Earle said the tipster was vague but then went into more detail after Channel 11 News cameras were shut off.
The woman said she believes she saw the van witnesses said Mahan entered the day she disappeared at a high school track meet. It wasn’t until sometime after that track meet that the woman said she learned about the Mahan case.
The tipster said she called a phone number listed on Mahan’s missing person flier, but never heard back from anyone. She said she was so concerned that she even tracked down Mahan’s mother.
Now 26 years later, the details of the woman’s story are emerging and police said they are looking into every new piece of information.
Investigators said they have received calls and emails about sightings periodically, but the main thing they want now is evidence. Police said they are now doing DNA testing to rule out any possibility that the woman living in Michigan is not Cherrie Mahan.
“It’s very interesting and there are questions that have been posed and we need to find the answers. So we will work as quickly as we can to get those answers,” said Lt. Steve Ignatz.
Police said they met with Mahan’s mother on Monday to inform her of the new developments in the case.

Pa. girl, missing 25 years, first featured on fliers

By Associated PressFebruary 20, 2010
Last updated: Saturday, February 20, 2010 8:01 PM EST

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Cherrie Mahan was 8 when she vanished from a bus stop near her home.

A picture of the smiling, brown-haired girl would be the first featured on direct-mail fliers like those now sent weekly to tens of millions of U.S. homes with a simple message — Have You Seen Me?

Monday marks 25 years since Cherrie disappeared in western Pennsylvania. And although she’s never been found, the fliers are credited with helping to recover 149 other missing children, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

“It emphasizes the point that somebody out there knows,” said the center’s president, Ernie Allen.

The idea for the fliers came after advertising executive Vincent Giuliano, who worked for marketer Advo Inc. in Windsor, Conn., saw a 1984 television movie about the 1981 murder of 6-year-old Adam Walsh, who had been abducted from a Florida shopping mall.

The next day, Giuliano and employees talked about the show and the idea of putting pictures and a hot line number on their mailers began to form. Giuliano was so moved that he arranged to meet Adam’s father, John Walsh, an advocate for victims of violent crime, who put him in touch with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in Alexandria, Va.

“I felt I had to go out and meet him. That’s what pushed me,” said Giuliano, now senior president of government relations at marketing company Valassis Inc., which bought Advo.

Cherrie was chosen for the first flier, in May 1985, because there were enough details about her case that the center figured someone had to know something, Giuliano said.

The third-grader got off her school bus the afternoon of Feb. 22, 1985, in Winfield Township, a rural Butler County community 20 miles north of Pittsburgh. A motorist saw Cherrie get off and noticed a bluish-green van with a painting of a mountain and a skier on it was behind the bus. But as the bus stopped to allow traffic to pass after driving down the road a bit farther, the van was had disappeared

Cherrie’s stepfather told police he had let her walk the short distance home because it was a nice day. When she didn’t arrive, he went to the bus stop 10 minutes later and saw tire prints — but no Cherrie.

Giuliano said it’s “so bewildering” that someone who knows something about the case hasn’t come forward. Telephone calls to Cherrie’s mother, Janice McKinney, for this story weren’t returned.

While Cherrie’s case serves as a sober reminder that not every missing child is found, the flier program has had success — and gives hope. More than half the 2,100 children featured on the fliers have been found through other means, such as police investigations or other groups posting pictures of them.

Abby Potash, a 60-year-old suburban Philadelphia mother, knows the fliers can help.

Her ex-husband, Steven Fastow, disappeared with their 10-year-old son, Sam Fastow, in July 1997 after a weekend visit. At first, she thought perhaps there had been an accident. She called police and Steven Fastow’s family: No one had heard from them.

Days later, she found his Hackensack, N.J., apartment bare, except for some trash.

The father and son, meanwhile, traveled under aliases, burning through the boy’s college fund. Potash said her son was told she was dead and he was forbidden to talk about his life.

Around the holidays that year, an Advo flier bearing their photos arrived at the Texas home of Steven Fastow’s cousin, who recognized him on it and called Potash to offer help.

In March 1998, Fastow called his cousin. He wanted to visit.

The cousin told Fastow to call back the next day, and she contacted the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which contacted the FBI. When Fastow called again, the cousin said her husband would meet him at a restaurant. Instead, the FBI arrested Fastow, nine months after Sam’s abduction.

Sam was the 99th child recovered because of the fliers.

“I owe them my life,” Potash said. “My son, too.”

Potash now works for Team Hope, a program run by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children offering support to missing children’s families.

“I don’t want that to happen to anyone else,” she said.

Fastow pleaded guilty in New Jersey to a charge of contempt for interfering with a custody order and spent more than a year in prison followed by three years of probation.

Allen, the center president, said some of the stories that have come from the flier program are almost so implausible that people would think they’re made up.

— In 1999, a law student vacationing in Roatan, Honduras, befriended a father and daughter. When he got home, he saw the girl’s image on a flier and called the hot line. The FBI found the girl, who had been taken by her father two years earlier.

— In March 1990, a San Francisco woman befriended and photographed a 6-year-old boy on a beach while vacationing in Mexico. That November, a flier arrived at her home with a picture of the boy, who’d been missing since June 1988. She contacted the center, and the boy was reunited with his mother, Allen said.

“The amazing thing about this program is that its success is predicated on average people doing average things and simply paying attention,” he said.

The nonprofit center also distributes pictures at Walmart stores and has a cadre of retired law enforcement experts who help with investigations.

By 1990, the recovery rate for missing children was 62 percent, but now, partly because of the fliers and new technology such as Amber Alerts to spread information quickly, it’s 97 percent, Allen said.

“But the ones you don’t find, the ones that don’t come home, are the ones that haunt you forever,” he said. “Cherrie and Janice will always have a special place in our heart. And we don’t close these files.”

Family still searching for answers about missing girl

Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Key dates

Aug. 14, 1976: Cherrie Ann Mahan is born.

Feb. 22, 1985: Cherrie is last seen walking toward her grandmother’s house in Winfield, Butler County.

March and April 1985: Cherrie’s disappearance is featured on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and her picture shown with an NBC movie about missing children.

May 1985: Direct-mail advertiser Advo sends out first “Have You Seen Me” mailer. It features Cherrie.

April 1986: Cherrie’s case included in episode of NBC’s “Missing: Have You Seen This Person.”

1997: Amber Alert system is created.

October 1998: Cherrie’s parents donate $58,000 in reward money to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

November 1998: At the McKinneys’ request, a Butler County judge declares Cherrie legally dead.
Shirley Mahan wants one wish granted before she dies: to learn what happened to her granddaughter who disappeared 20 years ago while walking home from her school bus stop.

“If I just knew if she was dead or alive, it would help,” said Mahan, 77, of Clinton, Butler County.

Cherrie Mahan was 8 years old when she disappeared on Feb. 22, 1985.

Today marks the 20th anniversary of her disappearance. Her family knows about as much now of her whereabouts as they did that afternoon.

“I just wish I had some closure,” Shirley Mahan said. “But I don’t.”

Relatives concede that Cherrie likely is dead but vowed they won’t stop looking for her or hoping she’s alive.

Mahan said she’s dealt with the deaths of many family members — including her father, a son and her husband — but hasn’t been able to come to terms with Cherrie’s loss.

“Sometimes I wish I could sit on a couch and pull a blanket over my head and just not wake up,” Mahan said.

Janice McKinney, Shirley Mahan’s daughter and Cherrie’s mother, said she keeps hoping someone will confess or give police the clue that solves the case.

“Somebody out there knows something,” McKinney said. “They might not even know they know it.”

McKinney said she wishes she’d driven her daughter home from the bus stop that day, rather than let her walk.

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 they decided to let Cherrie walk.

“Every day I feel more and more guilty for not picking her up,” Janice McKinney said. “That’s a lot of guilt to carry around for 20 years.”

The McKinneys contacted police within an hour, and hundreds of volunteers combed the woods and searched roadsides for a sign of Cherrie.

Other children from the bus and a mother who picked up several youngsters at her bus stop recalled seeing a blue or green van with a large mural that featured a skier and a snowy mountain scene. The van’s description soon was circulated regionally and nationally, although police were never certain it was connected to her disappearance.

The van, like Cherrie, never was found.

“There’ve been hundreds and hundreds of vans that have been photographed and history checked,” said Butler State Police Trooper Frank Jendesky, who is in charge of Cherrie’s case.

Jendesky said the case remains open and he periodically checks out reported sightings. He sends out releases on the anniversary of her disappearance to keep the case in the public eye.

“We just pray that we’ll get a break,” he said. “It’s really a bizarre case.”

Cherrie’s mother and grandmother, along with some family and friends, met at Saxonburg Memorial United Presbyterian Church on Sunday to celebrate Cherrie’s life.

“She was such a loving little girl when she lived with us,” said Shirley Mahan, recalling when her daughter and granddaughter lived with her in Clinton.

Mahan remembered the Cabbage Patch Kid doll she gave Cherrie.

“She carried it with her everywhere she went,” Mahan said.

McKinney had a judge declare Cherrie legally dead in 1998 so money from a car accident settlement could be placed in a trust for McKinney’s son Robert, now 15. Generally, a missing person can be declared dead seven years after disappearing; McKinney waited 13 years for the declaration.

“The not knowing is the worst thing,” McKinney said. “I just don’t know if she’s dead or alive.”

McKinney, who now lives in Mars, said she planted a tree at her workplace and places an angel statue near it to commemorate her daughter.

Mahan said she erected a cherub statue in a Saxonburg cemetery, but Cherrie doesn’t have a grave or a gravestone there.

Until the family knows she’s dead, Mahan isn’t certain she’ll ever have one.

“I just feel that I’ve prayed and prayed, and so many people tell me they’ve prayed for her,” Mahan said. “If we get so many prayers, why don’t we know?”

Third-grader stepped off school bus, disappeared

Third-grader stepped off school bus, disappeared

Story Highlights
* Third-grader disappeared in February 1985
* Police looked for, but never found van with mural of skier
* Cherrie Mahan’s missing person flyer was one of first sent by direct mail
* Know something? Call the Pennsylvania State Police at (724) 284-8100

June 10, 2009 updated 3 hours, 9 minutes ago
By Philip Rosenbaum
NEW YORK (CNN) — With the weekend arriving and a long day finally over, 8-year-old Cherrie Mahan stepped off her yellow school bus on a chilly Friday around 4 p.m.

The bus stop was about 100 yards from her home in rural Winfield Township in western Pennsylvania. But Cherrie did not make it to the hilltop trailer she lived in with her parents. She was never seen again.

Investigators say her disappearance after the four mile ride home from elementary school on February 22, 1985, remains a mystery.

“It’s like a black hole opened up and she fell in,” said Cherrie’s mother, Janice McKinney. She recalled that she and Cherrie’s stepfather, Leroy, could hear the bus pulling up that day. Soon after Cherrie did not arrive, he went to the stop to look for her.

”He came flying back up because she wasn’t there,” McKinney said.

Cherrie, an only child, would soon be celebrating her 33rd birthday, but in the minds of many, she will always remain a missing girl. “People still talk about it,” said Trooper Frank Jendesky, the lead detective working on the case for the Pennsylvania State Police for the past 15 years.

The driver and children riding the bus remember Cherrie getting off the bus with a few other students who lived nearby.

One lingering detail has baffled investigators for years — reports that a 1976 model van was following the school bus. The van, according to students, had a distinctive painted mural of a snow-capped mountain and skier wearing red and yellow clothes coming down the mountain.

Despite many efforts, the van was never found and it remains unclear whether it holds a link to the puzzle.

”By now it’s probably in a junkyard or somewhere,” said Jendesky, who considers the case a kidnapping or abduction — rather than a homicide — because a body was not found.

“It’s the not knowing that kills you,” 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?’ ”

Over the years, police conducted hundreds of interviews and cleared several persons of interest, while the case file grew to more than 4,000 pages.

Among his biggest frustrations, Jendesky said: “The time lapse and a lot of the calls I’ve gotten over the years really had no relevance to the case.”

In the days before Amber Alerts and greater public awareness of crimes against children, McKinney said it took time before word of her daughter’s disappearance became widespread.

McKinney said Cherrie’s case was included as a public service insert in a direct mail advertising campaign, one of the first times that approach was taken.

Cherrie was especially close with McKinney’s parents. She described how the girl would lovingly mimic her grandfather’s daily morning walk in the garden with his hands cupped behind his back.

Hanging in McKinney’s dining room is a picture Cherrie drew of a rainbow, trees, birds and clouds. It says “Mom and Dad.”

“I have more memories of my daughter than most people get in a lifetime,” McKinney said, remembering that Cherrie loved the children’s character Strawberry Shortcake, enjoyed spelling and wanted to be an elementary schoolteacher.

The day Cherrie went missing she was bringing home annual school pictures. That photo and the girl who never made it home with it became known to many on missing posters distributed across the nation.

“She was one heck of a special kid,” McKinney said. “And there’s somebody out there that knows. And I hope that someday they have a conscience and they’ll let us know. Because that’s all I pray for, is to have an answer.”

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Cherrie Mahan or those responsible for her disappearance are asked to call the Pennsylvania State Police at (724) 284-8100


Police hope new tech will help Butler County cold case

Feb 22, 2009 (The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) — Pennsylvania State Police in Butler County are hoping new technology will give new life to the 24-year-old case of Cherrie Mahan, the 8-year-old girl who disappeared in the 50 yards between her bus stop and her home.

Police announced Saturday that they have received new computer equipment and programs that will help them compile and manage the volumes of information related to Cherrie’s case. The brown-haired, brown-eyed little girl went missing from the road to her family’s mobile home in Winfield on Feb. 22, 1985, and was never seen again. Today marks the anniversary of her disappearance.

Over 24 years, Cherrie’s case received national exposure. She was featured on national television, her face was on the first “Have You Seen Me?” cards distributed by direct-mail advertiser Advo, and her picture has appeared on milk cartons, flyers and bumper stickers — all sure to generate tips to be checked out and logged.

For example, children who rode the bus with Cherrie and a mother who picked up several kids at her bus stop recalled seeing a blue or green van with a large mural that featured a skier and a snowy mountain scene.

Over the years, “hundreds and hundreds” of vans that might fit that description were photographed and checked over the years, according to a statement from state police in Butler county. Trooper Frank Jendesky is now in charge of the investigation.

The computers were donated to the State Police by Kids Count and Family Psychological Associates in Butler, which offer mental health services to children and families, according to the police statement.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the State Police criminal investigation unit at 724-284-8100 or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678 . Calls will be kept confidential.

Have you seen Cherrie Mahan?

Their stories are eerily similar, but only one, so far, has a happy ending.

When Ben Ownby disappeared in Missouri last week, Janice McKinney, a Pennsylvania woman, shed some tears at the thought of what he and his family must have been going through. Janice, after all, can relate. Her daughter, then 8-year-old Cherrie Mahan, was kidnapped more than two decades ago after getting off her school bus, just like Ben Ownby.

Cherrie, who now would be 30 years old, hasn’t been seen since.

Like in Ben’s case, there was a witness who saw a vehicle. A student from Cherrie’s bus described a blue van with a snowcapped mountain and a skier painted on the side of it. Investigators never found the van. Janice McKinney lives with terrible guilt. It was the first time she hadn’t picked up her daughter at the bus stop. She had given her permission to walk the 300 feet from the bus to her driveway.

Next month marks the 22nd anniversary of Cherrie’s disappearance. She’s happy that William Ben Ownby and another young boy, Shawn Hornbeck, were found. Janice told me it gives her hope that one day she’ll have her little girl back too. “Twenty-two years later, I’m still searching for any kind of answer,” she said.

As it turns out, Cherrie was the little girl who helped put a real face on missing kids. Hers was the first to appear on those “Have you seen me?” fliers you get in your mailbox.

Cherrie Mahan: Nancy Grace America’s Missing

A new tip described as “potentially crucial” could be the key needed to end the near quarter century search for Cherrie Mahan. Just 8 years old when she disappeared after getting off her school bus on February 22, 1985, Mahan would be 34 years old now.

Cherrie Mahan / Age Progression Photo

Cherrie Mahan / Age Progression Photo

Police say the bus stop was about 50 yards away from her home in Winfield Township in Western Pennsylvania. The bus driver and other children remember seeing Cherrie get off the bus, but after that she was gone. Over the years reports have swirled about a 1976 model van with a painted mural of a snow-capped mountain on the side, but police say there was also a small blue car near the bus. Despite seven boxes filled with evidence and hundreds of tips, none have led to Cherrie.

Tipline: 1-800-THE-LOST
Missing Since: February 22, 1985
Missing From: Winfield Township, PA
Classification: Endangered Missing
Age at Disappearance: 8
Age Now: 34
Date Of Birth: 08/14/1976
Height at Disappearance: 4’2”
Weight at Disappearance: 68 lbs
Eyes: Hazel
Hair: Brown
Characteristics: Pierced ears
Clothing:-Gray coat
-Blue denim skirt
-Blue leg warmers & beige boots

Tip could be ‘crucial’ lead in Cherrie Mahan case

Cherrie Mahan was 8 years old when she disappeared from her bus stop one day after school in 1985. Now, nearly 26 years after she vanished, the lead investigator says there could be a break in the case.

“Recently, a person contacted Pennsylvania State Police, and they have the potential to be crucial to the investigation in the future,” Trooper Robert McGraw said. “We’re highly optimistic that this lead has the potential to bring closure to Cherrie’s family.”

Cherrie was the first child to appear on a “Have You Seen Me?” mailer, soon after she disappeared February 22, 1985.

She was last seen getting off a school bus and was supposed to walk 200 feet to her home in rural Winfield Township in western Pennsylvania. On any other day, her mother would have been there to meet her.

“I should have been there when Cherrie got off the school bus, and I wasn’t,” Janice McKinney told CNN’s Randi Kaye. “Four o’clock, the bus came, and we heard it. And she just never came up the driveway.”

Since that moment, Cherrie’s mother has been living every parent’s nightmare. “I think my guilt started at that point, because up until that day, I was there. And if I would have been there, I wouldn’t be going through this,” she said.

Children on Cherrie’s school bus described a light blue van with a mural of a snowcapped mountain and a skier painted on the side that was parked right behind the bus stop. Investigators believe the van could’ve been involved in the girl’s disappearance.

There was snow on the ground the day Cherrie vanished but no footprints leading to her house, suggesting to investigators that she didn’t get far and was picked up quickly.

“I believe Cherrie was abducted by someone she knows very well,” McGraw said. “And I believe this person had the ability to basically lure Cherrie to their vehicle without her giving it a second thought prior to her disappearance.”

After Cherrie’s disappearance, her mother didn’t want to go through life without a child. Five years later, she had a son named Robert. He’s now in his 20s. His mother kept him extremely close during his entire childhood for fear that he too could be taken away from her.

“He’s never, ever gone anywhere without somebody,” she said in 2005. “I mean, from the time he was able to walk, until this day … I go to every soccer game. I stand by the door, you know, worried that somebody could come in and take him.”

Cherrie’s mother just wants to know what happened to her little girl. At the family’s cemetery plot, there is a statue of an angel for Cherrie, not a gravestone, because her mother can’t bring herself to place one there until she knows the truth.

“I have resigned myself to the fact that Cherrie is OK, whether she is dead or alive. If she’s dead, my family is taking care of her. If she’s alive, someone else is taking care of her,” she said. “All I pray for now is to know one way or the other.”

The mystery also weighs heavily on McGraw. Three investigators worked the case before him, all with the goal of solving it before they retired and all leaving the force coming up short. It’s never far from his mind.

“I can’t imagine if that was my child. I can’t imagine the pain her mother must wake up with every day,” McGraw said. “It’s hard not to be attached” to the case, he said, pausing to fight tears.

With the new lead, McGraw is hopeful that with perseverance and some luck, he can finally solve one of the most notorious cold cases in recent U.S. history.

“I have a picture of her on my desk,” he said. “So any second of my workday, when I think that there is nothing on my plate or I have anything to do, that picture reminds me there is always something to do, because we don’t know what happened to Cherrie.”

Mom of First ‘Have You Seen Me?’ Missing Girl Hopeful About New Tip‎

More than 2 1/2 decades have passed since Janice McKinney last saw her missing daughter, Cherrie Mahan. The 8-year-old was one of the first to be featured on the “Have You Seen Me?” direct-mail advertisements.

Despite the passage of time, McKinney is not ready to give up, especially with word that police have received a new tip in the case.

“I’m hopeful,” the western Pennsylvania woman told AOL News. “And the police are awfully optimistic about this lead. When I think with my heart, I think this could be it, but when I think with my head, I feel I need to be cautious.”

Janice McKinney sits in her living room in Saxonburg, Pa., and looks at a portrait of her daughter, Cherrie Mahan on January 13, 2011.

Keith Srakocic, AP
Janice McKinney, left, still holds out hope that she will learn what happened to her daughter, Cherrie Mahan, right. Cherrie was 8 years old when she vanished after stepping off a school bus on Feb. 22, 1985.

The new lead was recently given to police by an individual who walked into the state police barracks in Butler, about 40 miles north of Pittsburgh. Officials there did not immediately return calls for comment from AOL News.

Speaking with The Associated Press, Trooper Robert McGraw said the new information came from someone “who would have known Cherrie” and that it “has the potential” to lead them to a specific individual or individuals.

“This is more specific information than has been brought to our attention in a long, long time,” McGraw told the AP, adding that it makes it “highly unlikely that she is alive.” He declined to elaborate further.

McKinney, 50, was just 25 years old when her daughter disappeared without a trace on Feb. 22, 1985.

“She was coming home from school,” McKinney said. “She got off the bus and was walking toward our driveway and she just vanished.”

The disappearance occurred around 4:05 p.m. Cherrie only had to walk about 100 yards from the bus stop to her family’s hilltop mobile home on Cornplanter Road in Cabot. Whatever happened to her occurred during that walk, police said. When she failed to arrive home, her family went looking for her and, when they were unable to find her, they contacted police.

Within an hour, hundreds of community volunteers and police officers were scouring every inch of the surrounding wooded areas and roadsides. Not one sign of the missing girl was uncovered.

When police questioned witnesses — children who rode the bus, as well as a mother who had picked her children up at the bus stop — they learned that a blue or green van with a mural of a mountain and a skier had been seen in the area at the time Cherrie disappeared.

“The van was seen behind the bus and a small blue car was seen sitting in the driveway,” McKinney said.

This undated file image provided by The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children shows a copy scan of the original mailer flier of then eight-year-old Cherrie Mahan when she vanished on Feb. 22, 1985 from a bus stop near her western Pennsylvania home.

Cherrie Mahan was the first missing child to be featured on the “Have You Seen Me?” cards distributed by direct-mail advertiser Advo.

The case received national media attention, and Cherrie was the first missing child to appear on the “Have You Seen Me?” cards that were distributed by direct-mail advertiser Advo. The girl’s photo was also printed on the side of cardboard milk cartons around the U.S., her mom said.

Two sketches of the van were also released to the media and several alleged sightings came in, but to this day authorities have been unable to locate it or determine whether it is actually connected to Cherrie’s disappearance.

The case quickly went cold.

In 1992, Cherrie’s family had her declared legally dead. They donated her life insurance policy, about $58,000, to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

“I think about her every single day,” McKinney said. “This August she would be 35 years old. There are lots of things I haven’t been able to do. I haven’t been able to watch her graduate high school, go off to college, get married or become a mother. It’s these things that people don’t realize are taken away from you.”

Despite the passage of nearly 26 years, McKinney says she hopes she will eventually be able to find out what happened to her little girl.

“There is not one day that I don’t say, ‘Please God, just give me strength.’ There is not one day I don’t pray,” she said. “Whether she is dead or alive I don’t know. It’s been a long time, but I realize it’s in the good Lord.s hands and I’ll find out in his time, not mine.”

Cherrie Mahan Missing: Penn. Police May Have Break in 1985 Missing Girl Case

CABOT, Pa. (CBS/AP) Eight-year-old Cherrie Mahan disappeared 26 years ago after getting off her school bus. Now, Pennsylvania State Police say “potentially crucial” information has been revealed in her disappearance.

Unfortunately, police also say that this new information means it is “highly unlikely” Cherrie is still alive.

Cherrie was last seen stepping off a school bus in Winfield Township, Pa., about 35 miles north of Pittsburgh, on Feb. 22, 1985. She was the first child ever featured on the now-famous “Have You Seen Me?” advertising circulars produced by a company called Advo Inc., for the National Center on Missing and Exploited Children.

“An individual came to the Pennsylvania State Police Butler station and provided some information to an investigator regarding this case,” Trooper Dan Kesten told CBS affiliate KDKA. “[It] may or may not produce additional leads for us.”

Investigators will not reveal what the person who came forward said, but they do say the information is more specific than past tips have been.

Trooper Robert McGraw told The Associated Press that the new information makes it “highly unlikely that she is alive.”

McGraw has been the lead investigator on the case since late last summer and told The Valley News Dispatch that there still is a chance that Cherrie is alive. If she is, she would be 33 years old. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has produced an age-progressed photo of what Cherrie might look like today.

Cherrie was 4-feet-2-inches tall and weighed about 68 pounds when she disappeared. She had brown hair and hazel eyes. She has pierced ears and was last seen wearing a gray coat, blue denim skirt, blue leg warmers and beige boots.

Cherrie’s mother, Janice McKinney, told KDKA, “It’s closure we’re all looking for,” and hopes this person coming forward will provide that. “The not-knowing is what eats you alive every single day of your life.”

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