RSS Feed

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.

http://www.wpxi.com/news/news/target-11-police-seek-dna-in-cherrie-mahan-case/nDYSZ/

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.”

http://cumberlink.com/news/state-and-regional/pa-girl-missing-years-first-featured-on-fliers/article_e600ca35-7460-5cdc-a9c7-b7d7f253ab69.html

Family still searching for answers about missing girl

By Liz Hayes, TRIBUNE-REVIEW NEWS SERVICE
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?”

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/s_306127.html


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

.http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/06/10/grace.coldcase.mahan/

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.

http://www.tmcnet.com/usubmit/-police-hope-new-tech-will-help-butler-county-/2009/02/22/4004474.htm

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.

http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/anderson.cooper.360/blog/2007/01/have-you-seen-cherrie-mahan.html

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

http://nancygrace.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/21/cherrie-mahan-nancy-grace-america%E2%80%99s-missing/

%d bloggers like this: