January 14, 2011
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.
What Happened To Cherrie Mahan?
February 21, 2005
PITTSBURGH — A child vanishes into thin air. Not one piece of evidence as to her disappearance is ever found.
It’s a case that has frustrated her family and investigators and, now, 20 years later, everyone is still asking what happened to Cherrie Mahan.
It’s a case that traumatized area children and scared their parents half to death. An 8-year-old girl disappeared 20 years ago and years later leads are still coming in.
Janice McKinney said, “The caring, I never will stop caring for Cherrie. And the heartache is it gets worse and worse.”
Twenty years have not healed the emotional wounds of Janice McKinney. Her then 8-year-old daughter Cherrie Ann Mahan vanished on Feb. 22, 1985.
McKinney said, “The not knowing is probably the killer of all things. And guilt — the guilt that I feel for not being there every year it just gets a little harder.”
Janice and Cherrie’s stepfather, Leroy, were not there when Cherrie got off her school bus about 100 yards from the family’s home along Cornplanter Road in Winfield Township, Butler County.
The case received national attention. One show performed a reenactment of other children seeing Cherrie walk to a blue van with a mural of a mountain and a skier.
McKinney said, “That van fell off the face of the earth. It went into a black hole with her.”
Trooper Frank Jendesky said, “Over the years we’ve kept pictures, numerous pictures, and registration plate numbers.
Jendesky is the third state trooper over the years to lead the investigation into the case.
Jendesky said, “The most important thing I do in my career is this case.”
Just recently he followed up on sightings reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Jendesky said, “They believe they saw her somewhere working at a restaurant or at a mall in different parts of the country and we would have local departments try to narrow those down as best as we can.”
Still, nothing has panned out.
Cherrie’s grandmother Shirley, who paid psychics over the years to help find clues, has now lost hope of ever finding her little angel alive.
Shirley Mahan said, “I truly in my heart feel that she is dead. I think that her grandfather and her uncle are watching over her in heaven. She truly was she was a loving little girl.”
That little girl would be an adult woman today. Age-enhancing software (pictured, right) shows how she might look now.
McKinney said, “I look at them and think she’s a doctor, she’s a lawyer. And she has real long hair. She always wanted long hair.”
Target 11’s Karen Welles asked, “As a mother, in your heart do you think she’s alive or dead?”
McKinney said, “As a mother, in my heart I feel and I’ve always felt that she was OK.”
Welles asked, “Do you think it ever will be solved?”
Jendesky said, “Well, I’ll always have hope it’ll be solved.”
McKinney said, “There is somebody out there that knows and, you know, sometimes guilt will eat you away until, you know, you have to tell someone. And I’m just hoping that maybe this will be the year.”
Early in the investigation, family members were given and passed lie detector tests. Still, investigators don’t know for sure if the kidnapper knew Cherrie Mahan and her family or if it was a complete stranger.
Anyone who remembers anything about the case is asked to call state police.
If you have any information on this case please contact CUE Center For Missing Persons using the contact form below or contact Cue Center at (910) 343-1131 24 hour tip line (910) 232-1687.
All information submitted to CUE Center For Missing Persons is confidential.