Cherrie Mahan

Cherrie Ann Mahan was born on the 14th of August 1976 in Saxonburg, Pennsylvania, USA. She was born to her mother, 16-year-old Janice Mahan, who later confessed that Cherrie was a result of her being raped at 15. Despite this, Janice loved Cherrie and doted on her all the time. Janice is quoted, as saying: “We were always together. We grew up together. She was my life.”

Janice married LeRoy McKinney, a Vietnam war veteran, who happily accepted Cherrie as his step-daughter. The three of them relocated to Cornplanter Road, Butler County, Pennsylvania.

Cherrie and Janice, 1979

Friday, 22nd February 1985 was an exciting day for Cherrie, as after school her mum had promised to take her on a playdate. That morning, Janice walked Cherrie to the bus stop, which was about 50 feet (15 meters) away from their house. They told each other that they loved each other, and Cherrie then boarded the bus.

At 4:10pm, on the 22nd of February, Cherrie was last seen exiting the school bus on Cornplanter Road. She left the bus with three of her friends, and then her friends went over to a car driven by one of their mums – Debbie Burk. Debbie had followed the school bus with her own car. Burk saw Cherrie turn a corner to walk up the driveway of her house. Debbie also said that Cherrie walked past a bluish-green van, that had parked near the bus stop. The van is described as being a 1970s-era Dodge (potentially a 1976 model) with a distinctive painting of a skier on a snow-capped mountain on the side.

An artist’s impression of the van

Cherrie’s stepfather overheard the school bus stopping near his house. He said he intended to meet Cherrie at the bottom of their driveway, but Cherrie’s mother said: “It’s a nice day. Let her walk.”

After 10minutes Cherrie had not arrived home. Her mum and stepfather began to worry. They did a search of their driveway which did not locate Cherrie or any footprints in the snow. They did, however, find a set of tire impressions in the soil of their driveway, just 50 yards (45 meters) away from their home.

An intense search by police was quickly launched to look for Cherrie. Bloodhounds and helicopters helped search the land surrounding her home, and investigators went house to house. 250 local volunteers conducted an extensive search of Butler County, but this turned up no results.

The local community raised $39,000 as a reward for Cherrie’s safe return, with local businesses coming together to pledge another $10,000 for information leading to an arrest of Cherrie’s captors. The local community was devastated by the disappearance of Cherrie.

Police ruled out that Cherrie had been kidnapped for ransom, and came to the conclusion that Cherrie had likely been taken by someone she knew. The family have been ruled out as suspects.

Police managed to get a few eyewitness accounts of the van that was seen near the bus stop. Eyewitnesses say that they saw a vehicle, matching that description, travelling in New Kensington and that the van was heading in the direction of Mount Pleasant. Another witness said that they saw a blue car following this van and that the van was repainted black just two weeks after Cherrie went missing.

After 3 months of Cherrie being missing, a national direct mailing company printed photos of Cherrie, alongside the artist’s impression of the van, and mailed them to thousands of households across the USA.

The poster that was mailed across the USA

There have been thousands of leads in the years since Cherrie disappeared. Most of them have been unhelpful, and none have ever gotten the police any closer to finding Cherrie. In 2000, a computer-generated image of how Cherrie may have looked at 23 was mailed across the USA, but this failed to turn up any leads.

In 2011, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania police department said that they had received a tip that they deemed “potentially crucial for the investigation in the future.” No specific details were released, but investigators say that the tip had come from someone close to Cherrie, and could lead police to a “known specific actor or actors.” The spokesperson declined to say more due to the ongoing investigation but did say that this “potentially crucial” information suggests that Cherrie is no longer alive.

In 2018, Cherrie’s stepfather received a letter that described, in detail, who had murdered Cherrie, why they had done that, and where she was buried. The letter ends with the writer saying “I pray you find some peace after you find her body” The author of the letter is unknown. The police and FBI did follow up with the letter, and even investigate a property mentioned, but the letter was deemed to be “not very fruitful.”

Cherrie’s mother, Janice, thinks that whilst Cherrie’s biological dad is not involved, people he knew are. Janice also said that authorities did not believe her when she told them she had been raped, or that she was pregnant because of the rape. Janice said in 2019 that an anonymous tip could help give her family so much closure and that she just “wishes someone would come forth and tell me what happened. That’s all I pray for, all the time, is just to know.”

Although Cherrie was declared legally dead in November 1998, the investigation into her disappearance is still ongoing. Hopefully, with the “potentially crucial” lead and advancements in forensic science and technology, Cherrie’s family and friends will one day be able to have closure.

Below is an age-progressed image of what Cherrie might look like at 42 years old. If you recognise her or know anything about her disappearance, please call the Pennsylvania State Missing Persons Unit at 724-284-8100.

Aged progressed image of Cherrie


True crime, unsolved, missing, children, USA, Pennsylvania, missing person, missing child, unsolved case, cold case, disapperance, kidnapping, kidnapped

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