According to the International Centre For Missing And Exploited Children, an estimated 460,000 children are reported missing every year in the United States.
The case of Sherry Lynn Marler is one that has left her family, and everyone else involved wondering what really happened on June 6, 1984, for the last 37 years. Sherry and her step-father were at First National Bank in Greenville, Alabama the day she was abducted. According to her step-father Raymond Stringfellow, he gave Sherry a dollar so that she could go across the street to the Chevron and get a soda. But when he finished at the bank and went outside to meet her by the truck like they had planned, Sherry was nowhere to be found. That day at the bank was the last time Raymond saw his step-daughter, and it would mark the start of a decades long nightmare for he and her mother, Betty Stringfellow.
Sherry Lynn Marler was 12 years old at the time of her disappearance. She was described as a “tomboy” by family and friends, and often called “Little Farmer” by those that knew her well. As is probably gleaned from her nickname Sherry enjoyed farm work, loved Kenny Rogers, and even knew how to drive a tractor. The day of her disappearance Sherry is said to have been wearing a red long-sleeved plaid flannel shirt, a pair of faded jeans, grey velcro tennis shoes, and a watch with a black band. She had brown eyes and brown hair that was slightly longer than shoulder length. Since her disappearance, age progressions have been done to show what Sherry would look like now.
In the months following Sherry’s disappearance her family and friends would be questioned. Three witnesses would claim to see the young girl on 3 separate occasions. In each account the witnesses claimed to see Sherry with a man they believed to be in his fifties. They all described the man as about 5’8 with a husky build, and weathered skin featuring pronounced crows feet. One of the witnesses who saw Sherry at a truck stop in Conley, Georgia, said she referred to the man as B.J.. All of the witnesses also stated that Sherry appeared dazed and disheveled. The last known sighting was in a mall in New Orleans. But none of these sightings were ever confirmed and they were eventually dismissed due to lack of evidence. Her step-father was questioned in depth by authorities but even up until his death years later, Raymond Stringfellow maintained that he was innocent and that he wished he could just bring Sherry home for Betty. In an effort to help locate her missing child, Betty joined Team Home, a volunteer group that’s part of the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children. When asked about the possibility of Sherry having run away, Betty said that was unlikely. She says that Sherry had no significant issues and was looking forward to visiting her grandmother that same day. The search for the missing 12 year old, though extensive, was ultimately unsuccessful. Authorities are still hopeful they will get a break in the case, though new information seems to be few and far between.
“A part of me knows she’s not alive, but I’ll keep doing what I can to find out what happened to her until the day I die” -Betty Stringfellow
As of now the case is still unsolved and remains classified a “non-family abduction”. Unfortunately Sherry’s step-father passed away in 2003, leaving her mother to continue her search alone. This case has captivated many and has been featured on shows like Unsolved Mysteries and Missing… Have You Seen This Person?. Sherry would be 49 years old now, and it’s hard not to wonder what her life would be like had she not vanished into thin air that day. If you have any information about Sherry’s disappearance, please call 911, 1–800-the-lost, or the Greenville Police Department Missing Persons Unit at 1–334–382–3107.
Although statistically most children are abducted by someone they know, it’s hard to say whether this case was a stranger abduction, or if it was perpetuated by someone the family was involved with. It’s also entirely possible that this was a crime of opportunity, and that Sherry may have simply had the misfortune of coming across the wrong person when she set off to get a soda. In my opinion 15 minutes is a very small window of time to abduct someone, so whomever did it was either extremely organized, or was somehow there at the exact right time. Either way, I can’t imagine what her mother went through, what she’s still going through, what she will unfortunately likely be going through for the rest of her life. As we know, the longer a case goes unsolved the less likely it becomes that it will ever be solved. I hope that at some point we will find out what really happened to Sherry, and that her mother may finally know some peace. Whether she’s still alive or not, Sherry’s life as she knew it was stolen from her that morning in July, 37 years ago, and she can never really get back what she lost.