PA CHERRIE MAHAN: Missing from Pittsburgh, PA - 22 Feb 1985 - Age 8


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Cherrie was last seen getting off of the bus from her elementary school at approximately 4:05 p.m. on February 22, 1985. Three other students got off with her at the stop. She was approximately 100 to 150 yards along a dirt driveway from her family's residence on Cornplanter Road in Cabot, Pennsylvania at the time she disappeared.

When she failed to arrive home, her stepfather went looking for her and called police when he failed to find her. Cherrie has never been heard from again.

A bright blue or green 1976 Dodge van was seen in the area at the time of Cherrie's disappearance and may be connected to her case. The van was following the school bus Cherrie had been riding in. The van had a snow-capped mountain and skier mural painted on both sides of the vehicle. The skier was wearing red and yellow clothing and was skiing down the mountain.

The van has never been located or identified and investigators are still not sure if it was connected to Cherrie's case. A small blue car was also seen near the site of Cherrie's disappearance. It is unknown if the car has anything to do with her case either.

According to her mother, Cherrie was conceived through rape when her mother was sixteen years old. The police did not believe the rape allegation and Cherrie's biological father was never charged. She believes people connected to Cherrie's father were involved in her disappearance. Cherrie's father maintains his innocence in her case.


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Cherrie's photo is shown age-progressed to 38 years. She was last seen getting off the school bus about 100 yards from home. A bright blue 1976 Dodge van with a mural of a mountain and a skier may be involved in her disappearance. Cherrie has pierced ears. She was last seen wearing a gray coat, blue denim skirt, blue leg warmers, and beige boots.

Cherrie's photo is shown age-progressed to 33 years. Cherrie was last seen exiting the bus from her elementary school approximately 100 yards from her family's home in Cabot, Pennsylvania on February 22, 1985. She has never been seen again. A bright blue or green Dodge van with a mountain and skier mural on both sides of the vehicle may be involved in Mahan's abduction


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Pennsylvania child Cherrie Mahan still missing after getting off school bus in 1985

February 22, 1985 began like any other Friday for Cherrie Mahan's family in Butler County, Pennsylvania. Cherrie was just eight years old and was in the third grade at a nearby school, just north of Pittsburgh.

“[Cherrie’s] family last talked to her that morning,” Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Max DeLuca told Dateline. Cherrie went to school that day and, after the final bell that afternoon, she got on the school bus to go home, he added. She got off the school bus around 4:10 p.m. with three other children, Trooper DeLuca said.

Debbie Burk, a mother who lived near Cherrie’s family, told the Associated Press in 1985 that she always sat in her car at the school bus stop, waiting for her own children to come home.

″I sat in the car and watched the kids get off. They played for a while,” Debbie told the AP. “I made sure Cherrie had walked past the car, then I drove away.”

The bus stop was only about 50 feet from Cherrie’s house. But Cherrie never made it home.

“When Cherrie did not arrive home by 4:30 pm her parents began to look for her and place phone [calls] in an attempt to locate her,” Trooper DeLuca said. “When Cherrie could not be located, police were contacted within an hour by her stepfather and mother. Police responded to Cherrie’s residence and her mother and stepfather were present to provide statements.”

Other children who were on the school bus that day would later tell authorities a blue van had been trailing the bus. “It had a skiing scene – a mountain and a skier – painted on the side,” Trooper DeLuca told Dateline.

“I caught a glimpse of the blue van in the mirror,” Debbie, the neighbor who had picked her own children up from the bus stop that day, said in 1985. “It was right behind me. My son saw the van, too.”

Though nobody ever saw Cherrie enter or stop at the van, Trooper DeLuca says the van has been of concern in Cherrie’s disappearance since day one.


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Anonymous letter could shed light on decades-old disappearance

Thirty-four years ago, on Feb. 22, 1985, 8-year-old Cherrie Mahan got off the school bus in Cabot but never made it home.

Now, in 2019, her mother told Target 11 Investigator Rick Earle she hopes an anonymous tip will help police crack this cold case.

"I just wish someone would come forth and tell me what happened," Janice McKinney said through tears. "That's all I pray for all the time is just to know."

Last summer, McKinney received a handwritten letter detailing who killed her daughter, why they did it and where her body could be found. The letter, signed by someone calling themselves Pastor Justice, ended: "I pray you find some peace after you find her body."

"I got it around her birthday," McKinney said.

She turned the letter over to police but never heard back. Investigators told Target 11 they are still working on it. They also said another tip led them to search an Armstrong junkyard and an old mine shaft in Butler County within the last year.


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‘It’s A Torment’: Cherrie Mahan’s Mother Still Searching 35 Years After She Disappeared From Butler Co.

On a sunny Feb. 22, 1985, 8-year-old Cherrie Mahan got off her school bus on Cornplanter Road and headed to her driveway and her home.

From that day to today, Janice McKinney has been searching face for her daughter Cherrie who never made it up the hill that day to their home.

“It’s a torment, I’ve been tormented since the day she was taken. Is she alive, is she not alive, is she okay, is she not okay, is she with somebody are they taking care of her, are they not taking care of her?”

“Does she miss me, does she want me, does she know me? These things run in my head every single day of my life.”

Janice and her husband Leroy were in their home at the top of the hill waiting for Cherrie to get home so they could take her to a play date with friends.

“We heard the bus come and after five or tens minutes and Leroy said ‘maybe she fell down, do you want me to go check? And I said ‘go check’ and he went down he checked and she wasn’t there,” she says.

The children on the bus, and the bus driver told Janice and Leroy Cherrie did get off the bus.

Janice says, “It’s just what happened from the time she got off that bus to when she headed towards our driveway.”

Now 35 years later, Pennsylvania State Trooper Jim Long says the phone still rings at the Butler Barracks about Cherrie.

“It’s amazing after all these years we still get a lot of inquiries a lot of information, a lot of tips, sometimes we’ll get a couple a week, other times it may go months and we don’t hear anything,” he says.

Children on the bus that day told police they saw a conversion van with a skier painted on the side. Trp. Long says, “There’s been a lot of vans that we looked at. There’s been a lot of vans we actually processed forensically and unfortunately didn’t lead us anywhere.”

Cherrie’s mom doubts the van was even involved.
To understand the depth of this mother’s despair you need to know this: “I got raped and had Cherrie when I was 16 years old and she was ‘IT’ for me. Everything! I never left that house without her, we were always together, we grew up together, she was my life.”

Janice believes there is a connection between her rape, Cherrie’s birth, and eight years later her disappearance “I do, I believe that but I can’t prove anything,” she says.

Police are aware of McKinney’s suspicions and have told her the man is adamant in his denials. The only thing Trp. Long will say about suspects: “Anybody that was implicated, until we find evidence otherwise, they still would be considered a suspect.”

Likewise, the police say until they have evidence to the contrary, they have to assume there is still a chance Cherrie is alive.

“That would be a blessing to me if they would call me and just say it’s over,” she says.

Janice McKinney is holding out hope that after 35 years someone will have an attack of conscience and come forward with the tip police need.

If you have any information on the disappearance of Cherrie Mahan, contact the State Police Butler barracks at 724-284-8100.


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Cherrie Mahan: Broken Hearts …

Nothing compares to the anguish of a missing child, and for those who knew and loved Pennsylvania third grader Cherrie Mahan, it has been 36 winters of heartbreak. On February 22, 1985, she was dropped off by her school bus, reportedly a mere 50 feet from her home. Cherrie was dressed for the weather in a coat, a denim skirt, a leotard, a pair of blue leg warmers and her Cabbage Patch Kids earmuffs. But waiting inside, little did mother Janice McKinney and stepfather Leroy McKinney know that they would never see her again. Janice has said in interviews that she’d heard the rumble of the bus but when Cherrie failed to show up after 10 minutes, Leroy went out to check.

… And a Turning Point.

By then, there was no trace of their daughter and there hasn’t been since, although false leads and sightings continue to haunt them. What happened to the 8-year-old remains shrouded in speculation and is one of America’s most infamous disappearances. Despite countless search efforts and public campaigns, no person of interest was ever linked closely to the case. However, in her short (known) life, Cherrie contributed to a landmark approach in how the U.S. searches for missing persons: She was the first to be featured on the iconic “Have You Seen Me?” circulars produced by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

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