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Monday, Aug. 29, 2016

10 years and counting: Murder still haunts small community

Sunday, March 30, 2008

PORTAGEVILLE -- Ten years ago, a double homicide rocked the town of Portageville. And still today, residents and friends of the mother and daughter shot to death and trying to piece together clues and find some sort of closure to the unsolved case.

On March 28, 1998, Anthony "Tony" Scherer found his wife, Sherri Ann, 37, and their daughter, Megan Elizabeth, 12, in the living room of the family's rural Portageville home. Both died of multiple gunshot wounds. There were no signs of forced entry, nor was anything missing.

"There was such a fear then, because we didn't know what happened." said Nancy Pikey, a good friend of Sherri and who had two children the same age as Megan and her older brother, Steven. "We still don't know what happened."

And although nothing can change the past, Pikey and others are looking for justice to be served for the two, whose death was a great loss to the town, school and church they attended.

"Because of the way they were killed and the brutality of it, it's just been very difficult," said Tina DeLisle, who was one of Sherri's best friends. Solving the case would be "a tremendous relief" she said.

"I'm really scared that it's going to become a cold case," said DeLisle. "I want to keep their memory alive and their story alive. I want to keep the case going until we find out who did this and until we get some closure."

She keeps one of the wanted posters, with a sketch of the murder suspect, under the glass by the desk in her office at the town funeral home. "Everybody comes in here, and I keep hoping that someday, someone will remember something," she said.

Both women -- as well as other friends and family -- often recall several times spent with Sherri and her family, especially Megan. Pikey and DeLisle helped decorate St. Eustacius Church with Sherri, in addition to going on vacations or shopping trips together.

They often remember their late friend and her daughter when taking part in cherished memories.

But for DeLisle, some of those activities are too difficult to bear. She hasn't been able to go back to the Scherer home and she no longer decorates or does some of the things she and Sherri used to do together. "It's just not the same," said DeLisle.

DeLisle's daughter, JoBeth, was born seven months after Megan. And it wasn't by coincidence.

"We wanted to have our babies at the same time," said DeLisle.

Pikey's son was the same age, so Megan's death hits them each time their children reach a major milestone.

"When he turned 16 and got his license, or when he went to prom, I thought 'Megan should have,'" said Pikey. "You think 'what would Megan be doing? She ought to be here -- she's missing all this and she would love it.'"

And at high school graduation, the entire class held tribute for Megan. There was an empty seat for her, in addition to her inclusion in the class slideshow.

In a memorial to both Sherri and Megan, a bench with the two's names sits between Megan's grade school and the family's church.

"We wanted it to be in a prominent place," said DeLisle.

The homicide brought short and long-term repercussions to friends of the family, in addition to the town as a whole.

Pikey recalled her family's shock and emotions upon hearing the news.

"My kids were just so upset -- we came home and we all sat on the couch and we cried," she said. "We were all afraid, and I slept in the living room with my kids for three weeks."

DeLisle recalled the fear in her daughter. In fact, more than a dozen alarm sensors were installed on JoBeth's window to give her a sense of security.

The death of their best friends left a lasting impact on the DeLisles. "We don't let ourselves get really close to anybody," said DeLisle. "We're very cautious."

She wonders who could have done this to her friends. "For a year, I lay awake every night, laying out possible scenarios," she said. "I was trying to figure out how it happened and who (the killer) could be."

She later realized the Scherers may have been stalked -- and perhaps she and her daughter had, too, since they spent so much time together.

When profilers with America's Most Wanted visited the town and DeLisle underwent a five-hour interview and she discovered just how close they were. "We did everything together."

Pikey said she thinks whoever committed the crime caught Sherri, who was quite observant, off-guard. "Sherri was a fighter and she would have fought tooth and nail," said Pikey, noting there were no signs of a struggle.

She also looks back, wondering if someone was watching. "I think, 'Did I see something? Was there something I missed?" she said.

And it hasn't just changed friends and family, but all of Portageville and its 3,400 residents.

"I would have never thought something like this would happen (before the crime)," said Pikey.

"I don't think people were scared to let their kids do anything back then, but they are now," said DeLisle. "And people lock their doors now."

Pikey agreed. "It's just hurt a lot of people and its impacted a lot of lives."

Those in the community wonder how their friends, who were outgoing and loved by all who knew them, could have been targeted for such a crime.

"You just keep asking yourself 'why them? Did he know them?" said DeLisle. "And I keep thinking that he couldn't have known them, because they were such good people."

Pikey recalled a poster that someone posted in the middle of Portageville that said "Why, why, why?" And that is the question people still have to this day.