MIAMI, Okla. — Oklahoma and Texas authorities are reaching out to former Picher residents in hopes someone has information on the family of a missing Picher teen.
Sheryl Denise Taylor, 12, of Picher was last seen on July 28, 1978, standing on the sidewalk in front of a Picher grocery store between 7:15p.m. and 7:30 p.m. or across the street from the grocery store in front of the gate that secured a fenced-in four square block area.
“We got a break in the case,” said Mark Wall, who is part of the Ottawa and Delaware County cold case unit.
Wall’s investigation turned up a teenage Jane Doe in Texas. After talking to Texas Constable Dale Schaper he soon learned they had preserved the teenager’s DNA samples.
“We are needing to reach a relative of Sheryl Taylor’s for a DNA match,” Wall said.
Days after her disappearance, her mother, Hilda Taylor and the rest of her family moved from Picher. The Taylor family’s digital footprint stops there.
Wall said the only information he has of Sheryl’s relatives are her mother, Hilda Taylor and a sister, Mary Balls, who lived in Galena, Kansas at the time Sheryl disappeared.
“We would really like to talk to any relative of these two women,” Wall said. “We do not know if they are alive – we have been going through databases, but are unable to come up with anything locating Sheryl’s mother or sister.”
“They have DNA samples at a Texas laboratory and are waiting for us to supply them with DNA samples from Sheryl’s family to see if it is a match,” Wall said.
Both teens were described as having red hair.
“Less than 2% of the population has red hair,” Wall said.
“Once we get the Oklahoma DNA samples, the lab will have results in 10 days,” said Constable James Ellis.
“Grimes County Jane Doe” was discovered by a highway worker on October 29, 1981, near Iola, Texas. Iola is located north of Houston.
Sheryl was described as having hazel-colored eyes, red hair and being small, maybe weighing 60 pounds. She was last seen wearing yellow shorts, a sweatshirt, and was barefooted. She sometimes wore a patch over one eye.
The characteristics of the Grimes County Jane Doe are she had red or auburn hair, Ellis said. The Texas teen was right-handed and had extensive dental care, with 13 fillings, Ellis said. A pair of pink bikini-style panties with black trim was found near her body and a $20 gold 1904 coin – possibly a replica – that had been turned into a ring was on her body, he said.
Ellis said authorities estimated her age to be between 13 and 19, she was between 5’1 and 5’4 in height and weighed around 110 pounds.
Her cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head, possibly from a tire iron, he said. The victim’s body was wrapped in a plastic bag also containing a white rag, believed to be the type used in mechanical work, Ellis said.
The Texas victim had multiple fractures to both ribs, he said.
Her body may have been stored at a different location before being deposited at the location, possibly years after her death.
In 1981 a Texas Highway Transportation worker saw a bag near a creek, Ellis said. He used a pick-ax to open the bag and saw the skeletal remains, he said.
“Due to the level of decomposition, she was 100 percent skeletalized,” Ellis said.
Henry Lee Lucas, a convicted serial killer, confessed to the murder – claiming her name may have been ”Cheryl” and he picked her up in Durham, North Carolina. Lucas later recanted his confession and died in prison of congestive heart failure on March 12, 2001.
“Lucas had information only the killer would know,” Ellis said. “He took investigators to the area where he said he dumped her – it was near where her body was discovered.”
Lucas told investigators at the time the teen was a hitchhiker. While traveling on Texas Highway 45, the teen, Lucas’s girlfriend and Ottis Toole, a convicted serial killer, began arguing, Ellis said.
Lucas confessed to strangling the teen with a telephone cord and said Toole struck her in the head with a tire iron, he said.
Toole, who died in a Florida prison on Sept. 15, 1996, confessed to the 1981 murder of six-year-old Adam Walsh, according to published reports.
Ellis said Lucas’s girlfriend is also deceased.
If you have information on Sheryl Taylor’s relatives you’re asked to call Mark Wall at (918) 542-5547. All information is confidential.