Ten-year-old Portageville murder revisited

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

SIKESTON -- Nearly 10 years after the murder of a Portageville woman and her daughter, with investigators following up on hundreds of leads, new means are being used to find answers.

"Basically, this is an activation of the SEMO Major Case Squad," said New Madrid County Sheriff Terry Stevens at a news conference in Sikeston this morning. "The case we are talking about today is from the double homicide from March of 1998 of Sherri and Megan Scherer, who were found murdered in their home just northeast of Portageville.

He said this case doesn't fall under the normal parameters since the murder is now considered a "cold case," but due to the severity of the crime, those involved thought it was necessary.

Just after 7 p.m. on March 28, 1998, Anthony "Tony" Scherer found the bodies of his wife, Sherri Ann, 37, and their daughter, Megan Elizabeth, 12, in the living room of the family's rural home. The two were shot repeatedly with a small caliber gun.

At the conference were about 40 officials from area departments in addition to federal agencies. Bud Cooper, a sergeant with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, said it was a time for those involved to get to know one another, as well as get up to speed on where the investigation stands and what the plans are to move forward. They would also review the video and photos from the crime scene.

"I think we've got a wealth of knowledge in this room," said Cooper.

A month after the homicide, officials learned that in a shooting near Dyersburg, Tenn., a few hours after the Scherers were found, matching bullets were used, according to a ballistics report. The victim was able to provide some details about the shooter, and images were released.

More than one appeal was aired on "America's Most Wanted Show," which generated tips, but no answers.

In 2006, due to new technology in DNA, investigators began resubmitting evidence recovered from the crime scene, believed to be left behind from the suspect, said Stevens. From that evidence, the double homicide was linked to an unsolved murder in Greenville, S.C., from 1990.

"Since then we've been working in conjunction with South Carolina and, as you can see, numerous agencies here locally," said Stevens.

He noted that those involved in the case are taking advantage of all the advances in technology possible. "This is ground that hasn't been plowed before," he said.

For instance, there is software that can match those who live in this area and had ties to South Carolina in 1990.

"That's going to be the gist of this investigation," he said. "We're gong to start contacting these people and see if we can establish a link to these two locations and crime scenes."

Cooper also told those at the conference that on Saturday, a computer message was sent out, asking other agencies with similar homicides to get in touch with them.

"Leads are coming in, and we will follow them," he said.

Stevens said it could take days or even weeks to follow all of the leads.

"This is not going to stop today -- this is going to be an ongoing process until we eliminate everything that has been presented to us," he said. "Hopefully, we'll come to a conclusion and we'll arrest somebody before it's over with."

Stevens, who has been the sheriff for eight years, but worked as a special investigator for the prosecutor at the time of the murders, said he is "guardedly optimistic," that something will come out of the leads. "I'm excited that we have something fresh and new that hasn't been tried yet," he said. "Believe me, we have rehashed and recovered every piece of evidence, every lead and every interview that has been presented to us in the past 10 years."

Solving the crime will bring closure to many -- not just the victims' family, but also the residents of Portageville.

"This crime just gripped the entire community with fear," said Stevens. "I think (solving it) will bring somewhat of a piece of mind again."

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