Ep. 11: The Disappearance of Sherri Vanessa Holland

Editor’s Note

This episode contains some experiments. I was so focused on research and writing for this episode that I forgot to mention any of the following on the recording. Please let me know via the post comments, TwitterRedditFacebook or VOICEMAIL (another experiment I’ll announce in an upcoming episode) at 724-24-CRIME.

  1. The title: I’ve been trying to put as many victims’ names in the title as I can but at some point it just becomes too long. This time I’m focusing the title on the featured cold case. This partially to prevent crazy-long titles and partially to bring extra attention to the featured cold case because most if not all of the other crimes discussed are either under active investigation or have been solved and are awaiting prosecution.
  2. I read the intro this week instead of using the creepy augmented voice I’ve used previously.
  3. I’ve added bumpers between main segments of the show. It’s a few notes of melancholy, mysterious-sounding strings taken from Ofelia’s Dream by Benjamin Tissot.
  4. No background music in this episode.

Intro

Welcome to True Crime Review, an unflinching gaze into the depths of human depravity.

The podcast covers current crime news, updates on cold cases and resources for research and investigation.

True Crime Review often discusses disturbing and violent crimes, so listener discretion is advised.

Reviews

The following awesome people left five-star review on iTunes recently:

  • From the US: Bossypants16, Lo5972, Dirty713 and jlevesque
  • From the UK: Rita 2015 and S3ano222
  • From Australia: JodiJaseph

Thanks to everyone who has left a review, I read them all and take the feedback into consideration, even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts. But the five-star reviews will always get a quick shout-out here because who doesn’t love getting five stars for something they’ve done?

Show Updates

Patreon

We have a Patreon! As soon as I have my first patron I’m going to start doing a Patreon-exclusive extra episode every month. Just $1 a month gets you access to that feed. That money will always go into the podcast and you can read more about how over at the Patreon page, patreon.com/truecrimereview.

Find other ways to support us, including using our Amazon affiliate link, which costs you NOTHING, at truecrimereview.net/support.

Update on Chris Zahl, covered in Ep. 4

Someone named Rich Laue posted the following comment on the YouTube video of episode 4:

As a friend of Chris Zahl I can add a little more. He had found an out of the way field in a Monmouth County Park off of Red Hill Road about 2 miles from the farm, to grow his weed.. He contended this was for medical research, but spent time in jail. The PI, hired by Friends of Chris, feels his disappearance is related to the pot growing, considering that all they found was the items you mentioned, almost ones costly felt it was murder. The car had been sanitized, no dirt, hair or fingerprints could be found to identify who he might have been with or where the vehicle might have gone. . His brother is not a suspect, the farm was thoroughly searched, including the pond. The mother who our lives there husband’s has since sold the farm and lives in Red Bank. Texas also was brought into the investagation, but I’m not sure why.

Go have a listen to Episode 4 for more info and while you’re there you can read the info I included in the original story I did on Chris Zahl.

Podcast Recommendation

This time the podcast recommendation is Crime in Sports by comedians James Pietragallo & Jimmie Whisman. While I was born and raised in a football household (Go Eagles!) and played baseball and basketball for years (very poorly), I’m not that into sports. (Sorry Dad). BUT when you combine sports with true crime you have my attention. Pietragallo and Whisman always bring serious research to the table and manage to be funny without disrespecting the victims. So, even if you’re not a fan of sportsball, give Crime in Sports a try. It’s a great listen and because of the show’s premise it’s likely to cover a lot of crimes you’ve never heard about on the broader true crime podcast circuit.

Find Crime in Sports on AudioBoomPodbeaniTunesFacebook and Twitter.

News

  • Dylan Roof was found guilty on December 15 of 33 counts of federal hate crimes for the murder of 9 churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015. Roof, acting as his own lawyer now that the sentencing phase of his trial has started, told a judge on December 28, 2016 that he will not call witnesses or present any other evidence which might mitigate against the death penalty. Video of his confession to FBI agents can be found on the True Crime Review YouTube channel. Dylan Roof murdered Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middlton-Doctor, Clementa C. Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton and Myra Thompson. Other victims include Felicia Sanders, Polly Sheppard and several others who remain unnamed for various reasons.
  • In an unrelated story, on Monday, December 19, the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office in South Carolina conducted its Shop with the Sheriff program, during which the children and families of homicide victims met with deputies to shop for Christmas presents. A total of 25 children were given up to $100 each to pick out a present at a local Walmart.
  • In another totally unrelated story that also took place in South Carolina, on December 27 State House Representative Chris Corley of Aiken County, from Graniteville, was arrested for responding to his wife’s accusations that he has been cheating on her by punching her in the face and pointing a gun at her. He then threatened to kill himself. He did these things in the presence of their 2- and 8-year-old children. He was charged with first-degree criminal domestic violence, a felony that could get him 10 years in prison. He was granted $20,000 bond and will work while the charges are pending.
  • Five Albuquerque teens were charged with murder in early December after backing over 47-year-old father of three boys Hector Aguirre with his own work van, killing him. They had stolen the van and scared the man off by pointing a gun at him while he held onto the windshield wipers of the vehicle trying to stop the theft. They could easily have gotten away from him but decided to crush him under his own van anyway. Several of those charged had also been involved in a drive-by murder, the fatal shooting of a dog, and other crimes.
  • Felton Ladell Humphries Jr. was sentenced on December 9th to 69 years to life for stabbing his wife to death while she was holding their 5-month-old daughter, whom Humphries also deliberately stabbed. The child survived but 32-year-old Alicia Renae Williams died the next morning.
  • A judge in Ithaca, New York rejected the December 19th the guilty plea of 38-year-old Justin Barkley in the shooting death of 52-year-old William Schumacher while the seasonal UPS driver was on a break from his overnight route. The judge rejected the guilty plea because Barkley said he thought he had murdered Donald Trump. The next hearing in the indictment is scheduled for January 6th.
  • New Jersey State Police recently arrested 32-year-old Jeremiah Monell after the December 19th murder of his estranged wife and mother of his two children 35-year-old Tara O’Shea-Watson. Tara’s stabbing death was allegedly witnessed by the couple’s son who then went to find help for his mother. Monell has been charged with homicide and weapons offenses. His bail has been set at $1 million.

Human Garbage of the Week

Anthony Showers of Anfield, Liverpool, Merseyside in the United Kingdom, was sentenced to life in prison, with a 29-year-minimum. On June 12, 2016 he broke into the home of mother and daughter Karen and Jade Hales, 53 and 28 years old respectively, by breaking a rear bedroom window. Showers had dated Jade on and off but was banned from her home by a court order following a domestic abuse incident. He began by killing their dog with a hammer.

Showers then took the hammer to Jade, hitting her in the head 12 times and then, either while she was dying or very soon after she was dead, Showers raped her. Afterward, he found Karen downstairs. The mother was a stroke survivor who used a walker and depended on Jade for day-to-day care. He beat her to death with the same hammer he had used on her daughter.

Jade’s 21-year-old sister Amanda told the court:

The day she met Anthony saw Jade change from a fun-loving young woman to a scared, frail person. I watched him take every last piece of her until there was no more to take.

Anthony Showers is the worthless stinking rancid putrid Human Garbage of the Week. My heart breaks for Jade, Karen, Amanda and all of the other people Showers hurt.

Resource

This episode’s resource is an app called Safety Central by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Available on both iOS and Android, the app is a simple but potentially powerful all parents should take a look at. Here’s a quote from the app’s iTunes description:

Developed by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the leading nonprofit in the fight to keep children safe, Safety Central is designed to make sure that parents have the tools they need to help them protect their families and act quickly should their children go missing.

At the core of Safety Central is a digital Child ID Kit. One of the most important tools for law enforcement when searching for a missing child is an up-to-date, good quality photo along with descriptive information. A Child ID kit is a simple yet effective way to keep those tools right at your fingertips. The app, which does not share any of your personal information, reminds you when it’s time to update your photos and allows you to store potentially life-saving information about your children in an easily accessible location.

Get Safety Central free for iOS or Android and visit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at missingkids.com.

Cold Case: Sherri Vanessa Holland

[post at r/truecrimereview]

We discussed the murder of Sherri Holland by Steven Spears in Episode 9, but as one blogger notesthe disappearance of Sherri Vanessa Holland involved a different woman altogether. So we’re going to cover that in this episode.

Please note that while I have rewritten what follows and added and subtracted elements of the story, most of the info comes from the Charley Project and the tireless work of Meaghan Good.

Basics

According to the Charley Project, Sherri Vanessa Holland was born on May 9, 1962 and was 34 years old when she was reported missing on August 16, 1996. She is a white woman with blonde hair, blue eyes, weighed 115 pounds and was 5 feet 5 inches tall when she disappeared. She has a scar on her left arm and pierced ears. Holland had cosmetic facial surgery in 1995. Some agencies may refer to her as Vanessa Sherri Holland.

Sherri was in Flager Beach, Florida where she owned a vacation property, preparing to return home to Atlanta, Georgia when she was last seen between 11:30 AM and 12:00 PM. Her sisters reported her missing when she didn’t arrive in Atlanta. Her vehicle, a gold- or champagne-colored 1987 BMW 325i with Georgia plate BKT664, was discovered on August 24 (according to the GBI) or 25, 1996 near exit 76 between Macon and Atlanta Georgia. It was found on I-75 northbound in Morrow, Georgia. It had a flat as a result of a nail in the front right tire.

An Atlanta-Journal Constitution article dated August 20, 2001 says Sherri’s car was a 1985 model year BMW so it’s not clear which year is correct. It’s worth noting the same article states Sherri was last heard from on August 16, 1995 even though GBI records and all other sources state that the year was 1996. Bottom line is it seems like the AJC article wasn’t fact-checked very carefully, so keep that in mind.

Two miles from the car, in Riverdale, Georgia near the Stratford Arms apartments, her dogs were found in a field. Sadly one of them had died after being hit by traffic, but one of them was rescued and went to live with twin Sherri’s sister Terri. A resident of the Stratford Arms told police the surviving dog, named Gracie, had tried to get him to follow her into a wooded area across the street from the Stratford Arms. However, further investigation revealed no evidence about Sherri.

There must have been other search sites though. According to that dubious AJC article, as many as “seven searches of woods, ponds and a vacant warehouse, some with cadaver dogs, within a three-mile radius of Holland’s car turned up nothing.”

An anonymous tipster told investigators Sherri was seen near her car loading luggage into a white pickup truck on the day she vanished. Further investigation revealed no additional evidence and police could not corroborate the tip.

Sherri was apparently operating an escort service called Atlanta Super Models out of her house the year she disappeared and her business partner told investigators during interview that they had been in business since 1992 and he believed her murder was related to their work. The business partner spoke of her in the past tense. He claimed she had set up video surveillance around the escort service’s property and caught both employees and clients on video, later blackmailing them. The business partner claimed he had many people discuss killing Sherri.

Sherri had started dating a married man in 1989.

The man and his wife separated briefly in 1990 but eventually got back together. Sherri and the boyfriend had planned to marry in December 1996 but the boyfriend got cold feet and stayed with his wife. Apparently, at least according to the boyfriend, his wife never knew about his affair with Sherri.

He told police he and Sherri had argued about their relationship before she left for her vacation home in Florida. Having parted ways without resolving the argument, Sherri paged him around 11:30 AM and when he called her back she told him she would call when she got back to Atlanta. That was the last time he ever spoke to her.

Several people told investigators Sherri was depressed about things with her boyfriend and wanted out of the escort business. She had apparently mentioned Europe as an escape destination. Someone later gave authorities a recording phone call from September 1996 in which one of Sherri’s sisters says to an unidentified second person that it’s possible Sherri staged her own disappearance and escaped to Europe or elsewhere to start over.

A user going by the name anewday and claiming to have been an employee of Sherri’s posted on the missing persons forum Porchlight and suspects Sherri’s business partner, whom Anewday calls Jim:

I remember Sherri very well. She was beautiful, sweet and had a very sophisticated aire. I love this picture of her and Gracie (when she was a puppy). I worked for her for four years, but mostly knew her through her “business partner.” The whole time I worked there, she had very little to do with the business and was out of town a lot of the time.

I told the GBI everything that I knew about her and her disappearance, including the fact that Jim had acted extremely nervous and sketchy during the days following her disappearance. I don’t believe for one second that she was using video to blackmail her employees or their clients. If anyone did that, it was Jim. He had a whole suspicious backstory of who he was and where he came from. I’m fairly sure his name wasn’t Jim, either.

When he told me about her disappearance, he said she probably just wanted to leave town to get away from her life, and also, to make her boyfriend worry about her. It was well known that she was devastated about their relationship problems.

I never trusted anything about Jim. He would say terrible things about her, but at the same time, pretty much lived on her dime and the business she had started. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he finally decided to “take” the business all for himself. It was very profitable, and being that it was all under the table, he probably figured no one would take much notice.

I look online year after year to see if anything has come of the case. She was (hopefully IS) such a vibrant person. She positively radiated with life. I hope she IS living in Europe and is finally happy. God bless you Sherri.

Anewday created their forum account on the same day that they posted this message and never posted anything else at Porchlight, so this info should probably be taken with a whole shaker of salt.

Motives

Now we’ll discuss all of the motives I found in my research or came up with myself to make Sherri disappear. This section should probably be called “suspects” but I’m not in a position to suggest anyone is guilty of anything so I’m reluctant to call it that.

  • Motive 1: Sherri’s business partner “Jim” had a couple of possible motives. First, if the rumors are true that Sherri was blackmailing clients and employees she could have been damaging the business, driving Jim to get rid of her to save the business. Second, if Porchlight forum member Anewday is to be believed, Jim may have simply grown tired of Sherri’s absentee management and decided to take the business for himself. But while Anewday claims Jim was acting “extremely nervous and sketchy” after Sherri disappeared, he could have been expecting the investigation would lead authorities to his illegal escort service. That alone would be enough to be nervous about even if Jim had nothing to do with Sherri’s disappearance.
  • Motive 2: Sherri’s married boyfriend also may have had a motive. If Sherri threatened to tell his wife about their affair if he didn’t marry Sherri like they had planned, the boyfriend may have felt his recently reconciled marriage was in danger and took the extreme step of making Sherri disappear. We don’t even know his name though, so it’s hard to speculate on anything like his past, his personality or whether he had the opportunity to do anything to Sherri or to hire an uninvolved third party to do it.
  • Motive 3: If Sherri’s boyfriend’s wife had found out about the affair despite his claim that she didn’t know, her anger and jealousy may have motivated her to bring harm to Sherri herself, to demand her husband do it, or to hire an uninvolved third party to do it. I’m going to give the GBI the benefit of the doubt, even though I couldn’t confirm this anywhere, that they talked to Sherri’s boyfriend’s wife. She would have told them whether or not she knew about the affair and, if she hadn’t, I bet her initial reaction would have demonstrated as much to investigators.

These next two motives are weak but I’m including them for the sake of being thorough:

  • Motive 4: Sherri may have decided to escape her failed relationship and increasingly unwanted job by going to Europe, never to be heard from again. This is very unlikely to me though because she had no reason to abandon her car on the highway and even less reason to abandon her dogs. She could have left the dogs with one or more of her sisters and simply gotten a taxicab to the airport.
    • Related to this theory is the lead mentioned in the 2001 Atlanta Journal-Constitution articleI mentioned earlier: “Then there was the man who told investigators he had gone to college in Cobb County with Holland and recognized her on an Atlanta-bound airline flight from Texas last November. “He went up and spoke to her, and the woman looked up at him and went back to reading a book. She refused to speak,” [GBI agent Fred] Mays said.” This is more total conjecture, but I would imagine most people would politely say “no” or angrily say “leave me alone” depending on their personality type. But annoyance may explain her refusal to speak at all. This sounds like something that may have happened to the woman more than once. It’s very unlikely, in my opinion, that this was Sherri. After all, why make yourself vanish only to go no further than Texas? And why risk returning to Atlanta if you wanted so badly to get away from everyone and everything you knew? She certainly wasn’t returning to reunite with friends or family because this sighting occurred in November 2000 and she hasn’t been seen since 1996.
  • Motive 5: Serial killer Gary Michael Hilton may have counted Sherri among his victims. Websleuths member FigTree theorizes that several similarities between Sherri and Hilton’s victims suggest a connection. For example, Hilton told police during his confession of the January 2008 murder of Meredith Emerson that he could not bring himself to kill Emerson’s dog and let it go a few miles from the crime scene. Also, Hilton lived 22 minutes from Sherri’s Georgia residence and had killed at least one person, Cheryl Dunlap, in Florida. Dunlap’s car had been found by the side of the road with a flat tire, something Hilton did with a knife. Hilton confessed several murders to authorities so why not Sherri’s? I respect FigTree’s interest in the case and that sometimes we have gut feelings we just can’t shake, but I just don’t have the same feeling here. I watched, listened to or read transcripts of more than six hours of investigative interviews with Hilton in an effort to give this theory my full attention. If you want to dive deeper into the Hilton theory put forward y FigTree you can find all of the documents and videos about Hilton at hiltonevidencedocuments.blogspot.com.

My Theory

I wish I had a good theory on this one but first I’ll tell you what I think did not happen. I don’t think Sherri ran away to Europe or was murdered by Gary Michael Hilton. I also don’t see her boyfriend or his wife getting involved in a disappearance or murder without drawing significant attention from investigators and I couldn’t find anything that named them as suspects or made more than a brief mention about them. It’s hard for me to believe a couple who could barely keep their marriage in tact managed to commit the perfect murder and haven’t been suspected of it during the twenty year since.

Now, as for the two possibilities that look most likely to me:

  • My first theory: I do agree with FigTree on Websleuths that Fuquah Dewalt Cashaw, arrested at his home in Texas in February 2015 for the 1999 murder of 22-year-old Heather Danielle Davidson in Georgia, is worth a look with regard to Sherri’s disappearance. The last we heard of Cashaw he was out on bond after pleading not guilty to Davidson’s strangling death.
    • According to Click2Houston.com, “Cook County, Illinois, court records show in 1990 he was found guilty of murder and second-degree murder. In 2003 he was found guilty of unlawful use of weapon, and in 2004 he was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and concealment of a homicidal death.” He’s got both prior convictions and present charges that indicate he’s capable of murder, and Davidson’s body was found on a small and desolate stretch of Georgia road by a passerby, by accident. A tendency to take victims somewhere out of the way may explain why no sign of Sherri has been found at any of the leads uncovered by investigators: because they were all derived from some connection to Sherri, like where her car was found and where her dogs were found. A FOX 5 article quoteLieutenant Darrell Powers of the Butts County Sheriff’s Office as saying “Through the evidence that we recovered and the witnesses that we’ve interviewed, we believe that there are possible other victims out there.” That prompts me to keep this theory on the table.
  • My second theory: Sherri got a flat tire heading home from Florida to Georgia and an unknown assailant kidnapped or murdered her in a crime of opportunity. This one admittedly isn’t as compelling as the Cashaw theory but unfortunately, at least in my opinion, it’s at least as plausible.

If you have information about Sherri Vanessa Holland, contact Morrow Police at 770-960-3003 or the GBI Tip Line at 1-800-597-8477.


Cold Case Sources

These are listed in no particular order. I include both original source links and archive.is links, which preserve the page in case it is ever edited or deleted. I also add all my sources to the Wayback Machine on archive.org but you’ll have to do those searches yourself.

Credits

Our theme song is Our Planet is Lost by Entropy Audio. The bumper is a clip from Ofelia’s Dream by bensound.com.

Conclusion

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This is your host Joe, signing off of this episode of True Crime Review. Until next time remember, families deserve truth, and victims deserve voices.

8 thoughts on “Ep. 11: The Disappearance of Sherri Vanessa Holland

  1. Thank you for getting rid of that creepy voice at the beginning! You’ve got a great show, but that intro scared me when I was listening at night falling asleep. Every. Time. Keep up the good work otherwise!

    1. Ha, glad I’m not scaring you at bedtime anymore. I was wondering whether I’d get any feedback either way about that change and you’re the first person to mention it, so I suppose the anti-creepy voice camp is in the lead. Seriously, thanks for listening, it’s an honor!

    1. I haven’t, no. This is a side project so I don’t have the time to do the kind of in-depth research I really want to do. I just wanted to note the discrepancies I found.

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