Caught between two lovers, Sherri’s heart sank, along with her body… DEPTH OF DESPAIR
Reggie was so thrilled about the girl he’d just met that he could hardly get his words out. ‘She’s beautiful,’ he told his mum, Portia Shipman. ‘And smart, too.’
Portia thought she’d heard it all before, but Sherri Jackson, 27, was different. She had a lovely face and a nature to match.
A health worker, caring for elderly folk in Greensboro, North Carolina, everyone adored her.
But Sherri was torn between two lovers – Reggie and wannabe rapper Decarlo Bennett, 27.
Reggie was devastated when Sherri ended their romance, but Portia told him to hang in there.
She loved Sherri and was sure she and Reggie were meant to be.
On 21 November 2006, Sherri was helping her mum, Clara, get ready for Thanksgiving.
Sherri flaunted her engagement ring from Decarlo, but, three months pregnant with his child, she knew she’d made a big mistake.
He hit her, but she was too proud to tell anyone.
There was a glimmer of hope, though. Reggie had invited her to a party that night.
She really wanted to see him again, and maybe they could get back together?
When Sherri didn’t show, Reggie banged on her door, but he got no reply. Decarlo seemed worried, too. ‘Is Sherri with you? I’ve been looking for her,’ he asked her dad, Mcarthur, that night.
Next morning, when Sherri failed to turn up at work, her family reported her missing to the police, who broke into her flat.
The place was a shambles – there’d clearly been a fight in there – but the bathroom was absolutely pristine.
Yet, even after the most meticulous of clean-ups, chemical tests illuminated traces of blood.
‘Wow! I’ve never seen a crime scene light up like this,’ said one detective.
Decarlo was questioned and, when officers opened his car boot, they reeled at the unmistakable stench of a dead body.
But Decarlo said that, on the night she’d gone missing, Sherri had been chopping up meat and had cut herself badly.
He said he staunched her wounds with rags and then threw them in the boot – that must be the reason for the smell.
The police didn’t believe him, but without a body they could do nothing.
Meanwhile, Reggie’s mum, Portia, had a weird dream in which Sherri came to her.
‘You can find me,’ Sherri had said. ‘Just don’t stop looking.’
Convinced Decarlo had killed her, police hassled him every day.
In December 2006, eight days after Sherri went missing, he fled. The police caught him and held him on suspicion of Sherri’s disappearance, but he denied any involvement.
‘I felt like there was no life left in me,’ said Sherri’s mum, Clara. ‘I wanted her body… to bring her home for a decent burial.’
Police dug deeper and found a 911 call made from Sherri’s apartment shortly before she disappeared.
She alleged abuse from Decarlo but, when officers turned up, she dropped it.
Without her body, detectives doubted they could ever build a case. But, 19 months later, there was a game-changer.
Decarlo’s lawyer contacted the District Attorney’s office with a deal. Decarlo would admit involvement and lead them to Sherri’s body in exchange for a plea bargain – a lesser sentence versus life without parole.
The department wanted to nail Decarlo for murder, but they left the final decision to Clara and Mcarthur.
With heavy hearts, they decided they wanted their daughter home more than anything else.
Sherri’s skeletal remains were found buried in the back garden of Decarlo’s mum’s home. Sherri’s parents, sister and two brothers were there to see her body raised from the ground. So were Reggie and Portia.
In June 2008, Decarlo admitted second-degree murder and was sentenced to 13 years.
The court was told that he beat Sherri up, strangled her and left her body in his car for several days before he buried her.
Her name lives on in the Sherri Denese Jackson Foundation For The Prevention Of Domestic Violence, set up by Clara and Portia. Portia said that, as she watched police recover the body, ‘A tear left my eye and hit the ground. ‘The voice of Sherri came into my head and it said, “I knew you would find me. Thank you.”’