A skull found in a restaurant flower box reignites debate over whether a Missouri man orchestrated his wife’s disappearance.
In Bridgeton, Missouri, at the Casa Gallardo Restaurant, two women having lunch noticed something strange outside the window. There, in the bushes, was a human skull. Police Chief Walter Mutert described the bizarre scene:
The skull, determined to be from an adult woman, went into the evidence room at the morgue and was soon forgotten. One year later, at a police station 25 miles away, a mysterious letter arrived. It stated, “The Bridgeton Police have L. Sherman’s skull.”
A missing person’s case suddenly became a puzzling murder mystery with many unanswered questions: What motive would someone have for leaving Linda Sherman’s skull outside the restaurant? Where was the rest of her body? And, most importantly, who was responsible for her death?
Linda was only 17 when she married Don Sherman, her high-school sweetheart. When her daughter Patty was born, Linda could always count on her mom to watch the baby while she completed her senior year. Don Sherman said he took a job at a local gas station to support his new family:
Money problems and working opposite shifts at their jobs strained the relationship. During the 10-year marriage, Linda took Patty and moved out several times, but the couple always reconciled. According to Linda’s older brother, Dennis Lutz, Don was obsessed with knowing Linda’s every move:
Linda told her family that she was afraid of Don’s violent temper. According to Sam Miller, Linda’s brother-in-Law, Linda once got a restraining order to keep Don away:
On April 22nd, 1985, Linda left her night job at around two in the morning. Don Sherman offered his account of that night:
Linda was lying on the sofa later that morning when her daughter Patty left for school:
That would be the last time Patty ever saw her mother. Don claimed that when he returned to the house that afternoon, Linda was on edge:
Don says Linda drove off at about 6 p.m., but there are no witnesses that saw her leave. Linda never arrived at work and never returned home. Don claimed to know nothing about her disappearance:
Linda’s brother, Sam, said he knew Linda had met a violent end:
Linda’s parents insisted that Don go to the police station to file a missing person’s report. Meanwhile, Sam and Fran searched frantically for Linda. On a hunch, according to Sam, they headed to the local airport:
Don claimed he saw Linda with another man in the days after her disappearance. He said that she drove past him in a van and quickly ducked out of sight. Don’s sighting was the last time anyone reported seeing Linda. Five years later, when the skull turned up at the restaurant, no one even thought it might be Linda’s. In what seems like a bizarre coincidence, Don revealed that the restaurant was one of his favorite hangouts:
No one made a connection until a year later, when the mysterious letter arrived at the Vinita Park police station. Lieutenant Michael Webb interpreted the display of Linda’s skull as a brazen message from her killer:
Don Sherman said he was just as incredulous as anyone:
Was it possible that the killer placed the skull there to threaten Don? Or did Don have a reason to put it there himself? Some speculated that Don wanted to remarry and needed proof that Linda was dead. Only one thing is certain: for Don, the skull provided the perfect piece of evidence. But for Linda’s daughter Patty, the find was devastating:
For Lt. Michael Webb, the evidence pointed in only one direction:
Don’s daughter Patty doesn’t see how it can be any other way:
And Don Sherman has never stopped proclaiming his innocence:
Police hope new technology in soil sampling will someday lead them to Linda’s body and, eventually, her killer.
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