Shannon Marie Sherrill (Aug 12, 1980 – missing Oct 15, 1986) was six years old when she vanished. She was last seen at her family’s trailer home yard on 600 Plum Street, Thorntown, Indiana, on October 15, 1986.
Around 130pm, she was outside with about ten other children. They were playing hide-and-seek. Shannon went missing while she was behind the trailer. Nobody saw her leave the yard. Nobody heard anything or saw anything.
Shannon lived in the trailer with mom Dorothy and younger brother David. She went to kindergarten at Thorntown Elementary School. Her parents are divorced and father Mike Sherrill lives in Tipton, Indiana.
Both mom and dad passed polygraph tests, are not considered suspects in this case, and have given their DNA for comparison in databases.
The authorities consider this a non-family abduction. Police used K9 units. The bloodhounds did catch Shannon’s scent and followed it to a nearby cornfield and a cemetery. Unfortunately, then they lost her trail.
When Shannon went missing we didn’t have Amber Alerts, social media, no DNA testing, and officers had less well-developed training in child abduction cases than they do now. There are discussions in the public domain whether police did all they could and whether all they did was done fast enough. Should they have gotten other agencies involved? Should they have gone national with what they knew? In hindsight, it is easy to judge but absent evidence of neglect or incompetence we should give them the benefit of the doubt.
David Elliot Penton, a convicted child murderer, was briefly considered a suspect. He stopped cooperating with police. He has made the claim to “tell all” before he dies though. He was never charged in Shannon’s case. Just do a quick internet search and you will find a lot of information.
Dorothy on Penton
In the public domain are many articles that show you that Dorothy suffered immensely after Shannon disappeared. Her behaviour is clearly rooted in desperation, grief, and survivor-guilt. She has made remarks that are at face value strange such as “Shannon was more than likely alive for three days.”
She made this remark on the possible involvement of Penton. This “serial pedophile kidnapped her” and “drove her to Texas where he would do what he would do.” She may just have mulled over what could have happened and her statement should not be seen as evidence that she was somehow involved.
There is no evidence that Shannon was taken away by car. Nobody mentioned hearing or seeing a car near the yard. As Penton was never charged and the last articles about a possible connection date back to 2007 I am dismissing him (for now) as a person of interest in Shannon’s disappearance.
In July 2003, a woman named Donna Lynette Walker contacted the Sherrill family pretending to be Shannon. She called, emailed, and even sent them pictures.
Walker ended up being charged with a dozen felony counts of identity deception and false informing.
She pleaded guilty but mentally ill to the charges in April 2004.
She received a sentence of 18 months in prison for attempted identity deception and misdemeanor false reporting. Ten other charges against her were dropped. Walker served just nine months in prison before she was released on probation.
Shannon is white, was 3 feet high when she vanished and was about 30 lbs. She has brown hair with blue eyes. She has a four-inch scar (surgery, accident?) on her abdomen and her ears are pierced. At the time that she went missing she was an extremely shy child. She was wearing a white sundress with a blue trim. No socks and no shoes.
Note: considering that Shannon was petite for her age there is a chance she is buried somewhere and listed as unidentified in a category that fits her height/weight versus age.
If you have any information about this case please contact the Thorntown Police Department at 317-436-7677.