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Posts in Cherrie Mahan online forum deemed fake by family, police investigating

A 1985 photograph of Cherrie Mahan alongside a computer age progression depiction of how she may look at age 33. Cherrie Mahan was 8 when she vanished from a Winfield Township school bus stop.

A person claiming to be Cherrie Mahan in a Facebook group last week was brought to the attention of state police, though family members said Friday, May 31, they did not believe it was the missing girl.

Cherrie was 8 when she disappeared from her bus stop at the bottom of her driveway in Winfield Township just after 4 p.m. Feb. 22, 1985, according to state police.

While new leads are always investigated, Cherrie’s mother Janice McKinney said she felt the posts made on May 23 were fraudulent.

McKinney said she always expects tips to come in around the anniversary of her daughter’s disappearance and her birthday. The timing of the new Facebook posts caught her off guard.

“In February and August, I expect craziness. This just hit me different,” she said. “I didn’t even see it. Someone called me and told me about it.”

An administrator on the “Memories of Cherrie Mahan” Facebook page wrote that the posts were “aggressive,” causing them to question their validity.

“If it was really her, she could present herself at any police office and arrange for a DNA test without reaching out to people online and making aggressive claims,” the post read.

The posts have since been removed, according to McKinney.

Trooper Bertha Cazy, public information officer for Troop D, said Friday troopers are investigating the claims from the posts.

“We are working with an out-of-state agency to positively identify the female. They have not made contact with her from the contact information she provided. The out-of-state agency is attempting to locate her,” she wrote in an email to the Eagle.

When McKinney saw the posts, one of which read “I am Cherrie Mahan” and listed a phone number, she said she knew right away the person posting was not her daughter.

“I truly believe she thought in her mind that she was Cherrie,” she said of the person making the posts. “It did not look anything like Cherrie at all.”

She explained that though Cherrie was only 8 when she disappeared, she was fully devoted to her Christian faith. The statements the impostor posted on their page did not match up with who her daughter was, according to McKinney.

“She knew she loved Jesus more than anything in her life and I just knew that what that person had to say was bad,” she said. “To me, it was just sounding like craziness.”

McKinney said she is frequently surprised by the audacity of people impersonating her daughter.

“If you wanted your 15 minutes of fame, you’ve already blown it,” she said. “People are mean, they are cruel, but this effects me really crazy. It’s gonna be 40 years since Cherrie’s been missing.”

McKinney said she has felt at peace about Cherrie.

“I’ve always felt that she was OK,” she said. “If she was dead, she is in heaven with my parents and my brothers. If she was alive, someone was taking care of her. I don’t know why I feel that way.”

She added that one of her deepest desires is to have every detective and officer who ever worked on Cherrie’s case hash out the details as a group.

“I wish that we could all get together and sit and talk,” McKinney said. “There’s something somebody missed somewhere, and somebody knows.”

For her, the hardest part always has been not knowing.

Despite all her pain, McKinney said she feels her unique situation could help others struggling with the loss or disappearance of a child.

“God has put me in this position to make sure no other person or family has to go through this,” she said.

Cherrie’s case is considered “active, not cold” by investigators.

Tips about Cherrie Mahan’s case can be submitted to the Butler state police barracks by calling 724-284-8100, through the website for National Missing and Exploited Children at missingkids.org, through Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-4PA-TIPS (8477), or on the website, p3tips.com.

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