EAST BUTLER (KDKA) – Saturday marks 35 years since eight-year-old Cherrie Mahan disappeared as she got off the school bus near her home in Butler County.
Her disappearance has not been solved.
Cherrie’s family and friends held their second annual remembrance dinner at an East Butler restaurant Saturday to share memories and kind words about her.
About 30 people, including Cherrie’s mother Janice McKinney and several of her friends, gathered to honor their missing loved one.
Tiffany Howes, Kelly Jerry, Jennifer Morgan, and Heather Schwartzbauer are four of Cherrie’s childhood friends.
They spoke publicly for the first time to KDKA about the impact her disappearance had on them.
“That day changed all of our lives,” Howes recalls of February 22, 1985.
Each woman has different vivid memories of that day.
“I was actually celebrating my tenth birthday on that day and Cherrie was going to come to my birthday party,” Morgan said. “Obviously it was canceled because our parents were out looking for her, which that’s something I’ll never forget.”
Cherrie’s friends recalled trying to cope with her disappearance while they were just children themselves.
“Who would do something like that to a kid,” Schwartzbauer remembers asking her mother. “She said that was the first time she had to have a tough conversation like there are bad people in the world.”
Now, Cherrie’s friends are mothers themselves.
They say after having kids, their hearts break even more for Cherrie’s mother.
“It’s the only thing I could take from it was to protect my children,” Morgan said. “I needed them to understand that unfortunately there is evil out there.”
McKinney spoke to the group Saturday, saying she has suffered a terrible heartache over the past 35 years, but she was thankful to see her family show their support.
She added she lives through Cherrie’s four best friends and gave them advice as mothers.
“My advice to them was just to be there with them,” McKinney said. “Spend time with them because you never know when something is going to happen, and that’s going to be taken away from you.”
For nearly forty years, the friendship among the four women has remained strong, and the search for Cherrie hasn’t stopped.
“We just want closure,” Howes said. “We just want to find her.”