In February of 1980, Cheryl Jones (first picture) told her family and friends that she felt blessed. She had a happy marriage and just two months before had welcomed her first daughter, Amanda. That month she was also approached by a woman who identified herself as Sally, who claimed she worked for a magazine and wanted to take a picture of Amanda to enter it in a contest of beautiful babies. Cheryl believed her.
Then, on March 7th, 1980, Sally picked up Cheryl and Amanda from their house to take them on a shopping spree they had supposedly won for participating in the contest. The next day, a taxi driver delivered Amanda to Cheryl’s husband Dennis, claiming a woman had given him the baby with the instruction to take her to him. The woman had said she’d bought the baby, but felt guilty because she knew she had been stolen.
In the meantime, Cheryl was found by a maid of a Houston hotel in her room. She had overdosed on barbiturates and her wrists were slashed. Behind there was a suicide note that said she had left her husband for another man. Police were suspicious, but since the medical examiner had ruled the death as a suicide, their hands were tired.
What they didn’t know then was that only two months before Cheryl’s death, a similar situation had happened in Athens, Alabama. Geneva Clemons had been approached by a woman who wanted to take pictures of her newborn James for a magazine. She was very insistent, and when Geneva finally told her off, the woman had shot her, killing her in her very front yard in front of her young daughters (one of them, Tracy, is pictured in the second row to the left), and taking James with her. The baby was later found, alive and abandoned on a country road.
The two cases weren’t linked until 1985, where a tip led police to a woman called Jackie Schut. Jackie was a real piece of work, and among her many crimes she molested her own daughters and let others abuse them too. She had come up with the idea to steal babies and sell them, and that’s how she’d ended up killing the two mothers. Her ex husband, who’d helped her in the crimes, testified against her in her trial, as also did her older daughter, who’d witnessed Geneva’s murder. In 1987 she was found guilty and convicted to life in prison plus 20 years.
Cheryl’s daughter Amanda, now in her thirties, has a tumblr in which she’s chronicled some of her quest to shed light on her mother’s murder.
This story was also told in the book Lying in Wait, by Ann Rule.