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Family clings to hope after missing girl hoax

Mike Sherrill and his stepdaughter Kelly Clark
Mike Sherrill and his stepdaughter Kelly Clark

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(CNN) -- Mike Sherrill of Indiana was hoping a Kansas woman who called him -- claiming she was his missing daughter Shannon -- was telling the truth. Shannon has been missing for 17 years. But the call turned out to be a hoax and now police are looking to arrest Donna Walker.

Thursday morning Sherrill and his stepdaughter, Kelly Clark, talked to CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien about the painful experience. Below is a partial transcript of that conversation.

O'BRIEN: Sherrill and his stepdaughter Kelly Clark join us from Lebanon, Indiana, this morning. And good morning to both of you.

Mr. Sherrill, I think I speak for so many people when I tell you that we are so heartbroken for you after this news. We'd been so excited that maybe your daughter was coming home and to watch that press conference yesterday was just heartbreaking.

Are you disappointed this morning, sad? Are you angry at this woman who has perpetrated this hoax upon you?

SHERRILL: All of that and more.

O'BRIEN: So how are you doing today?

SHERRILL: I'm here. We're -- I'm still upset. I want this woman found.

O'BRIEN: Kelly, you actually spoke to the woman, and I'm curious to know what she said to you. She obviously was using a false name, but police now say she was Donna Walker.

How did she sound when you talked to her on the phone and what did she say?

CLARK: She told all kinds of stories, terrible stories. It made you think that you were watching a movie. There was no reason to doubt her because she... gave such detail about all kinds of things, other little girls that her new parents took that only lived with them for a year that she heard them tell that little girl that she was taken or that her parents didn't love her either and that's why they had her; that her new father was investigated for the murder of an 8- year-old girl two years ago. And she was very detailed.

She told me other kids that were playing with her when she was taken, when she was playing hide and seek. She described who was wearing diapers and she just described what all the kids were wearing. She went into great detail, great detail.

O'BRIEN: So she was incredibly convincing, wasn't she?

CLARK: Yes, she was very convincing. She even broke down and cried and said, ' I hear my birthday is August 12, and I just told my husband that I want to celebrate my real birthday with my real family.' And she started crying. She was very believable.

O'BRIEN: So now that you know it's a hoax, what's your reaction to having had that kind of long and emotional conversation with this woman?

CLARK: I just, I can't imagine how somebody could do that, how somebody could do that to somebody's family after 17 years and be so convincing at it. It's like she sat and practiced what she was going to say. And she never hesitated at any of the questions. She just flew out with it all. It just amazes me. I hope she's caught very, very soon.... And four years isn't enough.

O'BRIEN: Four years, you're talking about the time in prison that she could face, in fact, if she is convicted.


O'BRIEN: Do you think, Mike, she needs psychosocial help? Do you think this was just out and out cruelty?

CLARK: I don't know. I don't know. She sounded very normal to me. Intelligent was the word I was using on the phone. She sounded very intelligent, I kept saying, for all that she says she has gone through. And then at the press conference yesterday the authorities ... that they didn't think she was mentally disturbed.

O'BRIEN: I just wanted to get a final question for Mike, because I think it just shows such great optimism that one day your daughter will come home. You've said you think something good can come out of this.

What do you hope is going to happen because of this bizarre and truly horrible thing that's happened?

SHERRILL: I'm hoping that my daughter will see all this and she will stop to think could that be my mom and dad? Could that be my dad?

O'BRIEN: Kelly, before we let you go, just give me a sense of how devastating this has been for the family. Honestly, I've got to tell you, the people I talk with, just friends of mine, we just cannot imagine having lost your child 17 years ago and then going through this once again. It's just, it is just probably the most horrible experience you can imagine.

CLARK: I can't imagine it either, but watching Mike go through this is very, very hard, and he's being very strong right now through all of this. And he's a man on a mission. And that's the only thing holding him together now, doing all these interviews.

He wants this woman found. He wants, if Shannon, when, if she would see this show and see it and wonder, like he said, 'Is that my dad?' So there's a lot of good that can come out of this and he's a man on a mission.

O'BRIEN: Well, we certainly hope something good does come out of it. Mike Sherrill, Kelly Clark, thanks for joining us.

SHERRILL: Thank you.

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