Monday, January 15, 2007
Have you seen Cherrie Mahan?
Their stories are eerily similar, but only one, so far, has a happy ending.

When Ben Ownby disappeared in Missouri last week, Janice McKinney, a Pennsylvania woman, shed some tears at the thought of what he and his family must have been going through. Janice, after all, can relate. Her daughter, then 8-year-old Cherrie Mahan, was kidnapped more than two decades ago after getting off her school bus, just like Ben Ownby.

Cherrie, who now would be 30 years old, hasn't been seen since.

Like in Ben's case, there was a witness who saw a vehicle. A student from Cherrie's bus described a blue van with a snowcapped mountain and a skier painted on the side of it. Investigators never found the van. Janice McKinney lives with terrible guilt. It was the first time she hadn't picked up her daughter at the bus stop. She had given her permission to walk the 300 feet from the bus to her driveway.

Next month marks the 22nd anniversary of Cherrie's disappearance. She's happy that William Ben Ownby and another young boy, Shawn Hornbeck, were found. Janice told me it gives her hope that one day she'll have her little girl back too. "Twenty-two years later, I'm still searching for any kind of answer," she said.

As it turns out, Cherrie was the little girl who helped put a real face on missing kids. Hers was the first to appear on those "Have you seen me?" fliers you get in your mailbox.
Posted By Randi Kaye, CNN Correspondent: 3:39 PM ET
  18 Comments
My heart aches reading this. As a mother of 3, I can not imagine what these families have gone, and are going through. My thoughts and prayers are with them. My friends say that I am paranoid for wanting to know my 13 year old's every move (my daughters are 3 and 7 months), but I refuse to take for granted that it "could never happen to me." I know where every sex offender and criminal within a two mile radius of my house lives, and I teach my son to be aware of his surroundings at all times. It's a sad time we live in. I remember growing up in a community where we could leave the doors unlocked or crack a window for fresh air. Those days, unfortunately, are long gone. Keep your kids close and tell them you love them everyday.
Posted By Anonymous Francesca , Houston, Texas : 4:10 PM ET
This story brought tears to my eyes and a feeling of somehow we as a society must do more to collectively protect our children....But someone needs to tell us how.
Posted By Anonymous J Lloyd Shrader, Indianapolis IN : 4:17 PM ET
Janice,

Please know that I am praying for your daughter's safe return into your arms one day. I can not begin to imagine the pain you went through 22 years ago and still go through today. I am a father of 4 beautiful children, 3 boys and 1 girl ranging in ages from 1 to 7 years old. I try my best to always keep an eye on them but sometimes I lose track of one of them and I get a sick feeling in my stomach until I find them safe again. As parents we always want to be there for our children, to protect them and pick them up when they fall. If you are still felling guilty for not being there when your daughter got off the bus then just remember and dwell on all the times you were there for her. We can't be at our children's side ALL the time, we can only do what we feel is enough. You did enough, it was not your fault your daughter was taken! The person that stole your daughter from you will have his or her day in front of the Lord and their punishment will be far worse than any court could impose. God Bless you and your daughter, may she come home to you safe and sound one day.
Posted By Anonymous Chris Thompson, Janesville,WI. : 4:42 PM ET
I hope that Janice McKinney gets the answers she is looking for one day. Not knowing what happened to your child must be one of the worst feelings in the world.
Posted By Anonymous Susan, Sylvania, Ohio : 4:46 PM ET
they called it Missouri miracle and now I hope there'll be a Pennsylvania miracle too!

regards to Mr. Anderson Cooper and to the staff and crew of AC360.
Posted By Anonymous Jemillex Bacerdo Chicago, IL. : 5:00 PM ET
Hi Randi, My mom and I were just talking about Cherrie Mahan. We didn't remember her name, but we remembered hearing about the blue van with the mountain picture. Thank you for reminding us. Barbara
Posted By Anonymous Barbara Orchard Park, New York : 5:00 PM ET
I am so ovewhelmed with joy at the return of the two boys. I think that Shawn will have a tough time, I hope not but I can only imagine what he has been through. What is going through my mind is, how many others are out there? In so many cases these kids are just gone, no trace, no evidence and no body. My hope is that if there are others out there and they see this they will know that their families want them back no matter what.
Posted By Anonymous Julie Wichita, Kansas : 5:01 PM ET
I can not imagine such emptiness and pain. my heart and prayers go out to Cherrie's family, who have been through moree than most of us ever will. Keep up the hope, that is what keeps people going in times of uncertainty
Posted By Anonymous Pete, Denver CO : 5:05 PM ET
Hi Randi:
I'm beginning to think it doesn't matter how much we try to keep our kids safe or what we warn them about, there is always that one time, that one slip that leaves them open to danger. Things were so different when I was a kid and even when my grandchildren were little. Is it just that we've become more aware of these pedophiles or are the pedophiles becoming more cunning. How much do you tell your children without scaring them half to death or making them suspicious of everyone.
Posted By Anonymous Lisa Scarboro Ontario Canada : 5:17 PM ET
That is a very sad story Randi. I can't imagine going 22 years without any idea where your child is. Hopefully with this media attention someone will come forward with some new information. At least then her mother would know.
Posted By Anonymous Jess, Paris, KY : 5:29 PM ET
It is a tragedy whenever someone goes missing and isn't found without any answers, especially if they go missing for as long as these boys have. My heart goes out to each family who has a son/daughter that is missing to this day, and I pray for a safe return to each of their families.
Posted By Anonymous Jared, Somerville, MA : 5:51 PM ET
My heart aches for these two boys.........I just hope the media will back off a bit...we don't need to know each horrible detail.....these kids don't need to see their faces splashed on every TV & magazine in the upcoming months......we need to let them be & get them whatever help they need to get through this......without the whole world knowing everything that happened to them....
Posted By Anonymous Michelle, Salem, NH : 5:53 PM ET
A ski logo with a snow capped mountain is Sugarloaf mountain, in northern Maine. It is a very recognizable ski logo. I sure hope that area of Maine was investigated at that time.
Posted By Anonymous phil mccabe, naples, florida : 6:06 PM ET
Randi,

Your piece on Cherrie reminded me of the disappearance over 25 years ago of my husband's cousin also in Missouri. She had just graduated from college and a guy was bugging her asking her out and she was trying to dissuade him. She vanished into thin air and with no evidence of foul play they couldn't hold the guy. Everytime a body was found in the Mississippi River the press contacted the family asking did they think the body was hers. It was awful. No matter what age your child is snatched the pain and hurt goes on and on and you wonder where they are. I am so glad that these families had different outcomes. Just when we say there are no miracles, there you go.
Posted By Anonymous Charlotte D, Stockton CA : 6:11 PM ET
The world has become a terribly frightening place for children.My siblings and friends could travel all over the city to shop, see friends,take in the sites.These days a child is a target of crime playing right outside their front door or walk-
home from school.You do everything you
can to make sure they are safe and things continue to happen on any given
day ,somewhere in this country to some-
ones child.I worry from the time my
child leaves home until he/she returns.
The world is so very different and this makes me very sad.Overprotective??
You can't be anthing but overprotective.
Posted By Anonymous Betty Philadelphia,Pa. : 6:37 PM ET
Hi Randi-22 years is a long time to have to wait for news. Thank goodness those boys were found. I still always tell my kids to walk with a buddy and stay in lit areas. They are 19. Hopefully we will continue to stay alert use the amber alert system and teach our kids to be more aware of their surroundings. Thanks also to people like John Walsh and the media who get info and photos out quickly, to help in the search.
Posted By Anonymous Kathy Chicago,Il : 7:04 PM ET
A childlike innocence is one of the most precious gifts children are given. To be stripped of that gift is a terrible thing. The trust these children have in people will take years to be replaced. It is so disheartening to hear these stories but at the same time so necessary because we need to get the word out about missing children and now adults like Cherrie Mahan. I�m just so saddened to know that each of these children will lose some of their innocence if not their lives. How can these people do such a thing? What can we do as a society to begin to stop this from happening?
Posted By Anonymous Teresa, San Francisco CA : 7:19 PM ET
Hey Randi,

It is a long time to be wondering where your child is,22 years! When I watch faces of children missing, I always find myself thinking how, if you find them, do you reconcile the fact that you have missed periods of your child's life? But most of all, how do you live every day knowing that your child is out there, but you don't know where or in what conditions. I hope they'll find answers.

Joanne R.
Laval Quebec
Posted By Anonymous Joanne R. Laval Quebec : 11:13 PM ET
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