New details may shed light on Mahan case

Chuck Biedka
| Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011

Investigators are hopeful new information may help them to solve Cherrie Mahan's disappearance in Winfield more than a quarter century ago.

The 8-year-old girl walked off a school bus along Cornplanter Road in the Cabot neighborhood of Winfield and into an enduring mystery on Feb. 22, 1985.

Now, almost 26 years later, someone has come forward with "information potentially crucial to the investigation in the future," said state police Trooper Bob McGraw of the Butler station.

There is "no guarantee" that the information will solve the case, McGraw said, "but we're optimistic."

McGraw declined to provide details, but said troopers will be "actively and aggressively pursuing the case."

Mahan's mother, Janice McKinney now of Saxonburg, said she hasn't been told about the new information but she knows state police and others still are trying to find answers.

"We just want to know exactly happened to her," McKinney said. "That's the hardest part. Not knowing is what kills you."

Cherrie's case remains of interest to the National Center on Missing and Exploited Children, too, said Ernie Allen, who is the center's president and chief executive officer.

Cherrie was the first child ever featured on mass-mailed cards sent for the center, a nonprofit organized a few months before in 1984.

Today, the cards are sent to at least 84 million people and lead to children being found. The center also has a network of investigators, computer specialists and retired police who offer to help current investigators.

The center's network, called Project Alert, has contacted McGraw.

McGraw said there still is a chance that Cherrie is alive.

If she is, Cherrie Mahan would be 33. The center has circulated age-progression photos of what she might look like as well as a grade-school photo taken the year that she disappeared.

Cherrie was 4 feet, 2 inches tall and weighed about 68 pounds. She had brown hair and hazel eyes.

McGraw has been the lead investigator on the case since late last summer.

CNN plans report

CNN is doing a month's worth of specials on cold cases, and said the Cherrie Mahan case is "most intriguing to them," McGraw said.

The episode on Cherrie was set to air 10 p.m. Thursday, but a CNN reporter on the network's Northeast desk said Tuesday that the Arizona shootings may delay the series.

He referred calls to the CNN public relations department, which didn't return calls for comment about its schedule.

McGraw said the new information about the case was given to state police well before CNN interviewed troopers and others involved in the case including Mahan's family.

Additional Information:

Call with information

Anyone with information about Cherrie Mahan is asked to call state police at 724-284-8100 or 1-800-THE-LOST. To read about her, click here and search for her name.

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