Overview of Cherryl Lamont Pearson
Where is Dr. Cherryl Lamont Pearson?
By any family's estimation, Cherryl Lamont Pearson might be considered to be the ideal daughter. It can certainly be assumed this was true for her educator parents, Leon and Hazel Pearson. The youngest of three, Cherryl took education very seriously, graduating from Jackson Central Merry High School in 1982 and then attending the University of Tennessee, where in 1987 she earned a degree in Chemical Engineering. Cherryl then switched focus and attended Meharry Medical College, an HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) in Nashville. After earning her medical degree, she moved to the Memphis area in the late 1990s and worked as a pediatrician, living in the city of Bartlett, TN.
By those who know her, Cherryl is universally perceived as a sweet person who loved her profession. She is described as genuine, down-to-earth, and a comfort to her patients. It's likely her empathy for her small charges who were sick and frightened came from her own childhood experiences. Though Cherryl had a happy childhood, she faced medical challenges from a young age. Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes since childhood, Dr. Cherryl was uniquely positioned to connect and empathize with her little patients. Besides her profession and family, Cherryl had another great love - the Memphis Grizzlies, the city's NBA basketball team. A former basketball player herself and a season ticket holder, Cherryl often attended games at the Memphis Pyramid to watch her team play.
37 years old at the time of her disappearance, Dr. Cherryl Lamont Pearson has pierced ears and a long dark birthmark on one side of her face. She was born with a condition called polydactyly, meaning she has a very small sixth digit on each hand, but it doesn't seem to have had a negative impact on her life or her career. Cherryl is 5'6" - 5'7" and weighed roughly 160 lbs in 2002. She drove a dark blue 2001 Audi, and managed her severe diabetes by means of an insulin pump. Declared legally dead in 2009, her family has never stopped searching for answers.
January 4, 2002 was a normal Friday night for Dr. Cherryl Pearson
Fiercely independent, single, and supremely comfortable in her own company, she frequently went to basketball games by herself, though sources confirm she had a boyfriend at this time. But that night - as she often did - she attended a Memphis Grizzlies basketball game at the Pyramid alone. While at the game she talked to her mom on her cell phone, telling Hazel she felt a bit lightheaded and weak, but that it was nothing to worry about. After a tough loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Cherryl drove home from the game at 10:30pm and met her friend Andrea Fox and another female friend at her house to hang out for a while. Her friends did not notice anything wrong with Cherryl, so apparently she was feeling better than she had earlier that evening. The women visited until about 1:00am, when Cherryl mentioned that while she was looking forward to babysitting for her sister Laurinda’s children, she'd better pack it in because her sister would be dropping off the kids early the following morning. When Andrea and her friend left at 1:00am on January 5, 2002, they never dreamed they'd be saying goodbye to their friend Cherryl for the last time.
The next morning as pre-arranged, Laurinda Hildreth arrived at her sister's house to drop off her children but found no sign of Cherryl or her car. Laurinda immediately knew something must be wrong because Cherryl would never leave her sister without a babysitter. Given the severity of Cherryl's Type 1 diabetes, she feared her sister may have had a medical emergency - perhaps even while driving - leading to a car accident. Laurinda reported Cherryl as missing to the Bartlett Police Department, who immediately took the report. When they entered her home, upsetting details emerged. Cherryl's cell phone and pager were found on the dining room table, and her life-saving medication was left behind as well - especially concerning since Cherryl was on-call at the hospital that weekend. Police began their investigation immediately, securing Cherryl's phone records and discovering that she had received a call at 1:58 am on January 5, about an hour after Andrea and the other friend left. The late-night (or, more accurately, early morning) call was traced back to a public pay phone at a convenience store in a Citgo gas station about a half a mile from Cherryl's residence, within walking distance of her home. Surveillance was not successful and the phone was dusted for prints, but nothing useful resulted. It was confirmed that Cherryl answered the call, but sources vary on the length of the call. Most sources stated that the call lasted only 5 seconds, but at least one other source indicated the call lasted two minutes. It was assumed that sometime between 2:00am and 7:00am on January 5, 2002, Cherryl got in her dark blue Audi and left her home. Whether it was a voluntary or forced action no one can say for sure, but the act of leaving her cell phone and pager - not to mention her insulin pump - was very troubling.
On January 7 - two days after she was reported missing - Cherryl's car was spotted in a parking lot of the nearby Quail Ridge Apartment complex off Egypt Central Road, about a mile north of where she lived. Adding to the concern of authorities was what was - and wasn't - found in the car. Inside the trunk, police found the Grizzlies tickets to the game Cherryl attended on Friday night, her car keys, a medical bag with some personal items, and $140 in an envelope. What authorities didn't find was a single fingerprint - the car was pristine, as if it had been spotlessly cleaned and detailed after it had been used. Even Cherryl's prints were absent. This discovery served to pivot police's focus from a medical emergency/accident or voluntary disappearance to foul play. They ruled out a robbery gone wrong, given the cash locked in the trunk. Detectives interviewed residents of the apartment complex, but no one seemed to have seen or heard anything, and could not pinpoint when the blue Audi had appeared. Investigators also spoke to the man that Cherryl was dating, but he was quickly cleared of involvement due to having an alibi and no motive to abduct or harm her.
Where the case stands today
In the early days of the investigation, authorities questioned the family, focusing particularly on Cherryl’s brother-in-law, Charles “Chuck” Hildreth, Laurinda’s husband. Laurinda had been named beneficiary of Cherryl’s $150,000.00 life insurance policy, with the funds intended for the children. Learning Hildreth had a criminal past and was currently out on bond for an armed bank robbery for which he was later convicted, police followed this lead. While they stopped short of naming Hildreth a suspect, they leaned on him pretty hard and named him a person of interest. Hildreth eventually provided an alibi and was ultimately cleared of all suspicion.
In 2006, Cherryl's case was featured at the end of the television show "Without a Trace" along with other real-life missing persons cases, but no leads emerged. Also in 2006 Cherryl's parents chipped in to increase the initial reward of $25,000 offered by the State of Tennessee to $41,000, hoping that a bigger reward might garner some new leads. Over the next few years, however, Cherryl's case went ice cold, and in 2009 the family took the difficult step and had Cherryl declared legally dead. In December of 2010, hope briefly sparked when hunters found human remains near Bartlett in Lakeland, TN, which was about 10 miles from where Cherryl had lived. However, it was quickly determined that the bones did not match those of a Black female. In 2013 police received a new lead when an inmate reached out to authorities and said that he spoke with a fellow inmate who knew what had happened to Cherryl. This person produced a letter and had some details tying Cherryl's disappearance to some women in Georgia, who were alleged to have information about what had happened the night Cherryl vanished. Though law enforcement followed up on this new lead, it too ultimately went nowhere. After that, whenever the media reached out to the family they declined to speak, most likely due to absolute emotional exhaustion and disappointment with the lack of movement in the case. At around the same time, Cherryl's cold case had been taken over by an investigator just a few months before he retired from the Bartlett police department to take a job with a different state agency. Disturbed about the way the family had been treated by some members of his (former) department, this investigator slowly won back the family's trust and full cooperation by treating them with the respect they had always deserved. In addition to leveraging social media by creating a public Facebook page, this investigator also pushed the $41,000.00 reward and began receiving some credible tips that might bring resolution to Cherryl's loved ones. Though no longer with the Bartlett PD, he continues to monitor the Facebook page to this day, and forwards any information received to the current lead investigator on the case. As of 2022, authorities have named no suspects and have received no new leads in the disappearance of Dr. Cherryl Lamont Pearson, although her case remains open.