Cherrie Mahan Disappeared in 1985 at Age 8 — Women Have Come Forward Claiming to Be Her

"I never left that house without her, we were always together, we grew up together, she was my life," said Mahan's mother.

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Jun. 6 2024, Published 1:34 p.m. ET

According to police reports filed by the Hollywood Police Department in Hollywood, Fla., on July 27, 1980, six-year-old Adam Walsh vanished from a Sears department store. He was there with his mother Revé Drew, who left Walsh playing video games with a group of boys while she inquired about purchasing a lamp. When she went to get her son, Drew was told the boys had been kicked out of the store after getting into an argument. A few weeks later, Walsh's severed head would be discovered 130 miles away.

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This story captivated the country and it eventually led to Walsh's father creating a show called America's Most Wanted, which premiered in February 1988. It also gave birth to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children which is still operational today. Sadly, none of this was available to the Mahan family after eight-year-old Cherrie Mahan disappeared in 1985. What happened to her?

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Cherrie Mahan's mother has one theory about who took her daughter.

"It's a torment, I've been tormented since the day she was taken," said Mahan's mother to CBS News in February 2020. "Is she alive, is she not alive, is she okay, is she not okay, is she with somebody are they taking care of her, are they not taking care of her?" Janice McKinney has never stopped searching for her daughter, even if it's something as simple as scanning every person she encounters in the world.

McKinney said her daughter was the kind of person who, if you called to her, she would assume you knew her. This has prompted questions that were still running in McKinney's mind more than 35 years later. Was Mahan abducted by someone she knew or did a stranger grab the unsuspecting child while she was walking to her house?

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Pennsylvania State Trooper Jim Long told the outlet that they still get tips about Mahan. For years they would look at any van matching the description of one that the other children on the bus claim was parked nearby. McKinney doesn't believe the conversion van described by the kids had anything to do with Mahan's kidnapping. She has a far more sinister theory about what happened.

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McKinney revealed that at age 16, she was raped which resulted in a pregnancy. Despite that horrific experience, Mahan was everything to McKinney. "I never left that house without her, we were always together, we grew up together, she was my life," explained McKinney. To no one's surprise, police never believed McKinney but she long suspected Mahan's biological father was involved in her kidnapping. State Trooper Long said he looked into Mahan's father but couldn't find any evidence supporting McKinney's theory.

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Sometimes people reach out to Janice McKinney, claiming to be her daughter.

The alleged Mahan sightings come in waves, from all over the country. There were two incidents out of Michigan and New Jersey which gave McKinney some hope, but ultimately they were dead ends. McKinney told CBS News that she once got a call at the nursing home where she worked from a woman claiming to be Mahan. This situation felt fairly convincing to Long who looked into it. He brought photos of this woman to McKinney and fingerprinted her, which proved it wasn't Mahan.

In May 2024, a woman claimed to be Mahan in a post to the Memories of Cherrie Mahan Facebook group, reported USA Today. McKinney is part of the group and as such, was aware of the post. She didn't believe that the woman was her daughter and posted in the group that the police had been contacted.

Evidently, the woman had been bullying others in the group and was soon blocked by the administrator, Brock Organ. He believes that if this person really thinks they are Mahan, they would submit a DNA test, otherwise they're merely seeking attention. Regarding instances like this, McKinney said, "This is very hard on me so please be aware I see everything."

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