When a mother and police officer disappeared one autumn day in October 2008, the community was left with a million questions. The way she left home and the things she left behind, made everyone wonder what her intentions were.
Ten years later, she was finally found, probing further questions of what actually happened.
Human remains were found in rural Mason City, Iowa, and the State Medical Examiner’s Officer identified them as belonging to a woman named Cerilla Doyle. Doyle worked as an officer with the Pea Ridge Police Department and a sergeant from 1995 to 2008.
On May 20, 2018, the Cerro Gordo County Sheriff’s Office was informed of the skeletal remains discovered in the 2200 block of 275th Street in Mason City. The remains were then transported to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Ankeny, where an autopsy was performed on May 23.
According to Arkansas court documents obtained by the Globe Gazette, Doyle’s daughter, Danielle Doyle had talked with her on the morning of October 27, 2008, and reported her missing to the Bentonville Police Department.
Danielle lived with her mother at 503 N.W. B St. in Bentonville at the time of her disappearance. Court documents filed in April, 2008, detailed a timeline of events leading up to her disappearance.
Bentonville Police Department
On October 26, Doyle was seen walking out of the lobby of the Bentonville Police Department with a gun. Police reports regarding this event have been redacted, making it unclear why Doyle was at the police department that day.
When confronted by Officer Kristopher Moffit, Doyle told him she had been under a lot of stress after her husband’s death and that “her current boyfriend, Charles Thomas, was controlling, had an alcohol problem and she wanted to leave him.”
Moffit asked Doyle if she would be willing to go to a hospital to be evaluated, but she refused. Her daughter picked her up and took her home, but Moffit put her Colt pistol into evidence. Doyle allegedly refused to let her daughter take her to the hospital or stay home and miss work.
Having a concealed license permit, when Doyle’s gun was taken from her she felt embarrassed and ashamed. Further, Doyle’s husband died in February after suffering from diabetes for year, which caused her even more hardship.
Forced To Resign
After his death, Doyle was “forced to resign” from the police department due to her boyfriend, as explained on a message board by Doyle’s sister in law. Doyle had a lot going on and it was clear she was headed for trouble.
The following day, at around 7:30 am on October 27, 2008, Doyle called her daughter to tell her she had errands to run at the bank and post office and would have her phone turned off. Danielle worked as a 911 dispatcher and she had been at work since the prior evening.
But upon returning home, Danielle found her mother’s two vehicles parked in the backyard. Her mother left the title to one of the vehicles, a power of attorney and a check made for $27,067 to her daughter.
A receipt for a certified letter she sent her son, Cameron Clayton, was also found in the home, according to court documents. Doyle left her a to-do list that included tasks like “water the plants, take out the garbage, take care of yourself, and don’t take Chuck.”
It was reported that Doyle withdrew $1,000 from an ATM at Walmart in Bentonville that day and a receipt showed she bought a gear bag, hat, and a zip hoodie at the store around 9:40 am that day. She also purchased a ticket under the name of Deedra Corey at the Citgo Gas Station in Arkansas.
The bus was scheduled to stop in Joplin, Missouri, before heading to its final destination of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Despite purchasing the ticket, law enforcement was never able to confirm if she boarded the bus.
Charles Thomas, Doyle’s former boyfriend, told Danielle that if her mother killed herself, she would do it in the woods, in the middle of nowhere so no one could find her body for a long time. Thomas also told police that he hadn’t seen Doyle since he dropped her off at the police station the day before.
During the investigation into her disappearance, officers spoke to a woman who claimed Doyle was living under an assumed name, although she had not heard from her. Documents confirmed that Doyle sometimes went by the name Cerilla Ann Bolton.
The Means To Disappear
If Doyle wanted to disappear, she was a police officer and she had the knowledge and the means to do it. After searching her home, investigators discovered that Doyle left her identification, cell phone, and other personal items at her house.
This further eluded to the fact that she might be using her other name. At the home, officers also learned that Doyle was being treated for depression. But this doesn’t explain why and how police finally found her body some ten years after her disappearance.
Declaration Of Death
But before her remains were found, Doyle’s family was asking for her to be declared dead. Attorney Brent Johnson filed a petition of a declaration of death in Benton County Circuit Court ten years after Doyle went missing.
The petition was filed on behalf of Danielle Doyle. According to the petition, the entire family came to the conclusion that Doyle was dead. The petition sought a declaration of death so a death certificate could be issued and the family could have closure, according to court documents.
Unfortunately, the family received confirmation of Doyle’s death shortly after. An investigation conducted by the Bentonville Police Department determined Doyle left the area voluntarily and that no contact had been made with her since she went missing in October 2008, Iowa DCI said in a news release.
While there is currently no indication of foul play, the investigation into the circumstances surrounding her travels between Arkansas and Iowa remains ongoing.
The Pea Ridge Police Department wrote a tribute on their Facebook to Doyle: “The Pea Ridge Police Department would like to take the time to recognize Cerilla Doyle. Doyle served the citizens of Pea Ridge as an officer and a Sergeant.”
“We have learned of her passing and we want to take the time to express our sincerest condolences to Doyle’s family and friends. Doyle will always have a special place in the hearts of everyone here at PRPD and the City of Pea Ridge,” the department wrote.