It doesn’t matter how normal people appear on the outside, everyone has their secrets: things they keep hidden deep down inside that they don’t want anyone to know.
She was just a normal high-schooler living a normal suburban life. Yet, a dark secret lay at the heart of things. Behind the fair facade of all that normality, a desperation loomed and before long it would bubble to the surface in the worst way possible…
Long Island Cheerleader
Cheryl was sixteen years old and on top of the world. At school, the Long Island teen was well-liked, popular, intelligent, and possessed of dozens of good friends. Her loving boyfriend, Robert, was the cherry on top of her already stellar life. Despite all these blessings, however, Cheryl was not happy.
You see, Cheryl had a secret, one that she’d held onto in silence since the tender age of 11, when her father James began physically molesting her. Cheryl’s mother had been sick since that time and was entirely unaware of the abuse. In fact, the first incident had begun whilst on the way to the hospital to visit her…
If Cheryl’s school life was heaven-on-earth, her home life was a living hell. James Pierson would often force his preteen daughter onto the bed and make her pretend that he was her boyfriend. This didn’t end when she got a real boyfriend either. It didn’t matter who she was seeing, when she was home, he would subject her to all manner of intercourse, sometimes even twice a day.
The abuse didn’t end in the bedroom either. Unfortunately for Cheryl and her younger siblings, James Pierson had a ferocious temper and a hair trigger. One time, Cheryl gave a Valentines card to a boy he didn’t approve of and he got so mad he punched her right in the face. Scrapes, bruises, and black and blues were common badges of her resistance: but still, nothing was done…
If James felt that Cheryl was fighting or acting out of place, the beatings would continue. If he didn’t hit her, he would take it out on her dog, Cocoa. He once kicked Cocoa so hard that she sat by the wall and cried for hours. To make the punishment that much worse, he even forbade her from going near to comfort the wounded animal.
Death in the Family
Then, as if things couldn’t get any worse: Cheryl’s mother passed away. She hoped that sharing in the grief and loss would bring them closer together and end the abuse once and for all. She was wrong. If anything, the abuse became much more frequent and much more violent…
Need it to Stop
Sean Pica was in homeroom with Cheryl and the two talked often about their myriad of personal problems. This particular morning, they spoke about a recent hitman murder. Cheryl spoke about her father and how she wished someone would kill him. She didn’t know it then, but Sean had taken that offhand remark to heart.
Cheryl had been able to withstand her father’s abuse and suffer in silence for years, because she was strong. But soon after her mother’s death, her father’s wandering eyes began to settle disquietly upon her 8-year-old sister. When she came home one afternoon to find James and the girl “roughhousing” on the carpet, she knew that it was time to do something: before it was too late…
Asking a Friend
Cheryl was not about to let her innocent little sister go through the horror she had gone through for the past five years. Her and her boyfriend Robert went to Sean and asked him if he had been serious when he spoke about hiring someone to kill her father. Sean said he would do it for $1000 and Cheryl immediately agreed.
It was February 5, 1986 and it was a blustery winter afternoon. Sean Pica sat behind a tree on the Pierson’s property. He was holding a loaded .22-caliber rifle. As soon as James stepped out the front door, Sean thought of all the terrible things he had done to his friend, and shot him dead…
Caught by Rumors
Rumors are sticky things which fly fastest when spread by gossip. There is no place in the world with more effective gossip than a high school. Before long, Cheryl’s classmates began to recall hearing her, Robert, and Sean talking about hitmen. It was only a matter of time before someone went to their parents about it. Cheryl, Sean, and Robert were arrested the very next week.
They were caught red-handed and so both Cheryl and Sean pleaded guilty to manslaughter almost immediately. However, as evidence of James Pierson’s sexual abuse began to come to light, a few witnesses began to come out of the woodwork. Apparently, quite a few people had seen the signs that something untoward might have been going down and no one had said a thing…
Alberta Kosser, who was one of the Pierson’s neighbors had declined to go to the authorities because, as she put it: “I’d never seen it. Maybe I blocked it out of my mind. To think that such a thing could go on. I didn’t want to..” It’s a common thing in small neighborhoods: people just don’t want to believe it.
Indeed, many people explained that they had known something was awry but didn’t know how they should go about reporting it. As if that weren’t enough, one of Cheryl’s step-uncles had known for certain about the abuse and done nothing. He came forward at the last minute to testify on her behalf. But even then, the judge believed it was a hard sell…
The judge on the case argued that Cheryl’s life hadn’t actually been threatened at all at the time of the murder. Which of course meant that she couldn’t claim self-defense. Her therapist of course, begged to differ. He argued that the incessant incest was, as he put it, was “the murder of the soul. The feelings literally die inside, and what you have left it a shell.”
Cheryl’s case was a classic example of childhood abuse. She kept quiet for years, never telling a soul, and blaming herself for what had befallen her. Her silence was also a way for her to avoid the fear that if she told anyone else, they would think her a liar. Finally, it was time for sentencing…
The therapist had done his job and had convinced the judge that Cheryl had indeed been the victim of frequent and repeated abuse at the hands of her father. Despite the prosecution asking for a sentence of two to six years, Cheryl Pierson was only sentenced to six months in jail.
Waiting for Her
Meanwhile, her boyfriend Robert was only given probation, since he hadn’t actually been a part of the plan in anyway except for gathering the $1000. In the end, Cheryl only served 3 and a ½ months of her sentence. When she got out, Robert was waiting for her. It was truly love. As for Sean Pica…
Sean on the other hand, served 16 years for his part in the murder and was only released in 2002. He made the most of his time inside, however, and joined an education program called Hudson Link, which allowed him to earn a Bachelor’s Degree. He also helped other inmates to learn to read and write in his spare time. When he got out, he returned to help teach and eventually run the Hudson Link program as it’s executive director.
Love and Marriage
Cheryl and Rob eventually put the past behind them and got married. Three years after the murder of James Pierson Sr. the two gave birth to their first child, Samantha. Three years after that, along came little Casey. It’s a story of secrets, abuse, and murder but at least some good came out of all that awfulness.