Located on Long Island’s North Shore, at 293 Magnolia Drive, lived a perfect happy family. It included James and Cathleen Pierson, a petite brunette who were rich and lived an opulent life. The couple were blessed with a son, Jim, born in 1966, and two daughters, Cheryl, born in 1969, and Joann, born in 1977. James and Cathleen had a loving bond between them, as they married in 1965, just three years after high school. James worked as a hard-working electrician and supervisor in an electronics company in the town of Huntington, alongside being a partner in a lucrative cable television company. To the entire community and neighbors, James Pierson was the perfect family man, except for his ability to be a loudmouth and a little obnoxious. The couple was so in love that they used to spend lots of time with each other, for instance, Thursday nights were fixed for Bowling. Alongside this, the financial stability of James allowed him to provide expensive gifts to his family. To Cathleen, he gifted a brand new Lincoln Continental with the license plate CATHLEEN, which she proudly drove with her children. Though generous, James was also a strict disciplinarian to his children who taught tough etiquettes to them. For instance, no child could speak after adults entered the room, everyone had to work with household chores and always use words of courtesy like please and thank you. If they obeyed, they would receive their favorite things as a gift, but if disobeyed, they would have to face his violent temper.
The Sad Ending.
As the pleasant family lived a comfortable and beautiful life, one day suddenly, Cathleen became severely ill. After consultation with the doctor, the family came to know that she was suffering from kidney disease in 1979. During this time, Jim turned thirteen, Cheryl was ten, and Joann was just two years old. Years passed, as the treatment proceeded. In the next six years, she had regular dialysis and hospitalization, along with two major kidney transplant operations. However, the treatment was incapable of curing her completely. Reportedly, she took her last breath at thirty-eight in 1985. During these six years, the family didn’t for a second lost the hope. Along with Cheryl, their eldest daughter, who took on all the responsibilities to care for their young sister and dying mother, James’ mother, Virginia Pierson, and sister, Marilyn Adams, supported the family with the housework. And soon, Cheryl got the attention of her father, and for the first time, he began to notice and appreciate her.
Cheryl, besides being the most responsible kid, was a popular and go-lucky girl at New Field High School. She was attractive and had an amazing sense of humor, which made her the kind of girl everyone wanted to know. As she progressed into her teen years, she became a cheerleader. Cheryl was the girl who was quite famous among boys, while other girls envied her for her clothing, appearance, and effortless charm. One word that could describe her was sweet.
Meanwhile, Jim, the son of James, grew his hair long and wore earrings as he wanted to be a musician and drummer. James began to call him a fag for his appearance. He didn’t like his son to look like the thin white guy with a wild appearance. Hence, James often lashed out at Jim with fists due to his disliking. Unable to witness the father’s aggression, he moved out of his family in 1984. Shortly after his eighteenth birthday, he started working at the Stony Brook Hospital. Though Jim was left alone, he often visited his mother and sisters and occasionally joined them for dinner. Around this same time, Cheryl started dating Rob. Rob was two years senior to her but was serious with her. As James was a strict disciplinarian, he never let Cheryl go out on dates with Rob, instead they would stay at the house where James kept an eye on them. Soon, both of them became frustrated as they had to spend all their hours on the telephone, instead of physical meets.
However, on her sixteenth birthday, James let Cheryl go out on a Saturday night, provided she would return at eleven. He also hosted a lavish 16th birthday party for Cheryl, in which all friends, family, and close neighbors were present. James and Jim also appeared to be having a better relationship now.
Just, nine months later, in the early morning of February 5th, 1986, a rifle bullet slammed into the back of James when he was about to drive to work. As James collapsed, a young man approached him and shot four more times on his head. Inside the home, when Cheryl’s alarm went off she came to approach the door to let her family dog, Poodle go and play out. Just then, she saw her father lying in the driveway. Panicked, she called her neighbors Michael and Alberta Kosser for help, but by the time they arrived, James was already dead. As detectives from the homicide division arrived, they began searching for clues and who would want to kill this perfect family man. Firstly, they thought that it could be a money matter, so they checked on their finances, and they discovered that his estate was worth about $500,000 and would be inherited by his children. So, they began to interview his work colleagues and other people to find his enemies. But there was no obvious enemy of him.
As the funeral took place, the three children sat on a bench with crying faces. They can’t believe that in one year, both their parents were dead. At the closing of the service, the priest read out an eulogy, which Cheryl and Jim entitled, Our Dad. The first lines,
“He was our best friend, as well as our dad…”
let the mourners cry even more. Later, Cheryl bid her dad goodbye with a kiss on his coffin.
After having several interviews with the family, friends, and neighbors of the family, the detectives learned that Jim and his father had a rift between them. Hence, Jim became an immediate suspect since James’ iron-clad alibi, an obvious suspect, was at work during the time of the murder.
During the interview with Jim, the detectives asked him whether he knew who would have wanted to kill his father. On this, he replied that he had no idea. But he mentioned one thing that Cheryl asked if he knew a hitman in Christmas 1985. When Jim asked what she wanted hitman for, she replied to kill his father. But he dismissed the foolish talk as he thought that Cheryl might be angry as James didn’t allow her to go on dates with Rob and witnessed occasional beatings from him. Instead, Jim gave her the idea to leave home as soon as she turned older. If he would survive the abuse, she would too. But Cheryl expressed her concern with her little sister, Joann, and was worried that her father would beat her too.
After the interview, a day later, the detectives got an anonymous call that Cheryl was asking around Newfield High School about hiring a hitman. They also came to know that a classmate, Sean Pica, said that he could murder someone for $1000.
After a strong lead, the detective decided to pick up Sean Pica, who was sixteen and the son of a former New York City police officer. Sean was a boy scout with braces, who had a steady girlfriend. He planned to represent his high school in the carpenter competition. By the time of his arrest, his parents were divorced, and he lived with his mother, who was a nurse and a younger brother. After questioning, Sean quickly confessed that he shot James.
The reason he told the detectives was shocking. The perfect man, James, who was so accomplished among his neighbors and family, was a sexual offender to his own daughter, Cheryl. And Cheryl asked Sean to kill him.
The Case of Cheryl And Trials.
Sean continued telling the detectives that Cheryl was assaulted by her father when she was eleven, shortly after her mother became ill. She was also terrified that the same would happen to her little sister, Joann. He further, added that it was never about money as it was about helping a friend who had no choice other than to kill so that her younger sister could be saved from the horrendous acts of her father.
On that night itself, police arrested Cheryl and Rob. But Rob said that he had no part in hiring Sean as he just handed over the money to him, at Cheryl’s request. Also, he tried talking about Cheryl’s abuse to his father, but nobody helped.
On questioning Cheryl, she answered that her father initially started wrestling and touching her, but soon James began to have sexual intercourse with her. She said that when she was fourteen, her father had sexual intercourse with her, whilst, her ill mother slept on the sofa of the living room. Further, she also mentioned that when she increasingly spent more time with her boyfriend, she would frequently return home and find that her father wrestled with her sister, Joann. It reminded her of how the abuse started with her.
Upon asking, why Cheryl never told anyone, she said that she was embarrassed and she knew that nobody would believe her. When Cheryl was in custody, a medical examination revealed that she was pregnant. She claimed that it was her father’s child.
When the three teenagers appeared in court for the first time, they all pleaded not guilty and were granted bail of varying amounts. After this, Rob returned to his parents, and Sean went to live with his father, but Cheryl’s community was deeply shocked when they came to know about the murder.
Neither her paternal grandmother nor aunt believed her, but Jim believed it 100%. He said,
“Of course, I believe her. How could she make something like that up?”
Cheryl was released into the custody of her aunt, Marilyn as her father’s sister was appointed her guardian. Given the accusations that Cheryl made against her father, Marilyn thought that Cheryl was a manipulative liar who made up stories for the reason of violent discipline by her father, wanting his money. Hence, Cheryl started to live with her neighbors, Michael and Alberta, good friends of her mothers. While staying at their place, she suffered a miscarriage. On examination of the fetus, the medical officials found that the DNA matched Rob instead of James. Hence, all started believing that Cheryl was lying about the abuse.
The Court, on March 24th, 1987 found Cheryl and Sean non-guilty, giving up the rights of trial by jury. Cheryl was allowed to go home, Rob was set free on term of condition that he would be a witness to the prosecution side, and Sean had his bail revoked and taken to the Suffolk Correctional Center. By this time, Judge Sherman decided to treat him as an adult as the prosecutor alleged that Sean was a drugged-up sociopath with a 200-dollar cocaine habit. However, a psychiatrist said that he was an irrational little Rambo bent on saving a girl. Hence, the Judge sentenced him to eight to twenty-four years in prison. As the judge was waiting for the probation report of Cheryl, he received mass letters from around the country, pleading leniency towards her. Many of these letters were from sexual abuse victims. While all waited for the probation report, Cheryl gave an interview to journalists, describing all the events of the murder.
She said that her father would at first invite her to his bedroom to watch television together. Then, he would cuddle up under the covers. At first, she thought that he was just being affectionate. But sooner, she began to understand her father’s advances. She didn’t know what to do in the case as her mother was dying. When she was fourteen, he usually raped her. When she began to object, her father would reply that nobody would believe her, and she would regret it.
After the probation report, fourteen people testified in court that they suspected something was not right between father and daughter. Michael Kosser explained,
“I thought I had the evil mind. Always pinching, pulling her hair, fondling her, and rubbing her bottom.”
One of her classmates, Diana Ebentraut, testified that she told this to her guidance counselor, but the counselor did nothing.
Jim also testified that he received physical and emotional abuse from his father. When the prosecuting attorney asked him what he would do in such a case, he replied,
“I probably would have killed my father myself.”
Cheryl also testified,
“He brought me in his room. I put a pillow over my face to block it out until it was over. He always threatened me and said that nobody would believe me because I had no proof.”
After all the testimonials, the judge, Justice Harvey Sherman, who believed that Cheryl was sexually abused by his father, sentenced Cheryl to six months of jail and five years of probation.
Cheryl, after spending fifteen weeks in prison, was released. When she was released, she was picked by her brother, Jim, and boyfriend, Rob Cuccio. The same afternoon, Rob proposed to Cheryl, and nine months later, they got married. Today, Rob and Cheryl have two daughters and are happily married. Sean spent sixteen years. He completed high school and earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. On leaving prison, he obtained a degree in social work. He then secured himself a job as a counselor with a nonprofit agency that helps ex-convicts to adjust life to outside, troubled kids and others in need of help.