Monday, April 28, 2003

Details of Sherry Byrne's killing

At first authorities didn't divulge the most gruesome details of 21-year-old Sherry Byrne's death. But over the years the horror she experienced during those last hours with her killer, David Brewer, unraveled during hearings and death sentence appeals.

MARCH 21, 1985

David Brewer called Sherry Byrne at her Springdale home and asked her to meet him and his wife, Kathy, at the Red Carpet Inn in Sharonville, where they were celebrating his wife's pregnancy. Also, he said, he had stereo speakers for her that they had previously talked about.

Sherry called her husband, Joe Byrne, at work with the news, and then rushed out of the house with their 4-month-old puppy, Beau, a Christmas present from Byrne to his wife.

Nobody knows for sure exactly what happened at the hotel, but prosecutors say Brewer, who was more than twice Sherry's size, raped and beat her, tied her up and tossed her in the trunk of his Mercury Topaz. He drove around for Hamilton, Warren and Greene counties for several hours, stopping several times to beat her up. She was bound and gagged.

She managed to write a sign in lipstick saying, "Help me please," which she shoved out the trunk's crack. Passing motorists saw the sign, jotted the license plate number and reported it to the Beavercreek Police Department outside Dayton, Ohio.

They traced the plate to Brewer and called him at work at an appliance store, only he wasn't there. He had taken Sherry to a small, secluded farm lane in Greene County. Passing cars scared him off and he left.

When Brewer stopped in at work at about 7 p.m., Sherry alive in his trunk, co-workers mentioned police were looking for him.

He returned the police officers' call, but played it off as a prank he pulled with a hitchhiker. Still officers insisted on checking out his car in person. Brewer conceded, and said he'd be at the station in about an hour.

Brewer took that time to drive back to the farm lane, where he killed Sherry and dumped her body in a ditch, prosecutors said.

Before talking to the officer, Brewer slipped into the police station's bathroom and wiped any trace of blood on his hands and feet.

Beavercreek police believed Brewer's hitchhiker story, cited him with inducing panic, and sent him home.

Brewer left, collected Sherry's body and then went to his Dayton area home to bed, leaving her in his trunk.

Byrne spent those same evening hours in a panic. He knew when Sherry didn't come home that something had happened.

The story began to unravel when he called the Brewers and Cathy Brewer said she wasn't pregnant and hadn't seen Sherry that day. Her husband had not yet come home.

Because Sherry had not been missing 24 hours, Byrne could only make an unofficial missing persons complaint with the Springdale Police Department.

FRIDAY, MARCH 22, 1985

Byrne made an official missing person's report and a group organized to pass out fliers with Sherry and Beau's picture. Brewer called and expressed concern. He admitted he talked to Sherry that morning, but said she didn't seem like herself.

Byrne never considered that Brewer might have done something - even when Brewer asked if he was a suspect.


Brewer hid Sherry in a storage locker then visited her husband. He hugged his friend and Sherry Byrne's mother. It would be the last time the two men saw each other until the trial.

Later that day, Joe Byrne found a card Sherry had left for him tucked inside their Bible. "I miss you more today than yesterday," it said.

SUNDAY, MARCH 24, 1985

Byrne went to church. "I talked to God like I have never done before, begging Him for a miracle, to help Sherry to be alive," he said.

By this time police began to theorize that maybe Sherry had been cheating on him, something Joe insisted wasn't true.

MONDAY, MARCH 25, 1985

Springdale police interviewed Joe, then turned their attention to David Brewer.

In 30 minutes they caught Brewer in three lies, each version more absurd than the last.

When they left Brewer alone with his wife, he confessed.

He led police to the Franklin storage unit where Sherry's body was and took police to the place where he killed her. The knife was still there.


Two officers, accompanied by a priest, went to the Byrne's house. They didn't have to say anything.

"I fell to me knees crying as I knew that Sherry was dead," he said. "My world was crushed."

A Greene County grand jury indicted Brewer on charges of kidnapping and aggravated murder with death penalty specifications. Later that year Brewer's case went trial.

Brewer testified that he never meant to harm Sherry and planned to let her go eventually. But when he released her from the trunk she screamed and ran away.

"I just lost control," he said during the trial. "It's even hard for me to remember what happened. I was just trying to her quiet. I just lost control."

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