Cold case solved 25 years after Marion County woman went missing

Sherry Yon Petersen

More than 25 years after a Marion County woman was first reported missing, the case of her murder has been solved.

Major Crimes detectives from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office have closed the missing person case of Sherry Yon Petersen, who was 43 when she was reported missing on Jan. 3, 1993. Family members called the sheriff’s office a few days after she had failed to show up for Christmas dinner and they couldn’t reach her.

Petersen was never found and her case had been thoroughly reviewed by sheriff’s detectives many times over the past 26 years. But recent contact her remaining family spurred an effort by detectives to obtain a full confession from a man who turned out to be Petersen’s killer.

In July 2018, Sgt. Donald Buie, of the Major Crimes Unit, received a phone call from Petersen’s sister, Linda Hicks, who introduced herself as the updated point of contact for the family. After the call, Buie became curious about Petersen’s disappearance, so he started to review the case files and follow up on potential leads.

Frank Crow

Buie’s investigation led him to 68-year-old Frank Crow, who is serving a 30-year sentence in Zephyrhills Correctional Institution for the murder of his former roommate, who was bludgeoned to death with a sledgehammer.

During an interview with Buie and Sgt. Michael Mongeluzzo, Crow made several incriminating statements about Petersen’s disappearance, a sheriff’s office release says, adding that he refused to divulge further details of the crime without documentation granting him with immunity from prosecution.

Buie then met with Hicks and prosecutors with the State Attorney’s Office on how they would like to proceed. Detectives and prosecutors took into consideration that Crow, who has deteriorating health, won’t be eligible for release until 2033, when he would be 84 – a fact that led them to agree that prosecuting him for Petersen’s murder would be costly and “somewhat futile.”

Buie then spoke with Hicks and asked her how the family would like to proceed. And after much consideration, they gave detectives and prosecutors consent to not press criminal charges against Crow if he would provide them with answers so the family could have closure.

Buie and Mongeluzzo then presented Crow with the letter of immunity and he agreed to disclose his account of Petersen’s murder.

Crow told them that on Christmas Eve 1992, he ran into Petersen at a convenience store at the corner of Highway 40 and County Road 314A. He said she accompanied him to the White Forest Tavern, where they had a few drinks.

Crow said he then convinced Petersen to go to Lake Catherine with him, where they continued to drink and engage in conversation. At that time, Crow said, he killed Petersen because she was a “snitch.” But detectives believe he made sexual advances on Petersen and she denied them.

Crow also told detectives that he had premeditated intent to kill Petersen that evening. And after doing so, he said he dismembered her and disposed of her body parts in multiple lakes in the Ocala National Forest.

Due to the fact that Crow made statements during his testimony that only the killer could have known, detectives believe Crow was telling the truth about the murder.

“There are always missing pieces to these cases that we need to put together,” Buie said. “We never stop searching for that missing piece. And in this case, a key decision had to be made by prosecutors and Sherry’s family so we could get answers for all of our questions developed throughout the years. We hope this resolution brings closure to the family and that Sherry’s soul can now be at peace.”

Hicks and Petersen’s other sister, Mary Curry, released a family statement thanking sheriff’s detectives for their hard work and diligence in solving the case.

“We would like to say how thankful we are that with God’s help and with the caring work of Sgt. Buie, we were finally able to find out what happened to our sister, Sherry. She died in such a horrific manner, but we are just thankful that our mother was in heaven with God and not here on earth when she found out how truly horrible it was for her. We will have to live with this news for the rest of our lives, but maybe now we can start to heal. There truly is no more hope.”