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Who killed Cherilyn Hawkley? Northern California investigators push for new leads in 30-year-old Halloween cold case

By Ashley Sharp

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    GRANITE BAY, California (KOVR) — A Halloween cold case is back in the spotlight in Placer County as investigators push for answers that have escaped them for 30 years.

The body of beloved Granite Bay fifth grade teacher Cherilyn Hawkley was found strangled in her vehicle on Halloween night in 1993. No one has ever been arrested for her murder.

“This case remains open and our detectives continue to search for leads in hopes of bringing closure to her loved ones,” the Placer County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

Investigators released photos and information about Cherilyn’s case on its 30-year mark, hoping that renewed attention on the case might prompt new leads.

“It’s a nerve-wracking feeling to know that whoever did this could still be free and doing who knows what. That’s kind of unsettling,” said Heather Bowen, one of Cherilyn’s three children.

Heather and her older sister, Melissa Hawkley, were just teenagers when their mom was murdered. Their younger brother, Ryan, was only 10.

“When I think of Mom, I think of butterflies, calligraphy, art projects. Mom is just super loving and so giving,” Melissa said. “I love that she read us stories. We would read chapter books. She was super involved in the community and church. Just an amazing, amazing woman.”

Cherilyn was passionate about teaching students at Eureka Elementary School, where she had recently been hired at the time of her death.

She was last seen leaving the school’s Halloween celebrations on Friday, October 29, 1993. Her body was found just days later only a mile from the school.

“It was reported that Cherilyn had lunch with one of her colleagues earlier that Friday and by all accounts had appeared very happy with life. She also had met with another teacher at 4:30 p.m. that afternoon, and they conveyed the same message to detectives. That second teacher had left the school at 6:30 p.m., but said they did not see Cherilyn’s car,” the Placer County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.

It is a mystery that has puzzled not only investigators but the Placer County community for three decades.

“It’s important to have closure,” said Melissa. “It will never bring Mom back. But it would help people.”

Other than a police sketch of a man never found, no true leads came to light on the man behind the murder.

“Nothing has been solved, nothing has been figured out and no real suspects even,” said Heather.

The Hawkley family hopes DNA technology can help crack the case open as has been seen recently in other decades-old cold cases like the deaths of Jeremy Stoner, Rodney Rumsey and Amanda Lynn Schumann Deza, previously known only as “The Lady in the Refrigerator.”

“I’m excited for these advances in technology that these cases can be solved and going forward, it’s easier to solve these cases and it doesn’t take so long,” Heather said.

The Placer County Sheriff’s Office denied CBS13’s request to be interviewed for this story, saying they do not want to compromise the case. A spokesperson for the department did not confirm if that means they have new leads they are working.

Anyone who knows anything about who could have murdered Cherilyn Hawkley is urged to call the department’s homicide tip line at (530) 889-7853.

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