Raymond Stringfellow was backing his pickup truck out of his driveway on the morning of June 6, 1984, when he saw his 12-year-old stepdaughter, Sherry Marler, run out of the house carrying her shoes in her hands. She had heard the sound of his truck and wanted to know if she could go along with him. Raymond was only making a quick trip to Greenville, Alabama to sign some papers at his bank, but he told Sherry she was welcome to come along for the ride. Sherry quickly climbed into his red pickup truck and settled in for the 10-mile drive from their rural farm into town.
Sherry was a bit of a tomboy, and she spent much of her free time shadowing her stepfather as he worked on their farm. Although she hated doing any kind of housework, she loved helping Raymond with outside chores. She had been thrilled when Raymond taught her how to drive his tractor, and she enjoyed spending time at the tractor and feed store in Greenville. She had been hoping that was where Raymond was headed that day; she was slightly disappointed when she realized he was simply going to the bank.
When they arrived in Greenville, Raymond found a parking spot in a parking lot behind the furniture store next to the bank. As he got out of the truck, Sherry asked if she could have some change to get something to drink. Raymond gave her a dollar bill and told her she could go to the gas station across the street; there was a soda machine located there. Sherry thanked him and agreed to meet him at his truck once he was done at the bank.
Raymond estimated he was inside the bank for about 15 minutes. He expected to find Sherry sitting in his truck when he returned to the parking lot, but there was no sign of her. At first, he was slightly annoyed; he assumed that Sherry had simply run into some friends at the gas station and lost track of time. He waited impatiently for about 10 minutes, then decided to go to the gas station to see what Sherry was doing.
Raymond was shocked when he got to the gas station and Sherry wasn’t there. Sherry was usually a very good child who asked her parents before going anywhere. A few people could remember seeing Sherry walk across the parking lot toward the gas station, but no one at the gas station could remember seeing her, and it wasn’t clear if she made it that far.
Raymond went to the nearby tractor store next because he remembered how much Sherry liked spending time there. He looked all the way through the store but couldn’t find his stepdaughter. Everyone who worked at the store said they hadn’t seen the girl that morning, but they would keep an eye out for her. Ray went to a few other stores in the area to check in, but Sherry wasn’t there.
Becky Stringfellow, Sherry’s mother, worked as a waitress at a Greenville diner. Raymond called the diner and asked Betty if she had seen Sherry. He thought that Sherry might have chosen to go see her mother. Raymond got scared when Betty told him that Sherry hadn’t come over. That he couldn’t find Sherry, he told Betty. She told him to call the police.
At 11:36 a.m., Raymond called the Greenville Police Department to say that Sherry was missing. Officers arrived right away and searched Greenville’s downtown area thoroughly for the next few hours. Around 9:30 a.m., Sherry was last seen walking toward the gas station while being watched by someone. At the gas station, no one saw her. Her trail seemed to end soon after she got out of her stepfather’s truck.
The Greenville Police Department searched for the missing girl for longer with the help of the Butler County Sheriff’s Office. They knocked on doors and showed people pictures of Sherry in the neighborhoods around the shopping area where she was last seen. They were hoping that someone would remember seeing something strange around the time Sherry went missing, but they couldn’t find any clues.
A helicopter was sent to look for Sherry from the air while police and volunteers searched on the ground. By evening, the girl who went missing was still not found. Raymond couldn’t get over the fact that Sherry had disappeared while he was watching. He was mad at himself for letting her walk to the gas station by herself.
Over the next few days, the search for Sherry went on, but police couldn’t find any signs of her whereabouts. At first, detectives thought that Sherry might have left home on her own, but after talking to all of her friends and acquaintances, they found that this was not the case. The 12-year-old Sherry seemed to be happy and in good health. She was close to her family and didn’t seem to have any problems at school or at home. Anyone who knew her had never seen her act like she wanted to run away.
Officials were looking at all of their options, but they thought that Sherry had probably been ki*lled by someone else. Her picture was shown on local news stations to try to get leads. There were several reports of possible sightings of the missing girl, but police were not able to confirm any of them.
Everyone in Sherry’s family, even her biological father Ralph Marler, who came to Greenville from Elba to help with the search, was questioned very carefully. As soon as it was thought, he, her mother, and her stepfather were not to blame for her disappearance. For years, Raymond would be the focus of rumors and guesses, mostly because he was the last family member to see Sherry. However, police were sure that he had nothing to do with her disappearance.
A month after Sherry went missing, Betty and Raymond called Child Find, a group that looked for missing children all over the country. They helped get Sherry’s picture on posters and billboards all over the country. Police got a lot of tips about possible sightings of Sherry and followed up on leads in Florida, Arizona, Georgia, and Mississippi. All of them led nowhere, which was a shame.
Even though detectives talked to a lot of people, they never found any solid leads in the case. When Sherry went missing, Ken Flowers was the police chief of Greenville. He told reporters that it was the most puzzling case of his career. He thought Sherry had been hurt by someone else’s actions, but he was upset that he couldn’t find any clues.
Over the next few months, three different people said they saw a girl who looked like Sherry and who was with an older man who seemed to be controlling her. The man, who was about 50 years old, was described as being about 5 feet 8 inches tall, had a husky build, and wrinkles around his eyes that could be seen. The girl looked confused and messy. At a truck stop in Conley, Georgia, they were seen. One truck driver said the man’s name might have been B.J. It’s not clear if this girl was really Sherry; police followed up on the lead but could never find the man or girl that witnesses saw.
Some people said they saw Sherry in Berkeley County, South Carolina, not long after she went missing. In the year before she disappeared, she went to St. Stephen, South Carolina, because she had family there. At least one person said they saw her there in June 1984, but it was never confirmed and was probably just a case of mistaken identity.
Raymond Stringfellow died in 2003 without ever finding out what happened to his stepdaughter. His last words were about Sherry; he told Betty that he wished he knew where she was so he could bring her to Betty before he died.
Over the years, investigators have pursued a number of leads but have never been able to determine what happened to Sherry. In 2019, an allegation was made that Sherry had been killed by someone she knew, who then dismembered her and disposed of her remains on a Butler County hog farm. Detectives followed up on this lead, but to date have not been able to find any evidence to support this claim.
Betty has continued to search for her missing daughter and has done everything possible to make sure that the public doesn’t forget that Sherry is still missing. Over the years, she has held balloon releases in the parking lot where Sherry was last seen and has volunteered with several different missing children organizations. She told a reporter that she still thinks about Sherry every single day, and hopes to one day learn what happened to her.
Sherry Marler was 12 years old when she went missing in 1984. She has brown eyes and brown hair, and at the time of her disappearance she was 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed 110 pounds. She was last seen wearing blue jeans, a red plaid flannel shirt, and gray sneakers with Velcro straps. If you have any information about Sherry, please contact the Greenville Police Department at 334–382–7461.