Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Blood Oath Murder


It is no secret that the Pacific Northwest region of the United States has had at least its share of violent crime perpetrated by some of the most vicious killers in the country's history. Some say the incessant rain and gray, overcast sky bring out the worst in people. Others cite the vast, dense forests that enshroud the numerous mountain ranges, evoking a Twin Peaks ambiance that some believe brings out murderous tendencies, perhaps in part because the layout of the land provides ample hiding places where one could easily dispose of a body with confidence that it would not be easily found. The cases are indeed numerous, and the case of Sherry Harlan serves as an exemplary casewith the one exception that it was, thankfully, solved more quickly than many of those that came before it.

U.S. map with Everett, Washington locator. Inset: Typical forest view in the Pacific Northwest.
U.S. map with Everett, Washington locator. Inset: Typical forest view in the Pacific Northwest.

The first clue that something may have gone terribly wrong in the life of Everett, Wash., resident Harlan, 35, was when she failed to show up for work at the JCPenney store at Alderwood Mall in Lynnwood, south of Everett, several days in a row in early January 2010. It was not like her to not show up for work without calling her supervisor. Sherry was known for being reliable and punctual. By Tuesday, January 5, her coworkers became so worried that one of them went to her apartment, located in the 11600 block of Highway 99, where she lived alone, to check on her.

Sherry Harlan
Sherry Harlan
A coworker contacted one of Sherry's neighbors at the apartment complex, and a maintenance man let the neighbor into Sherry's apartment while her coworker waited outside. Once inside, the neighbor discovered that the kitchen linoleum and been pulled up from the floor, and portions of carpet and padding had been removed. The neighbor said that the apartment reeked of an "overwhelming smell of bleach," and that Sherry's dog, Roscoe, and his crate were missing. Her car, a 1989 blue-gray Nissan Sentra with Washington plates was also missing from the complex's parking lot. Fearing the worst, the neighbor and the coworker called the local police and reported Sherry missing, and waited for Snohomish County Sheriff's deputies to arrive.

Following a preliminary inquiry, the deputies cordoned off the apartment and secured it overnight.


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