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In the early 1980s, while the couple struggled to make their home -- and their relationship -- work, Linda suffered a miscarriage and afterward was told she had epilepsy. She suffered from seizures, and, because of her health problems, says Don Sherman, the couple decided they would have no more children.
Their marriage continued to have problems. In 1982, Linda moved out again, this time into an apartment in St. Ann, taking 7-year-old Patty with her. Apparently tensions between the couple had escalated. In September of that year, Linda filed for an order of protection against her husband, claiming he had threatened her and Patty and had "tampered" with her car. She described Don as "mentally unstable," adding that he had threatened to take his own life "and possibly that of my daughter and myself."
Don Sherman admits an "instance" with his wife's car. "The vehicle was in my name," he says. "I just disabled it so it couldn't be driven." But he says those memories are too old to recall in detail. "I'm not sure what my reasoning was then. It was a long time ago."
A judge granted the order of protection and also ordered Don to pay $20 a week in child support.
That separation didn't last, either. Within a month, Linda notified the court that another reconciliation was in the works and that the protective order was "no longer necessary."
"Please acknowledge the fact that my husband, Donald E. Sherman, and myself, Linda S. Sherman, are presently working things out," Linda wrote the judge on Oct. 21, 1982.
Not long after the couple's 10th wedding anniversary, in the spring of 1985, Linda was planning to leave Don again. She filed a petition for dissolution in St. Louis County Circuit Court on April 11. Frank Vatterott was her attorney. "I just remember her as being very nice, very polite, and an attractive lady," he says. "She was not sophisticated or anything, but I think she was kind of classy.... I remember her as having class and being a person of stature."
Though the petition was filed, Don would not be served with the court papers for a few more weeks. Linda continued living with him at the house on Monroe Avenue in Vinita Park.
"It was a little rocky right then at that time," Don Sherman says. He was working the day shift at a machine shop; she worked evenings at the U.S. Government Records Center on Page Avenue. He says he had growing suspicions that his wife was having an affair: She had started smoking again after quitting years earlier. She didn't come home from work on several occasions, and when he called her at home from work, she wouldn't be there, he says.
And then one day in the early spring of 1985, Sherman says, his suspicions were confirmed when a truck driver who worked with him saw Linda and one of her co-workers from the records center.
It wasn't the first time his wife had cheated on him, Sherman claims. She'd worked as a cocktail waitress at a Flaming Pit restaurant, and "that changed her in some ways."
In any case, Linda and Don's relationship had soured, and tensions were high by April 1985. On April 22, after she worked her usual evening shift at the records center, Linda signed out at 2:16 a.m., went home and slept on the couch. Though Linda usually took Patty to school in the morning, on this day Don drove her to school. That evening, Don says Linda left for work around 6 p.m. She was wearing blue jeans, tennis shoes and a blue jersey emblazoned with the number 76, he says. Linda did not report to work.
She never would again.
That spring, Linda's older sister, Fran, who lived in nearby Hazelwood, had begun talking on the phone with her sister almost every night. The conversations revolved mostly around the problems Linda was having with her husband. The phone calls stopped on April 22, and then Fran and her husband, Sam, learned that Linda hadn't shown up for work. They began to worry.
"She was getting ready to leave her husband for good," remembers Sam Miller, a retired engineer, "and so she took certain steps. She talked to Fran about this a lot over the phone." Fran nods her head. "She was trying to move out of the house and into an apartment somewhere."
Linda had filled out a change-of-address form at the local post office, directing her mail to her sister's house on Coachway Lane in Hazelwood. Her last two paychecks came to the Miller house after Linda disappeared.
One check is inside a manila folder Sam Miller keeps, the envelope still sealed. The folder contains old newspaper clippings, faded court documents and a small ad offering a $1,000 reward for information about Linda's disappearance. Fran says Sam can remember all kinds of important names and dates, thanks to that folder. Memories fade. It's been 14 years since they last saw Linda.
Nestled among the papers in the folder is the 5-by-7 photograph of Linda.
She's not alone in the picture. Her husband is seated beside her on a brown flowered sofa. But when the Millers needed a photo for the missing-person poster, for the police file and the newspaper, they enlarged the part of the picture with Linda's smiling face. They cut Don out entirely.
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