“Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight,
Make me a child again just for tonight!
Mother, come back from the echoless shore,
Take me again to your heart as of yore…”
A few hours before dawn broke on October 19, 1983, the ringing of a phone echoed ceaselessly throughout a Lawton, Oklahoma apartment. Rain drizzled down the window panes outside, and the caller – a sergeant in the military – was phoning to say physical training was canceled due to the weather.
The phone kept ringing.
Within two short hours, a grisly discovery would be made: the body of Private Sherry Carver would be found on the floor of her bedroom. She was stabbed so brutally she was nearly decapitated.
“Mother, dear mother, the years have been long
Since I last listened your lullaby song:
Sing, then, and unto my soul it shall seem
Womanhood’s years have been only a dream.”
Sherry L. Carver was born January 14, 1954 in Chattanooga, Tennessee to Willard and Estelle Lawson. She had two brothers, Charles and Tony, and followed in her father’s footsteps by joining the military – first the Air Force in 1979, then the Army in 1983. Her career took her all over the world, including Germany and Puerto Rico, but she was stationed at Ft. Sill at the time of her death. She left behind two small children: a daughter, Alicia Carver, and a son, Robert Owenby.
As a child, Sherry’s father was often overseas and her mother worked as well, so she was sometimes kept by a close cousin of the family, Catherine.
“I was sixteen when I met Sherry. I was seventeen when I was keeping her a lot,” Catherine remembers. “She’d go home with me and stay with me for a week at a time. She was cute as a button.”
Catherine lovingly recalls a toddler who would purposefully spill soda on the floor and walk through it (“She did that a lot!” she laughs), pretended to smoke cigarettes, and jabbered incessantly.
“She was a real sweet person and was good to everybody,” Catherine says of Sherry as she grew older. “I don’t know of anybody that she was ever bad to. She was a strong little girl. Somebody got the best of her.”
“Clasped to your heart in a loving embrace,
With your light lashes just sweeping my face,
Never hereafter to wake or to weep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!”
~Elizabeth Akers Allen
Alicia Carver has not seen her mother in over thirty-six years. Only four years old when Sherry was taken from her, she was living in Georgia with her father when the murder took place. Her parents had separated around the time Alicia was born, although a divorce had not yet been finalized.
Memories of her mother are scarce, but the ones she has – along with the stories relatives have told her – she clings to.
“I remember her smile and how pretty she was,” Alicia says. “She could light up a room with her smile, and I heard she was humorous.”
Who would want to hurt this twenty-nine-year-old active duty military mother? She had only been stationed at Ft. Sill for two months when she was savagely killed. Was she the victim of a random murderer or targeted by someone she knew?
The Monday before she was killed, someone broke into Sherry’s apartment, breaking the lock on the door. While it is not known if anything was taken from her home, the lock hadn’t been fixed yet at the time of her death.
“When they came back, they attacked her when she was asleep,” Alicia says. “She fought them pretty hard, but in the end they overpowered her and took her life.”
Sherry’s defensive wounds were so extensive that her hands had to have gloves on at the funeral.
The Lawton Police Department was kind enough to release a statement regarding the status of the case. “This case is being investigated still by detectives,” Sergeant Timothy Jenkins says. “This is a cold case and anyone that has any information on this case is encouraged to call the Lawton Police Department. Any information would be greatly appreciated.”
Alicia is determined to find answers and obtain justice for her mother who was laid to rest thirty-six years ago at Brown Gap Cemetery in Trenton, Georgia.
“My mother was a beautiful woman who fought for this country and was away from her home and family when she was killed in the service,” Alicia affirms. “She deserves justice and to not be forgotten.”
If you have any information regarding the murder of Sherry Carver, please call the Lawton Police Department at 580-581-3270.