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Killing of beloved 5th-grade teacher Cherilyn Hawkley is still unsolved 28 years later | Unsolved California

Cherilyn Hawkley was last seen alive 28-years-ago. Her body was discovered in a van on Halloween.

GRANITE BAY, Calif. — Someone took 39-year-old Cherilyn Hawkley from Eureka Elementary School in Granite Bay, 28 years ago, on October 29, 1993,  and killed her, leaving her body in her van to be discovered.  

Detective Bryan Mattison with the Placer County Sheriff’s Office has had this case for the past 8 years.

"It’s shocked a lot of people for a long time," said Mattison. 

It was the Friday before Halloween. Kids were trick-o-treating in classrooms and there was a fall festival-type celebration taking place. 

"She had stayed late cleaning up popcorn," Mattison said. "There’s a janitor that maybe sees her car around 5:30 and when he comes back around 6, it’s gone and that’s it. No one sees her again."

Cherilyn Hawkley didn’t come home that night alarming her boyfriend and father. Her boyfriend reported her missing.

Only two days later, Halloween night, her van was discovered less than a mile away from her school.

A deputy on patrol spotted the van pulled off the road in the brush. 

"He saw the car. She was in the car and autopsy said she died from litigate strangulation," Mattison said. 

Someone strangled Cherilyn Hawkley, killing her and leaving her body inside her van alongside her personal belongings.

"Based on own experience. She was probably killed that night," Mattison said. 

Mattison said it is unusual and interesting that her body was found at another school nearby.

"Somebody out there knows something," Mattison said. 

Now 28 years later the case is unsolved.

All possible persons of interest including her boyfriend at the time, ex-husband, school staff all cleared of any involvement.

"This wasn’t someone off the freeway," Mattison said, alluding to this wasn't a random act. 

Mattison thinks whoever killed Cherilyn Hawkley was familiar with Eureka Elementary, with the area of Granite Bay and may still live there.

"If we find the right person it’s solvable," Mattison said.

Detectives do have some evidence they were able to recover from the crime scene. Archive video and photos show clear fingerprints on the door of the van.

"There is some evidence that we were able to recover that I think, that if, when we have a suspect, we will be able to compare it to the suspect," Mattison said. 

Many have not forgotten about Cherilyn Hawkley. A plaque honoring her stands on the grounds of the school with her students’ names.

Credit: ABC10
Plaque honoring Cherilyn Hawkley

Cherilyn Hawkley was recently divorced. She was a mother to three children. She was also a brand-new teacher at Eureka Elementary and the students adored her. She was 39-years-old.

"She had 25 kids in her class and we’ve talked to many of them and they still talk about her. What a great teacher she was," Mattison said. 

"She was, I would say the best mom ever," said Heather Hawkley, her daughter.

Heather was 14 years old when her mother was killed.

“I know that she was very good at loving people and showing people that love and I think her students felt how much she loved them," Heather Hawkley said. 

Heather Hawkley said her mother was so happy to be a teacher in Placer County. 

"She was very very excited to get that job in the Sacramento area. There was a lot of people trying to get that job and she was the one that secured that spot and it was really exciting for her and as her child, I was super happy for her even though she was farther away," Heather said. 

Heather Hawkley has fond memories of her mother. She said her mother was full of life. 

"We liked listening to Whitney Houston and we would just crank up the music when we were cleaning the house. We would belt it out and lip-sync in the car and so fun and lots of laughing," Heather Hawkley said. 

Heather Hawkley said her mother was incredibly loving. Loved her family and loved her students. How could someone do this?

"Over the years, many times I’ve visualized how it would be in a courtroom, and now I get emotional, to see justice brought to her case," Heather Hawkley said. 

It is a case that has haunted Granite Bay for so long. Unsolved but solvable, according to detectives.

"It means a lot to us as a family that it’s not a forgotten case that our mom is not forgotten. I’m really sorry but there are people that care about this being solved," Heather Hawkley said. 

If you know anything about Cherilyn Hawkley’s case, call Placer County Sheriff Detectives at 1-800-923-8191.

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