Cheryl Coker case: Riverside police name suspect, call disappearance a homicide

The case into the disappearance of Cheryl Coker, 46, is now being investigated as a homicide, Riverside police said.

Cheryl’s husband William “Bill” Coker has been named as the suspect in the case.

Police do not believe Cheryl is alive.

News Center 7’s Mike Campbell spoke with William Coker Tuesday after police named him as a suspect:

Mike Campbell: The question the police and our audience would ask you is, did you have anything to do with Cheryl's death? Did you kill her?

William Coker: "No, I didn't, I did not ... I've never in my entire life hurt anyone."

Mike Campbell: Do you have any idea what happened to Cheryl?

William Coker: "She was behaving in some risky behavior right before she disappeared and I haven't really been willing to put that out there."

Mike Campbell: Have you thought about or have you hired a lawyer?

William Coker: "No, not yet because I didn't do anything, I didn't think I needed one, I guess I'm going to have to."

The 46-year old woman was reported missing late the night of Oct. 2 by her sister, Margie Keenan. She had gone looking for her younger sister when Cheryl's 15-year old daughter called to tell her she hadn’t seen or heard from her mother and couldn't reach her.

"The pit of my stomach, something hurt, and I knew something wasn't right," Keenan said.

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Riverside Police Det. Travis Abney said Bill has refused to submit to a polygraph test as part of the investigation.

“This is an area of concern,” Abney said.

According to police, Cheryl had left her Christy Avenue house around 7:15 a.m. to take her daughter to Stebbins High School and drove back home, arriving about 7:35 a.m. Abney said Cheryl spent the next few minutes sharing posts on Facebook.

"About 7:45 that morning, pretty much everything electronically with her just stopped," he said.

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Surveillance video shows Cheryl's 2016 Toyota Highlander driving into the Kroger parking lot at Spinning and Burkhardt — less than a mile from her home — at 10:52 a.m. The footage shows a subject dressed in all black, who appears to have their hood pulled up, exit the vehicle and walk north through the parking lot toward Burkhardt Road.

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At 11:13 a.m., a citizen called 911 to report a suspicious white male dressed in all black with his hood pulled up.

Surveillance video from Spinning Hills Middle School shows a male, who police say is suspected of being the same man who exited the vehicle, walking on school property and toward the back of the Coker residence. The man is wearing all black and white gloves.

That evening, William Coker was seen entering the Kroger on Spinning Road. Surveillance images show an injury above Coker’s left elbow, according to police.

Cheryl's family discovered her vehicle the next evening, Oct. 3, using the Find My iPhone app. They became alarmed when police found a backpack inside the vehicle containing her purse and cell phone.

"She doesn't go anywhere without that phone," Keenan said.

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Her family doesn't believe she just left. Cheryl's mother, Mary Carroll, said, "She would never, never be gone without calling her 15-year old daughter."

Detectives also don't believe Cheryl was abducted. It's interesting to note, however, there were a number of key developments in her personal life in the months before she went missing.

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Cheryl Coker filed for divorce from William "Bill" Coker, her husband of 19 years, on Sept. 21 — seeking custody of their teenage daughter and spousal support.

Bill had a girlfriend — and Cheryl knew about the woman.

Detectives have interviewed both people. "They've both been very cooperative with us at this point," Abney said.

Cheryl, too, had begun dating, and met a man she liked at Julia's Nite Club in Miami Township. Police have also questioned him and say he has been fully cooperative.

In the five weeks before her disappearance, there were some texts that have drawn detectives' attention.

On Aug. 28, Bill's girlfriend told police Cheryl texted her asking that if Cheryl "were to die or wasn't in the picture, would she pursue a permanent relationship" with Bill.

"It was reportedly sent by Cheryl," Abney said, "but we're not 100 percent convinced that she actually did send that."

Another text from Bill to his wife on Sept. 24: "Thanks for putting the nail in my coffin."

And that same day, a text from Cheryl to a coworker: "I will be in tomorrow if I'm not dead."

The weekend before she went missing, Cheryl attended her niece's wedding while Bill took their daughter on a trip to Florida. Police confirm Bill Coker took his girlfriend, too. Cheryl's best friend, Shelly Appelhans, says Cheryl could not have known that.

"I think that mama bear would have came (sic) out if she would have know that other woman was going," Appelhans said.

Bill Coker and his daughter returned home from the Florida trip on Monday night, Oct. 1 — just hours before Cheryl was last seen.

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