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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Geraldine Cherry: Natural Born Killer

     Born in 1962, Geraldine Cherry grew up in western New Jersey outside the Philadelphia metropolitan area. As a kid, she was aggressive and bellicose, often frightening her siblings, and even her mother who felt the need to lock herself into her bedroom at night. In 1974, when Geraldine was 12, social workers broke the family up, sending the 15 children to various institutions and foster homes.

     Shortly after Geraldine turned 14, the authorities, following a series of assaults and disruptive behavior, sent her and one of her sisters to the Ancora Psychiatric Hospital in Camden County, New Jersey. At one point, Geraldine threatened to choke her sister to death while she slept.

     In 1978, at age 18, after assaulting a woman, the judge sentenced Geraldine Cherry to two years at a juvenile detention institution in Burlington, County. While living at the medium security facility, Geraldine was accused of assaulting 72 inmates and correctional workers. (One would think, that after the 71st assault, someone in charge would isolate this woman from the rest of the inmates.)

     In August 1980, shortly after her release from the juvenile detention facility, Cherry, while standing on a platform at the Voorhees, New Jersey train station, pushed a woman she didn't know onto the high-speed railway tracks. Following her conviction for assault in this case, the judge, before sentencing, had Geraldine evaluated at the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital. The doctor who conducted the examination diagnosed Cherry as having an antisocial personality disorder. This meant she wasn't mentally ill, just a cruel, violent person. People with rotten personalities like this can't be fixed with drugs or psychotherapy. Besides being aggressive and dangerous, these antisocial types (what a stupid name for this) tend to be serial liars who exploit the people who try to help them. The best way to deal with violent sociopaths is to isolate them.

     Although the train station victim only received scrapes and bruises, the judge gave Geraldine Cherry 10 years, the maximum sentence for the assault. She served her time at the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women in Camden County.

     While doing time at Clinton, Cherry was stabbed in both eyes with either a pencil or a shard of glass. Because she was a pathological liar, her account of what happened--a prison guard had tried to gouge out her eyes in a fight--wasn't credible. The wounds were either self-inflicted, or the result of an altercation with another inmate. The matter remained unresolved.

     In May 1986, correctional authorities accused Geraldine of starting a fire in the prison. Because it was quickly extinguished, no one was hurt. Three years before completing her 10 year sentence, Geraldine Cherry, in 1988, walked out of prison. (She certainly didn't get out early on good behavior. Perhaps the arson hastened her departure.) During the next several years, Cherry lived in various group homes and institutions in Illinois and New Jersey.

     In 2012, Geraldine Cherry and a 70-year-old woman named Kathleen McEwan shared living quarters at the Parker Place Apartments in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia. The complex was owned by a Philadelphia-based, nonprofit social service agency called Resources for Human Development (RHD). McEwan, a former waitress who for years had struggled with schizophrenia, had suffered a series of strokes that had rendered her incapable of feeding or dressing herself.

     At six in the morning of June 10, 2012, fire rescue medics responding to an emergency call from the Parker Place Apartments, found Kathleen McEwan lying face up in her bed. She had died sometime during the night. Due to her age and medical condition, the medical examiner ruled that McEwan had died a natural death.

     Jeff Thompson, the mortician at the John J. Byers Funeral Home in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania who had the job of embalming McEwan, made a gruesome discovery. Someone had stuffed a 10 inch length of rope down the dead woman's throat. Because there hadn't been an autopsy in this death, the medical examiner had made a bad call. Thompson, instead of finishing his job, called the medical examiner's office.

     Kathleen McEwan's autopsy produced further evidence of foul play. The person who had inserted the rope into the woman, had stuffed other things down her throat that included a bottle of  hand lotion, a diaper fragment, and a quantity of Chex Party Mix. This time the medical examiner ruled McEwan's death homicide by suffocation. (Had Cherry smothered McEwan with a pillow, she would have gotten away with murder.)

     Shortly after being charged and arrested for murder, Geraldine Cherry suffered a series of seizures which required the 50-year-old's hospitalization. A judge ordered another psychiatric evaluation. Although a mental health expert would never say this, Geraldine Cherry was a natural born killer. She should not have been living with another person, particularly one so helpless as Kathleen McEwan.

     In October 2012, following a 60-day mental health evaluation, Municipal Court President Judge Marsha Neifield ruled that Geraldine Cherry was mentally incompetent to stand trial for murder.

     Kathleen McEwan's children, in March 2013, filed a lawsuit against the RHD. According to Nancy Walker, the plaintiff's attorney, the social service agency had "failed Kathleen and McEwan and her family, and they also failed Geraldine Cherry. Both of these women needed care, and they needed to be in different types of facilities. Because of Geraldine Cherry's violent history, she should have never been placed in a room with Kathleen McEwan."

     It is doubtful that Geraldine Cherry will ever be adjudicated competent to stand trial. She will never be free either. Too insane to be punished or rehabilitated, this woman will simply have to be warehoused, in isolation, until she dies.

     

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