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Published: Thursday, February 14, 2019 @ 5:00 PM
RIVERSIDE — For the first time since Cheryl Coker went missing more than four months ago, Riverside police are saying they have a suspect in her disappearance.
"We do have a suspect in this case. However, we are not really going to comment on that right now," said Riverside police Detective Travis Abney. "We do have a suspect."
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.
According to police, Coker 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 Coker spent the next few minutes sharing posts on Facebook.
"About 7:45 that morning, pretty much everything electronically with her just stopped," he said.
Surveillance video from a business shows Coker's 2016 Toyota Highlander driving into the Kroger parking lot at Spinning and Burkhardt — less than a mile from her home — at 10:48 a.m. The video stops before the driver gets out.
Coker'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.
So where is Cheryl Coker?
Her family doesn't believe she just left. Coker's mother, Mary Carroll, said, "She would never, never be gone without calling her 15-year old daughter."
Detectives also don't believe Coker 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.
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 Coker 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 Coker, 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 Coker'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 Coker 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.
Riverside police are committed to finding Cheryl Coker no matter how long it takes.
"I'm very optimistic that this case will be solved and that justice will be served," Abney said.
Meanwhile, waiting for word is excruciating for Coker's family.