Local News: Monday, October 15, 1990
Missing Women: No Link Found
Nearly a month after the disappearance of one Eastside woman - and two weeks after a second also disappeared - police are still struggling to find clues to their whereabouts.
The disappearances of 18-year-old Erin MacGregor and 26-year-old Jami Sherer are being treated as missing person cases because there is still no evidence that any crime has been committed, say Redmond and King County police.
MacGregor was last seen sleeping at her parents' Sahalee home Sept. 19. She did not show up for three job interviews that day, and her car was discovered abandoned in an apartment complex in the Columbia City area of south Seattle on Oct. 3.
``There's been not a link, not a word,'' said King County police spokesman Tony Burtt. ``We've pretty much exhausted everything we can do with that one.''
MacGregor's friends and family have distributed hundreds of bright red fliers with her name and picture on it, pleading with people to call if they have any clue.
Sherer's abandoned car was recovered Oct. 5 in the Kenmore area of north King County. The Redmond woman has been missing since Sept. 30, when she was expected to stop by her mother's Bellevue home to pick up her 2-year-old son. She never arrived.
``There is nothing,'' said Redmond Sgt. George Potts of the police investigation.
While police say there are some obvious similarities in the two cases, the disappearances are not believed to be linked.
Police describe Sherer as 5 feet tall, weighing 97 pounds, and with medium-length brown hair and brown eyes.
MacGregor is described as 5 feet, 7 inches tall, about 125 pounds, with long blond hair and green eyes.
Copyright © 1990 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.
Local News: Wednesday, October 03, 1990
Clues Sought About Missing Redmond Woman
Police are investigating the disappearance of a 26-year-old woman missing since Sunday.
Jami Sherer of Redmond was expected to stop by her mother's Bellevue home Sunday afternoon to pick up her 2-year-old son but never arrived.
Sherer is the second Redmond-area woman to be reported missing in the past two weeks. They are the only two ``open'' missing person cases being investigated on the Eastside, according to Redmond police.
King County police are investigating the disappearance of 18-year-old Erin MacGregor, last seen asleep at her parents' Sahalee home Sept. 20. MacGregor did not show up for three job interviews planned for that day.
Although the Sherer case has ``some similarities'' to the King County case, police say they have no reason to believe the two disappearances are related.
``We've compared notes with the King County detectives, but at this time there is no evidence to indicate a connection,'' said Redmond police Detective Butch Watson.
Sherer did not show up for work at Microsoft Monday, said her husband, Steve Sherer.
The woman's mother, Judy Hagel, said no money has been drawn from Sherer's bank account, and her credit cards have not been used.
``She sounded happy when I talked to her,'' Hagel said. ``She told me she was going to have lunch, then come right over. I fear something is terribly wrong.''
Sherer is described as 5 feet tall, weighing about 97 pounds, with medium-length brown hair and brown eyes. Her car, a 1980 gray Mazda RX7, is also missing.
Copyright © 1990 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.
Local News: Friday, April 19, 1996
A Mother Is Missing: Case Won't Go Away -- Parents Match Microsoft Offer Of $10,000 Reward
Sarah Lopez Williams
Seattle Times East Bureau
REDMOND - Nearly six years have passed since Jami Sherer disappeared without a whisper, leaving behind her toddler son and parents who know no peace.
Police here don't think the Microsoft secretary will ever come home. But they have no real leads in this presumed slaying investigation, which remains the department's only unsolved missing-person case.
Sherer's parents still hope someone can tell them where their daughter is. This week, they doubled the reward for information to $20,000.
Judy and Jerry Hagel of Bellevue have spent thousands of dollars on private investigators in search of their daughter. And they are raising her son, 7-year-old Tyler, who remembers little of his mother.
"It's pretty hard for him to not have a mommy," Judy Hagel said. "Every day when we go to day care, we stop and kiss her picture on the way out the door."
Judy Hagel is the last person known to have talked to her daughter, who was 26 when she disappeared. Sherer called her mother Sept. 30, 1990, to say she was going to stop for a bite to eat at a Taco Time restaurant in Redmond's Bear Creek shopping center. She was then to head to her parents' house.
Days later, her 1980 Mazda RX7 was found abandoned in a church parking lot in the 14700 block of First Avenue Northeast, just north of the Seattle city limits.
Sherer and her husband, Steve, lived in Redmond and had argued the night before she disappeared, according to police.
"She was preparing to move out and was going to go to her mom's house," said Ed Billington, spokesman for the Redmond Police Department. "She never arrived there."
Steve Sherer is now a fugitive wanted on a warrant for alleged drunken driving and has fled the state, authorities say. Billington says Sherer had been uncooperative with police and is a "person of interest" in his wife's disappearance.
Microsoft contributed $10,000 to the reward fund, and the Hagels have added $10,000 of their own. Judy Hagel says she knows her daughter is likely dead. But "we need a finality," she said. "We need to know so that we can put this to rest."
And Tyler? Someday Judy Hagel will talk to him about his mother, a graduate of Bellevue High and big sister to twin brothers. Hagel has already tried, but it's all too overwhelming for Tyler.
"We just have to go on, for Tyler," she said. ----------------------------------------------------------------- Call with information
Anyone with information regarding Jami Sherer's case can call Redmond Police Detective Sgt. John Miner at 556-2580.
Copyright © 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.
Clues Still Eluding Police -- Body Discovery Renews Hunt For Missing Women
The discovery of a woman's body near North Bend over the weekend has sparked renewed interest in the mysterious disappearance of four Eastside women over the past 10 months.
The King County medical examiner's office has yet to identify the body, which was found about 12 miles east of North Bend, near the Tinkham Road off-ramp from Interstate 90.
By yesterday, however, detectives handling the four cases ruled out the possibility the body is that of any of the four missing women.
They are: Erin MacGregor, an 18-year-old resident of the Sahalee area near Redmond; Jami Sherer, 26, of Redmond; Donna Barensten, 59, of Issaquah and Susan Kardas, 36, of Kirkland.
Police say they continue to walk a "thin line" in investigating the disappearances.
On one side, they have several bits of information that may point to foul play. On the other, they have no solid evidence that crimes have been committed. In all, police concede that their investigations have been stalled for months.
"There comes a point in time when you just exhaust all possibilities," said King County police Sgt. Tony Burtt. "Unless you receive more information, there's not much more you can do."
It's possible that some or all of the missing women simply left home, police say.
"It's no crime to be a missing person," said Redmond Detective Larry Conrad.
"Some people don't want to be found. But very few people can really pull it off for any length of time. In almost every case, someplace down the road, they'll screw up."
Although the four cases do not appear to be related, police say the Sherer and MacGregor cases are being investigated as potential homicides.
-- Erin MacGregor, who lived with her mother, was last seen Sept. 20, entering an apartments complex near Juanita High School. A recent graduate of Redmond High School, MacGregor had three job interviews scheduled that day but didn't show up for any of them. Her purse and money were left at home. MacGregor's car was found abandoned Oct. 3 in the Columbia City neighborhood of Seattle.
Lee MacGregor holds hope his daughter is still alive, but acknowledges he sometimes fears the worst.
"It's tough," he said. "Every time I hear about some body being found somewhere, I wonder if it's her."
-- Jami Sherer was last heard from Sept. 30, following an argument police say she had with her husband. Jami took their 2-year-old son, Tyler, to her mother's home in Bellevue to spend the night, then left. She called her mother the following day to say she was going to stop for a bite to eat, then would be right over to pick up Tyler.
She never showed up.
Nor did she cash her last pay check from Microsoft Corp. in Redmond, where she was employed. Her car was found Oct. 5 in the Kenmore area.
Without revealing details, Redmond Detective George Potts said there is some evidence pointing to foul play in the Sherer case.
"Ideally, it would be great if she called her mom tomorrow to say she was in Bermuda," Potts said. "But. . . . should she turn up as a homicide, we're that much ahead on the investigation."
-- Susan Kardas, described by police as shy and quiet, with few friends, was unemployed and lived with her parents. One day in mid-December, she told them she was going to catch a bus to the Seattle Library.
"She hasn't been seen since," said Kirkland Detective Ed Malkowski. "We have very few leads. We don't know if she just walked away or what."
Although the Kardas' parents tell police they believe their daughter has simply disappeared on her own, Malkowski remains intrigued by the fact that a suspected murderer was in town during that time.
Larry Miller, 50, was wanted for the slaying of 22-year-old Shannon Ostberg, a Spokane woman who also vanished in December.
Although Miller was arrested in Everett in January, Ostberg's whereabouts remained a mystery until April 20, when her body was found in a snow bank near Leavenworth. Nine days later, Miller hanged himself in jail.
Kirkland police know Miller was in Kirkland because they discovered Ostberg's abandoned car there in December.
-- Donna Barensten vanished in May while hiking with her husband, Ron, on Squak Mountain.
Barensten speculated aloud that his wife may have fallen into an abandoned coal mine shaft and would like search dogs to return to the mountain.
Authorities, however, tell him that they don't believe she's on the mountain. "They say they would have found her by now," Barensten said.
Copyright © 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.
Sunday, January 09, 2000
E-mail article Print view
The case of the missing wife
Louis T. Corsaletti, Ian Ith
Seattle Times Eastside Bureau
One September morning in 1990, Jami Sherer ceased to exist. Police turned up nothing. Other than her abandoned car and a suitcase of clothes, there was no evidence that she had run away. And there was no body to show that she was dead. The case of the missing Redmond mother languished for almost a decade.
Yesterday, police arrested her husband on a first-degree murder charge.
FBI agents, working with Redmond detectives, captured Steven Sherer, 38, about 1 p.m. yesterday, after staking out his mother's Mill Creek home where he has been living.
With Sherer now in the King County Jail on $1 million bail, county prosecutors are preparing to argue, with virtually no physical evidence, that he killed his young wife.
Even though investigators still have no clue to Jami Sherer's whereabouts, they say they have gathered reams of circumstantial evidence that will show her husband battered her and threatened to kill her if she left him.
If they succeed, it will be one of the few times in Washington state history in which a murder case was made without a body.
"I'm not going to deny this is a circumstantial case," said deputy King County prosecutor Marilyn Brenneman. "But we believe the charging documents show a very strong case, and we're prepared to go to trial. We are just convinced a jury should hear the evidence, and when they do, they will do the right thing."
Sherer had not obtained an attorney yesterday and wasn't made available for comment. But for almost 10 years, he has publicly denied knowing what happened to his wife, who was 26 when she disappeared.
"He is totally innocent, that's what he has said all along," his mother, Sharon Schielke, said yesterday. "Ten years later, this is just a little bit much."
Yesterday's arrest capped a three-year investigation, police say, that sent investigators around the globe - using every tool from tracking dogs to psychics to try to find Jami Sherer alive or prove she had been killed.
"We were certain that the big picture showed he (Steven Sherer) was responsible," said Redmond Lt. Jim Taylor, the lead investigator. "We also looked for something that might show he didn't do it. Did she just take off? Did she run off with someone else? We even looked to see if she joined the armed forces.
"But as leads developed, it all went back to Sherer, over and over."
`I believed it was solvable'
It was a soggy January, 1997. Taylor had just taken over Redmond's detective squad after years on patrol. He sat down to review unsolved cases and peeled open a 7-year-old file folder marked "Jami Sherer."
No trace of the young Eastside mother had been found since she evaporated Sept. 30, 1990. No phone call. No letter home. The well-liked Microsoft secretary hadn't made a single bank transaction or credit card charge.
She was listed as a missing person. But her case hadn't been touched in years.
As Taylor read the file, he saw possibilities. Potential witnesses who hadn't been interviewed. Angles that hadn't been explored.
And wherever Jami Sherer was, he thought, her family deserved some answers.
"My first reaction was that I believed it was solvable," said Taylor. He hand-picked a pair of his best detectives and told them to go after the case full bore, wherever the trail led, whatever the cost.
Not an easy case to prove
In cases where there is no body, homicide charges are rarely filed on circumstantial evidence alone - however compelling that evidence might appear. If county prosecutors do take on that challenge, it's because they have some shred of physical evidence, such as a bit of blood or shard of bone.
Perhaps the most notorious no-body case in Washington ended in 1985 after a jury convicted Ruth Neslund of murdering, dismembering and burning her 80-year-old husband, Rolf, at their Lopez Island home in 1980; the man's remains were never found.
Without Jami Sherer's body as proof a crime was committed, it won't be easy for prosecutors to make a murder case against her husband.
"I'd assume (prosecutors) have got what they think is a decent shot, but I wouldn't put any money on it," said John Junker, professor of criminal law at the University of Washington.
For prosecutors to prove that Sherer killed his wife, they first have to convince a jury that she is dead.
"And even if they show that, they have to show beyond a reasonable doubt, that this fellow killed her," Junker said. "This is not a question of probabilities."
One prominent defense lawyer agreed, but said such cases also are a challenge to the defense.
"If there's a lot of circumstantial evidence, as a defense attorney you start sweating," said Seattle attorney John Henry Browne, whose long list of clients includes arsonist Martin Pang. "It gets pretty hard to explain away everything."
Jami's last day
Judy Hagel will always remember Sunday, Sept. 30, 1990. That's the last time she saw her only daughter, Jami.
Very early that morning, the energetic 26-year-old with long brown hair, brown eyes and a pretty smile, had been to see her folks in Bellevue to drop off her 2-year-old son.
The wispy young mother - she was barely 5 feet tall and weighed 95 pounds - had been fighting with her husband, Steve, again, Hagel recalled. She had been seeing another man, a friend of her husband's.
"She crawled up on her father's lap and said, "I want to come home," Hagel recalled. "A few minutes later Steve called, and Jami told him she wanted a divorce. He wouldn't accept that and asked her to talk it over."
They agreed to meet. Hagel offered to go along, but Jami declined.
At about 8:30 a.m., not long after she left, Jami called her mother and said Steve had grabbed her purse and run off, and she figured he would head to their house in Redmond. She went there and called her mother again.
At about 11:45 a.m. Jami called again and said she was leaving for her parents' house but would stop at the Taco Time in Redmond for a bite to eat.
"She said Steve was there (at their home)," Judy Hagel said. "She didn't seem frightened or in any distress. That's the last time we heard from her."
Less then a half hour later, Steve Sherer called the Hagel house, asking for Jami. He called again 15 minutes later, and again at 6 p.m.
By then, he was already telling his family that Jami had disappeared, according to charging documents.
Later that evening, Sherer showed up at the Hagels' house, took his son and went home. Three hours later, he came back with the boy.
Hagel recalled that her son-in-law said he was too upset to stay at his own house. The Hagels let him stay with them off and on for the next week.
Car found abandoned
By the following weekend, the Hagel family was desperate to find Jami, who had now been reported as a missing person to police. They organized friends and neighbors and searched her neighborhood on Education Hill in Redmond.
Police found Jami's 10-year-old gray Mazda sports car several days later in a church parking lot in Shoreline. A suitcase of her clothes - but strangely, no undergarments - was in the car. Jami's family combed the Shoreline neighborhood, too.
Steven Sherer declined to join in the search.
Instead, nine days after Jami vanished, he started his car inside the garage of his Redmond home and sat inside until the carbon monoxide fumes became almost incapacitating. At the last minute, he called 911 on his cellular phone.
Police said they found a "final note" he had written, but they wouldn't say what it said.
The police were having little luck determining what had happened to Jami Sherer.
They couldn't find any physical evidence that her husband was involved in her disappearance. A brief walk-through search of the Sherer home a week after she was last seen turned up no leads. Steven Sherer wasn't talking. And without some evidence that Jami was dead, police couldn't open a homicide investigation.
"We probably started off right, but we didn't believe the suspect was right in front of us," said Redmond Police Chief Steve Harris. "Everyone was thinking she was with a friend and still around. Then getting facts down was difficult. And maybe we didn't know the right way to ask questions."
Case is reopened
When Taylor decided to reopen the case in 1997, he was working with scant physical evidence, little in the way of circumstantial leads, and no proof that Jami hadn't simply run away to begin a new life somewhere.
Yet Taylor, a 30-year police veteran and former special agent for the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, was driven by curiosity and a passion for details.
He turned to two detectives, Greg Mains and Mike Faddis, for help.
Mains, 49, is cerebral and soft-spoken, a 27-year police veteran who had just been promoted to the detective's unit.
Faddis, 34, is a jovial bear of a man who had risen quickly through the ranks and had just returned from a year working with the FBI's Puget Sound Violent Crimes Task Force. During that time, he had poked into the disappearance of Jami Sherer, and believed she may have been killed.
Police gathered increasing evidence that Jami Sherer was the victim of domestic violence and began to scrutinize her husband.
"We decided our main theme would be to conduct an autopsy on the life of Steven Sherer," Taylor said. "We needed to know who he was, what he was, why he was.
"We tracked him everywhere he ever lived, everywhere he went to school, every job held, every house lived in, and as far as possible, each and every woman he ever dated."
In order to get county prosecutors to consider filing homicide charges, the detectives also had to prove they had done everything possible to find out whether Jami Sherer was alive.
Police interviewed more than 300 people in 12 states, from Hawaii to North Carolina, and as far away as Germany and BogotĄa, Colombia.
A pattern began to emerge that indicated Sherer "had a definite anger-management problem," according to Taylor. Those who knew him told police that Sherer would drink to excess and become belligerent and possessive.
Husband had a past
Steven Frank Sherer was born in Santa Maria, Calif., in 1961. After moving to Snohomish County, his family ran a construction company, Sherer Quality Homes in Everett.
He graduated from Lynnwood High School in 1979, then spent a year at Edmonds Community College studying to be a travel agent. But that didn't last, and he returned to the family business and learned to be a carpenter. At the time of his arrest yesterday, he had been working occasionally for an uncle.
When Sherer was 21, in 1984, his father committed suicide, leaving a considerable estate to his mother.
About that time, according to court records, Sherer began to compile what would become a long criminal record.
In March 1986, he was arrested and eventually convicted of felony assault for smashing a broken drinking glass into the back of his then 21-year-old girlfriend's head, hospitalizing her, records show. That incident was but one chapter in months of quarrels with the woman that included documented threats, telephone harassment and several restraining orders against him, Lynnwood police records show.
In September 1987, Bellevue police arrested Sherer for drunken driving. At the scene, he became combative and had to be restrained. At the police station he attacked Bellevue Officer Bernard Molloy, choking him with both hands and threatening to kill him. Sherer was convicted of felony assault.
Over the years, he was treated for alcoholism and racked up a string of burglary and theft convictions, and traffic offenses that earned him "habitual traffic offender" status, records show.
About the time Sherer's legal troubles grew serious, in early 1986, he met Jami in a Redmond nightspot. He was 24; she was 22. They married a year later and had a child a year after that.
"Even before they were married it was a rocky relationship," Judy Hagel said. "Everyone tried to talk her out of marrying him, but she said she loved him."
After the wedding, family members said, there was a tremendous change in Jami.
"You wouldn't even know she was the same girl," her mother said. "She used to be fun-loving and laugh a lot; then she became very withdrawn, very negative. She had a good job when they met. Then she lost it because of not showing up for work."
Friends and family members told police that Steve was violent and controlling; Jami dyed her hair blonde and got breast implants at his insistence.
Prosecutors say Sherer advertised in "swinger" magazines and recruited friends for group sex. The night before Jami disappeared, she was at a Seattle hotel with a man the couple had been involved with sexually.
After Jami vanished, Sherer continued to have legal problems.
In June 1991, he got into an argument outside a Bellevue bar with a man who pulled a pistol and shot him in the forearm, court records show.
In 1992, he served time for violating probation by using cocaine and failing to meet with his probation officer. Last year in Phoenix he was given deferred prosecution for possessing crack cocaine.
Sherer is known to use as many as a dozen aliases and has several driver's licenses issued with different middle names, birth dates and addresses. He has a driver's license and criminal records under his most common pseudonym, Steven Christopher Michaels.
He hasn't remarried.
His most recent conviction came earlier this year - after he called Lt. Taylor and threatened to kill him if he didn't stop investigating him in Jami's disappearance. He pleaded guilty to obstructing a public servant, a misdemeanor, and served six months in jail.
Sherer's record and behavior gave Taylor, Faddis and Mains important clues, they say. Interviews with police and charging papers filed by prosecutors identify several bits of circumstantial evidence that likely will be used to build a case against Sherer:
Several of the young couple's friends and relatives told detectives that in the days after Jami's disappearance, Sherer would show up at bars wearing his wife's panties tied around his arm and her locket and chain around his neck. The friends told detectives that Sherer told them the strange display helped him feel "closer to Jami."
But, while wearing the talisman, Sherer also told a woman that he was "glad the bitch was gone." He began dating other women within weeks.
To authorities, Sherer always acted as if his wife had run away. To friends he acted and talked as if he was a widower. Acquaintances told police that Sherer said his wife had been killed in a car accident, or that she had died, or that he was single. He frequently claimed to be "widowed" on official documents and once told a friend that Jami had been the victim of the Green River Killer.
Sherer took over Jami's finances within a month of her vanishing, cashing out her paychecks and stocks from her job at Microsoft.
Sherer's sister, Saundra McCarrell of Shoreline, told detectives that she had seen a large "red spot" on the carpet of his home shortly after Jami left.
Years later, when the investigators searched the house again, they said they found indications that someone had repeatedly steam-cleaned a small section of carpet and sloppily replaced a patch of rug near the door to the garage. And witnesses told police that Sherer bought a patch of carpet and hired a carpet cleaner a week after Jami vanished.
One of Sherer's friends told police he found it "odd" that the day after Jami went missing, there was a shovel in Sherer's truck that had never been there before.
Years after the disappearance, the same friend told police that he had talked to Jami on the phone that final morning and that she was "in a panic" to get out of her home before her husband got there.
When Jami left her house the morning she disappeared, she reportedly told her mother, "You know how his temper is. All he can do is kill me."
Sherer's sister said her brother called her several years after Jami's disappearance and asked her to arrange a meeting with a priest, saying he had done something "very, very bad."
The search for clues
The King County medical examiner issued a death certificate for Jami on May 12, 1997. It had been almost seven years since she had disappeared, and police could find no indication that she was alive, said Jerry Webster, the chief medical investigator.
Just a few months earlier, police had reopened Jami's file and were determined to prove she had been killed. But it took three more years for the detectives, Mains and Faddis, to gather enough evidence to take to prosecutors.
During that time, they contacted records officials in all 50 states and every province in Canada, looking in vain for some shred of paperwork that might be a sign of Jami.
They went to special training seminars on missing-persons cases, homicides and cold cases. Taylor took sheaves of fliers to national law-enforcement association meetings and asked colleagues to check their files for any information on Steve or Jami.
The investigators consulted Redmond detectives who had worked on the case in 1990, profilers from the Seattle Police Department, detectives from the King County Sheriff's Office and FBI agents.
They sought the help of the state attorney general's Homicide Tracking Office and, through the Washington State Patrol, made inquiries at Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization, to help track down a potential witness in Germany.
Taylor even accepted offers from four psychics from around the country who had helped in other King County investigations. Each was given only Jami's full name, her last home address and the date she disappeared. Three of them sketched images of spookily similar locations - a power transmission tower surrounded by woods.
"It (turned out to be) within a quarter mile of an area in South Snohomish County we had searched earlier with cadaver dogs and King County Search and Rescue personnel," Taylor said.
The detectives repeatedly combed wooded areas of southern Snohomish and northeastern King County, and twice they enlisted police divers and sonar equipment to scour the bottom of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County.
Every time their radios crackled with news of a body found anywhere in the area, their hearts raced, Taylor said. Is it Jami? they wondered.
It never was.
By the summer of 1998, Taylor and King County prosecutors decided that enough evidence had been gathered to convene secret sessions before King County Inquiry Judge Robert Lasnik and compel uncooperative witnesses, including Sherer's mother, to answer questions. Testimony given last year and as recently as last week in those sessions - similar to grand jury sessions - has been sealed.
Sherer was aware the sessions were under way. At one point, he told a friend that he didn't understand why police kept looking for Jami, Taylor said. "There's nothing to find," police say Sherer told the friend.
Late last week, prosecutors agreed that detectives had gathered enough evidence to file charges, while witnesses, some in ill health, are still available.
"The police have continued to investigate this case and have pulled it all together," said Brenneman, the deputy county prosecutor. "The detectives were really committed to this case, and that's what you want."
With an arrest warrant in hand, detectives waited Friday morning at Sherer's probation office in Lynnwood for him to arrive for a routine meeting. He never showed. Over the next 24 hours, they combed the area around his mother's Mill Creek home and alerted other police agencies that they were after him.
About 1 p.m. yesterday, FBI agents watching the house spotted one of Sherer's friends knocking on the front door. The agents moved in behind the friend. When Sherer opened the door, they grabbed him.
He is now in jail, awaiting arraignment next week. After almost 10 years, charges against him offer the first hope of answers to Jami's family.
"If it weren't for (Jami's son), I think it would be great news," said Judy Hagel, Jami's mother. "Steve being in jail isn't going to get my daughter back. I need to know where she's at."
Taylor and his detectives won't publicly speculate about the specifics of what they think happened to Jami. And unless a body is found, the real truth may never be known.
But prosecutors and police think they have stitched together enough evidence, however circumstantial, to make their case.
"We have unearthed every bit of information possible on this case," Taylor said. "Now it will be judged by a jury of his peers."
Louis T. Corsaletti's phone message number is 206-515-5626. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
Copyright © 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.
Jami Sue Sherer
Above: Sherer, circa 1990
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: September 30, 1990 from Redmond, Washington
Classification: Endangered Missing
Date Of Birth: December 1, 1963
Age: 26 years old
Height and Weight: 5'0, 90 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Brown hair. Jami's hair was bleached blonde at the time of her 1990 disappearance. She has breast implants. Jami's maiden name is Hagel. Her ears are pierced.
Details of Disappearance
Jami was married to Steven Frank Sherer at the time of her 1990 disappearance and the couple had a young son. They lived in Redmond, Washington at the time. A photo of Steven is posted below this case summary. Their marriage was quite troubled and Jami decided to seek a divorce from Steven by the fall of 1990. She left their residence during the evening of September 29 and spent the night at her parents' home with their young son.
Jami agreed to meet Steven the following morning after he pleaded with her during a phone call to reconsider her divorce plans. Jami left their child in her parents' care and drove to meet her husband during the morning hours of September 30, 1990. She called her mother at approximately 8:30 a.m. and said that Steven grabbed her purse and ran off; Jami assumed he was headed for their residence and planned to meet him there to retrieve her belongings. She called her parents again at approximately 11:45 a.m. and said Steven was indeed at the couple's home. Jami said that she planned to stop at Taco Time, a local fast food restaurant, and purchase lunch before returning to her parents' house. She has never been heard from again. Her mother stated that Jami did not sound distressed during their final phone conversation.
Steven called Jami's parents approximately 30 minutes after his wife's final call. He called again 15 minutes later, inquiring as to Jami's whereabouts. Jami's mother told authorities that she was accustomed to her son-in-law's frequent phone calls; he often checked in many times a day when Jami was visiting her family and was very possessive of her. Jami's mother became concerned for her daughter's well-being when Steven failed to call until 6:00 p.m., which was extremely unusual for him. He said that there was no sign of Jami and he was going to pick up their son from her parents' house. Authorities learned later that Steven had already contacted some of his own family members and friends to announce that Jami was missing by this time. Steven told Jami's family that he was too distraught to return to the couple's home, so her parents allowed him to stay at their house with their grandson occasionally throughtout the coming week.
Jami's charcoal 1980 Mazda RX 7 was discovered abandoned several days after her disappearance in a Shoreline, Washington church parking lot. Her purse was missing from the vehicle, but investigators located her suitcase inside. Her clothing was packed in the luggage, but Jami's underwear was missing. There was no trace of her at the scene.
Steven was considered the prime suspect in her disappearance from the onset. His friends reported that he began behaving strangely after Jami disappeared. Nine days after her disappearance, he attempted suicide with carbon monoxide, but called 911 and was taken to a hospital before any serious damage was done. Steven began dating other women within a few weeks of Jami's disappearance. He frequented bars and wore Jami's panties tied around his arm. He also wore her necklace, telling people it made him feel "closer" to his missing wife. Steven frequently claimed to be a widower on official documents and informed several friends that Jami was killed in a car accident and told others that she was a victim of the Green River serial killer. Her car showed no sign of being involved in any type of traffic incident and there was no evidence to suggest Jami's disappearance was linked to the Green River cases. Steven aroused more suspicion when he reportedly told another friend he was "glad" Jami was gone.
Steven took over Jami's finances in early October 1990 and cashed all of her assets. His sister contacted authorities and stated that she saw a large red spot on the carpeting of her brother's residence shortly after Jami vanished. Investigators searched the Sherers' home and discovered that a portion of the carpet had recently been repeatedly steam-cleaned; a new piece of carpet had been sloppily placed over the area where Steven's sister stated she saw a stain. Neighbors said that Steven hired a carpet cleaning service during the days following his wife's disappearance. A friend said that he saw a shovel in Steven's truck on October 1, the day after Jami was last seen. The shovel was not normally carried in the vehicle.
Investigators did not have enough formal evidence to charge Steven in connection with Jami's case for several years. Jami and Steven met in 1986. Jami was initially unaware that Steven had a prior criminal record for abusing and hospitalizing a former girlfriend. Jami's loved ones noticed a dramatic change in her behavior after becoming involved with Steven. He requested that she bleach her brown hair blonde and also asked her to have breast implants inserted. Jami and Steven were married in 1987; their son was born in 1988. By most accounts, Steven was very possessive of his wife. Besides Jami's mother's statements regarding his constant phone calls while Jami visited her family, he also apparently made further restrictions on Jami's time. Jami lost one job due to excessive tardiness and absences in the late 1980's. Her family and friends maintain that Steven's demands caused the job loss.
Investigators learned that Steven placed advertisements in adult magazines looking for group sex while married to Jami. It is believed that Jami consented to such arrangements at her husband's request. Nothing in her past leads authorities to believe she was involved in such relationships before she met Steven. Steven also asked friends to participate in group sexual encounters.
Steven continued to add to his criminal record throughout his marriage to Jami. He was charged with assaulting a police officer, burglary, theft and various traffic violations in the late 1980's. Steven was treated for alcoholism around this time as well. Jami had apparently tired of Steven's behavior and wanted a divorce by September 1990. It has been established that she was having an affair with a friend of Steven's at the time of her disappearance.
Steven's sister reported that he asked her to make an appointment for him to meet with a priest several years after Jami vanished. He claimed that he did "something bad" and needed to confess. He also continued to have criminal problems in the 1990's. Steven was wounded by a gunshot in a 1992 bar brawl. He also violated the terms of his probation for a previous arrest by using cocaine and failing to meet with his probation officer. He was given deferred prosecution in Arizona in 1999 for possession of crack cocaine. Steven has used at least 12 different aliases in the past, many of them equipped with false identification. He has a criminal record under his most commonly used identification, Steven Christopher Michaels.
Jami was declared legally dead in 1997. Steven was arrested on first degree murder charges for her presumed death in March 2000. He was found guilty and sentenced to 60 years in a Washington prison in June 2000. Steven has maintained his innocence throughout the years. While in prison, additional years were added to his sentence after he was charged with attempting to have Jami's parents' house burned down. It is unlikely that he will ever be released. Jami has never been located. Foul play is presumed in her disappearance due to the circumstances involved.
Crime writer Ann Rule included the Sherers' case in her 2000 book, Empty Promises: And Other True Cases. It is Volume Seven in Rule's Crime Files series.
Above: Steven Sherer, circa 1998
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Redmond Police Department
The Seattle Times
The Literary Guild
Empty Promises: and Other True Cases by Ann Rule
Ann Rule's Official Home Page
Updated 1 time since October 12, 2004.
Last updated June 14, 2006; details of disappearance updated.
Charley Project Home
Missing since September 30, 1990 from Redmond, King County, Washington.
Classification: Endangered Missing
Date Of Birth: December 1, 1963
Age at Time of Disappearance: 26 years old
Height and Weight at Time of Disappearance: 5'1; 95 lbs.
Distinguishing Characteristics: White female. Brown hair; brown eyes.
Marks, Scars: Sherer has breast implants.
Dentals: X-rays Available
Circumstances of Disappearance
Jami met Steven Sherer in 1986. He had a prior criminal record for abusing and hospitializing a previous girlfriend at the time; his file included documented threats, harassment complaints and restraining orders from the same woman. Jami's family and friends noticed an obvious change in her behavior after becoming romantically involved with Steven; they stated that she became withdrawn and dyed her hair blonde at his insistence, along with receiving breast implants. She was also fired from a job at that time due to poor attendence. All signs pointed to an abusive relaitonship and Jami's loved ones tried to convince her not to marry Steven; however, they wed in 1987. Their son was born in 1988.
By 1987, Steven had racked up more criminal charges on his record. He was convicted of choking and assaulting a police officer in a drunken rage. He was also treated for alcoholism. Steven had been labeled as a habitual offender by the late-1980's, mainly due to a string of theft convictions and traffic violations. Another troubling sign came in the form of Steven's consistent invitations to friends and his advertisments in adult magazines for group sexual activities with himself and his wife. It is known that Jami was seeing another man who was a friend of Steven's at the time she disappeared.
Jami apaprently had enough of Steven's abuse by September of 1990. The couple had been arguing for some time when she finally drove to her parents' home nearby with their son on September 29, 1990. She told her parents that she intended to leave Steven the following day and planned to move into her parents' house. Steven telephoned Jami later that evening and asked her to return to the couple's residence; she refused and informed him she wanted a divorce. According to Jami's mother, Steven did not accept that answer and pleaded with Jami to meet him the following day. She agreed to meet him outside of their home the next morning.
Jami phoned her mother shortly after 8:30 AM on September 30, 1990. She left their son in her parents' care. She said that Steven grabbed her purse and ran off shortly after meeting him; Jami also said that she figured Steven was en route to the couple's home and she intended to go there to reclaim her purse. Jami called her parents again at approximately 11:45 AM that morning. She said that Steven was at their residence and she was heading back to her parents' house after stopping for lunch at Taco Time, a fast-food restaurant. Her mother told investigators that Jami did not seem to be distressed at the time of her final phone call. Jami has never been seen nor heard from again.
Steven called Jami's parents approximately 30 minutes after they last heard from their daughter. He asked to speak to his wife; after being informed she was not there, he telephoned them again 15 minutes later and again at 6:00 PM. According to authorities, Steven was already informing his own family members that Jami was missing by this time. He arrived at Jami's parents' home later that evening to collect their son, but returned three hours later. Jami's parents stated that Steven told them he was "too upset" to return to the couple's home for the night. They allowed him to stay at their home occasionally throughout the next week with their grandson.
Jami's 1980 Mazda RX7 was discovered as an abandoned vehicle in a church parking lot in Shoreline, Washington several days after her initial disappearance. Her purse was missing from the car. A suitcase with her clothing was located in the vehicle, but her underwear was not included with her belongings. There was no trace of Jami at the scene.
Friends told police that Steven began acting very strangely immediately following Jami's disappearance. He frequented bars after his wife vanished and wore her panties tied around his arm; Steven also wore her necklace around his neck. He told friends the trinkets made him feel "closer to Jami."
Steven took over Jami's personal finances the week following her disappearance and cashed all of her assets out. His sister informed police that she had seen a "large red spot" on the carpet of Steven and Jami's home the week she went missing. Investigators found evidence that the carpet in question had been repeatedly steamcleaned and a new piece of carpet was sloppily placed on the floor. Witnesses stated that Steven hired a carpet-cleaning service the week Jami disappeared. A friend claimed he saw a shovel in Steven's truck the day after Jami vanished, an object which had never previously been in the vehicle.
Steven reportedly asked his sister to arrange an appointment for him with a priest several years after his wife disappeared; according to his sister, Steven told her he had done something "bad" and wished to confess.
Steven has been under suspicion in Jami's case since the beginning of the investigation. He has denied any role in her disappearance and has insisted he is innocent.
Steven was found guilty of first-degree murder in June 2000. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison. In imposing the sentence, the judge said he wanted to send Sherer away for a long time because he feared for society and for women should Sherer walk free again. The verdict makes Sherer one of only a handful of people in Washington state history to be convicted of murder when a body has not been found.
If you have any information concerning Jami's whereabouts, please contact:
Redmond Police Department
All information may be submitted anonymously.
Agency Case Number:
NCIC Number: M-449974108
Please refer to this number when contacting any agency with information regarding this case.
Source Information: The Seattle Times
Washington State Missing Persons