State lab confirms remains were of Penny Sherman

Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Penny Sherman

EUREKA SPRINGS -- Skeletal remains found near the Ridgeview Residential and Assisted Care Center in Eureka Springs Oct. 8 have been confirmed to be those of 52-year-old Penny Louise Sherman, a resident of the center for one day.

According to a press release from Eureka Springs police, the confirmation came from the state crime lab on Friday, based on dental records. There were no signs of trauma, and the cause of death was listed as undetermined.

Sherman went missing from the center May 13, one day after she was admitted. Several search teams and search dogs were deployed at that time to locate Sherman, and police say it was unknown how she evaded detection.

Her skeletal remains were discovered after a real estate agent and potential buyer were walking the property near the residential care center and came across a human skull along a creekbed. Authorities responded with a search of the area. Clothing items and other scattered remains were located and sent to the state crime lab.

The family of Penny Sherman says it appreciates all the efforts that were put forth to find their loved one during the initial search.

"Jack Deaton and the SORT (Special Operation Rescue Team) volunteers looked for her steadfastly despite rain and cold and darkness," said her sister Jo Crandall. "Our family holds all of them in the highest regard."

Crandall says Penny was the fourth of five children, born at the Great Lakes naval station in Waukegan, Ill. Her father was a chief warrant officer in the United States Air Force and the family moved often.

She said Penny had a home in Eureka Springs with her husband Joe Sherman, who was pastor of the United Methodist Church until his unexpected death in 2004. After his death she remained a Eureka resident.

"She loved it there and probably still does," Crandall commented.

Crandall remembered her sister, saying "she taught me to ride a bike, she did my homework for me, she always made A's, she looked at rocks and clouds as though they were messages, she hated her feet, and, she did a perfect impersonation of Red Skelton's Freddie the Freeloader, a hobo who never spoke -- and she made audiences laugh till they cried."

Crandall said Penny joined the Marine Corps when she was about 18-years-old because she thought the recruiter was cute.

"They wanted her to rejoin, as did the Air Force, but she opted for the civilian life," recalled Crandall. "Her prison guard stint was about three months, between jobs. She loved nature and was a member of the Nature Conservancy. She played the flute, and the piano wonderfully, though never had a lesson. She had a gentle touch and careful way about her. She was fun, beautiful, thoughtful, and very private.

"At times her comments were somewhat abstract, but out of the jumble solutions were produced. She is the only person I know who would serve lasagna with a side of rice, and read every word of a real estate contract.

"Her despondence became overwhelming and we, her friends and family, tried very hard to rescue her," said Crandall. "She kept claiming she wasn't fixable. I don't believe that, but she did.

"The coroner in Little Rock has been able to establish her identity," she commented, "and is therefore returning her to us so we can arrange a celebration of her life.

"She chose a beautiful place overlooking a small waterfall to spend her last moments," Crandall added. "I imagine the freedom was exhilarating and the peacefulness was welcoming."

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