Woman claims to be 8-year-old Pennsylvania girl missing since 1985

The woman is the fourth in the past forty years to claim she is eight-year-old Cherrie Mahan. Cherrie’s mother says she is deeply affected by the false claims, but still has hope that she will find the truth.

The mother of an 8-year-old Pennsylvania girl who has been missing since 1985 has contacted police about a woman claiming to be her daughter.

Cherrie Mahan was last seen on February 22, 1985, after getting off a school bus about 100 yards from her home in Cabot, 30 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Last month, nearly four decades after the disappearance, a woman posted in a Facebook group dedicated to the little girl called Memories of Cherrie Mahan. In a May 23 message, the woman said she was Cherrie, a claim that made national headlines but that the girl’s mother says she didn’t believe for a second.

Janice McKinney, Cherrie’s mother, posted in the Facebook group that she has contacted the Pennsylvania State Police and told the Butler Eagle newspaper that she believes the message was fraudulent.

“I have spoken to the police, they are investigating,” McKinney wrote in the public group, which has seen much speculation lately about whether the woman could be telling the truth. “This is very difficult for me, so please be aware that I see everything.”

Here’s what you need to know about the case.

Woman claiming to be Cherrie Mahan banned from Facebook group, post deleted

The woman claiming to be Cherrie has been blocked from the Facebook group and her posts have been deleted. Group administrator Brock Organ writes that she has “harassed and bullied” other members and that no one in the group – especially McKinney – should be subjected to that.

“Some people say, ‘But what if it was really her?’” Organ wrote. “This has a simple answer: if it was really her, she could report to any police station and arrange a DNA test without reaching out to people online and making aggressive claims. That’s what a reasonable person would do.”

He asked group members to “please continue to pray for the family.”

Pennsylvania State Police did not respond to USA TODAY’s request for information on Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for the agency, Trooper Bertha Cazy, told the Butler Eagle that they are investigating the woman’s claim that she is Cherrie, but that “they have not contacted her based on the contact information she provided.”

The department is working with an overseas agency to find the woman, she said.

Cherrie Mahan’s family remembers the disappearance 39 years later

In February, Cherrie Mahan’s family celebrated the 39th anniversary of her disappearance. Every year, McKinney prays at the same spot where her daughter disappeared.

McKinney told KDKA-TV she vividly remembers the day her daughter disappeared and a conversation she had with her husband before Cherrie got off the bus.

“Leroy says, ‘Do you want me to go down and pick her up?’ And I said, ‘No, it’s a beautiful day, she’s just running up the hill because she wants to go to her friend’s house.’ But that never happened,” McKinney told the station.

According to the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children, there was little evidence to suggest that a bright blue 1976 Dodge van with a mural of a mountain and a skier could be involved in the disappearance.

“It’s like a black hole opened up and she fell in,” McKinney told the station.

Authorities told the station that Mahan’s case is not considered cold, but is still “active” as they continue to receive tips.

Cherrie’s mother addresses claims made by various women over the years

The woman who claimed to be Cherrie last month is not the first. Three others have claimed to be McKinney’s daughter over the years, KDKA-TV reported.

“People are mean, they are cruel, but this really hits me like crazy,” McKinney told Butler Eagle.

When the latest woman’s claims surfaced, McKinney told the newspaper she knew immediately it wasn’t her girl, saying, “It didn’t look like Cherrie at all.”

She still hopes that one day she will know what happened to her daughter, and told the newspaper that she hopes all the detectives who ever worked on the case will sit down and discuss everything again.

“There’s something that someone somewhere has missed, and someone knows about it,” she said.

She told KDKA-TV that “not knowing is really what sucks the life out of you.”

She continued: “It beats you every day and for the past 39 years it has been the hardest part of my life.”

Anyone with information about Cherri’s case can call police at 724-284-8100, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at, or Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers at 1-800-4PA-TIPS (8477) or

Ahjané Forbes is a reporter for USA TODAY’s National Trending Team. Ahjané covers breaking news, car recalls, stories on crime, health, lotteries and public policy. Email her at [email protected]. Follow her on Instagram, Threads and X (Twitter).

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