Sheri Vickers has been missing since March.
The North Texas woman, 44 at the time of her disappearance, was in contact with her family every day. She has a young son with autism who needs care and lived in the Haltom City and North Fort Worth area so she could be close to her mother, who she also cared for.
But since March 23, Vickers hasn’t been seen by family or friends in the Fort Worth area. Her mother, son and two adult daughters haven’t heard from her. And Fort Worth police homicide Detective Joey McAnally told the Star-Telegram her digital footprint has gone dark.
Her last appearance in Fort Worth was at a hotel on Cherry Lane, where she got into a truck with a man and a woman. Detectives used digital data to track the three people from that hotel to Breckenridge, a small town on U.S. Highway 180 in Stephens County about two hours west of Fort Worth, on the evening of March 23. McAnally said witnesses told her they saw Vickers in the same truck, a white Dodge Ram, asleep.
“I think I can say with confidence that that was the last time that anybody saw her and I don’t think she is alive,” McAnally told the Star-Telegram.
McAnally said there’s no evidence that Vickers was necessarily killed by someone; no bloody crime scene, no murder weapon, no witnesses relaying a story about an argument or fight. It’s possible that Vickers died of natural causes or of an overdose and that someone panicked, not wanting to call 911 to report her death, and hid her body somewhere, the detective said.
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But Vickers being missing for so long and breaking her daily contact with her family, with no sign that she wanted to disconnect from them, is worrying. Sheri Vickers’ daughter Emily Vickers said her mother would talk to her at least once a week and usually at least once every three days. Sheri Vickers would talk to her father every day, though.
“He was the first to realize something was wrong and say he hadn’t heard from her in three days,” Emily Vickers said. “I’d spoken to her about four days before.”
In her three years as a homicide detective, McAnally said she hasn’t really made a habit of poking around in missing person cases. She’ll be in contact with the detectives who investigate disappearances, but isn’t looking to step on any toes. But when she learned the details of Sheri Vickers’ disappearance, she had a feeling that things were “a little off.”
McAnally said she would love to be wrong. But Sheri Vickers had no connection to Breckenridge other than the man she went there with, and she had every reason to return to Fort Worth.
Sheri Vickers and John Brown Lewis had been dating off and on for several years, McAnally said family members told her, and it wasn’t a healthy relationship. Lewis is suspected of dealing drugs while he was with her, and family members told investigators he may have been abusive.
The current best theory, based on witness interviews, is that Lewis was going to Breckenridge for a drug deal and he took Sheri Vickers and another woman with him, McAnally said. It’s hard to know for sure because Lewis, who is currently in jail on unrelated charges including a parole violation, won’t talk with her.
Witnesses told McAnally that at one point Sheri Vickers was seen asleep in the truck while Lewis and the other woman were out of the vehicle talking to them. They told the detective that at one point, they heard Lewis say he felt like Vickers was “dead weight” and that he needed to get her out of the vehicle.
The other woman who was in the truck has been cooperative and is not suspected to have anything to do with Sheri Vickers’ death or disappearance, according to McAnally.
Sheri Vickers wasn’t shy about struggles she had with addiction, McAnally said. Her family and friends knew about it. Emily Vickers said she always worried something bad would happen to her mother because of it.
But McAnally said she was also told Sheri Vickers was a good person.
Everybody McAnally has talked to in the Fort Worth area has tried to help. While most of what they’ve had to offer were rumors that didn’t match up with established facts, they did give McAnally a good sense of Sheri Vickers’ character.
“Everybody loves Sheri. She didn’t hide her struggles from her friends and family but she would help anybody,” McAnally said. “Sheri is well loved and well known here. ... She has her mother who lives in Haltom City and she cares for her and then she has an autistic son that needs care and then she has two adult daughters in the area.”
Emily Vickers said people who knew her mother knew she would always be there for them.
“She would put anybody else’s needs sometimes before hers and I think anybody who knew her knew she would always be there no matter what,” Emily Vickers said. “She didn’t live the most perfect, moral life but she definitely loved her life and loved her family and loved the people around her.”
Emily Vickers said her mother and sister were just getting to know each other. Emily Vickers’ sister didn’t grow up around her or Sheri Vickers, and to have Sheri disappear shortly after they started connecting has been difficult. She said her younger brother, who is 6, has developmental disabilities and doesn’t really know what’s going on.
McAnally and fellow homicide investigators, Detectives Bickley, Dickerson, Sullivan and Anderson, have visited Breckenridge several times since March.
McAnally said she’s interviewed anybody she can find who saw Sheri Vickers and searched areas for her remains. Based on location data from Sheri Vickers’ cell phone, she believes she’s narrowed it down to an area about an hour’s drive from Breckenridge, a radius that stretches from Weatherford in the east to Anson in the west, and from Comanche in the south to near Seymour in the north.
She said it’s an unpleasant request, but she hopes people spending time in the area, like hunters, will be vigilant in looking for signs of Sheri Vickers’ remains. She suspects her body was hidden somewhere in a wooded or undeveloped area.
The Stephen County Sheriff’s Office has been assisting in the search, including releasing photos of Sheri Vickers and Lewis and the truck they were seen in.
While she would like to be wrong, McAnally said she truly believes Sheri Vickers is dead. Finding her remains is important for her family.
“I think these families not having closure is worse than murder sometimes,” McAnally said. “What do you tell her kids? It’s bad enough her adult kids don’t know, she has a young child.”
Emily Vickers said she hopes people don’t look at her mother and only see her addiction. She hopes they see a woman who deserves justice.
“Just because she had an addiction doesn’t mean she wasn’t a mother,” Emily Vickers said. “It doesn’t mean she wasn’t a daughter, doesn’t mean wasn’t a sister, someone who is loved.”
Anyone with information can contact McAnally at the Fort Worth Police Department at (817) 392-4382.