Doctor missing for decade Bartlett's only cold case - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Missing doctor Bartlett's only cold case

It's a Mid-South mystery and is the Bartlett Police Department's only cold case. It's a story that starts with a basketball game and ends with a doctor's disappearance. It's a Mid-South mystery and is the Bartlett Police Department's only cold case. It's a story that starts with a basketball game and ends with a doctor's disappearance.

(WMC-TV) - It's a Mid-South mystery and is the Bartlett Police Department's only cold case. It's a story that starts with a basketball game and ends with a doctor's disappearance.

It was January 4, 2002. Back then, the Grizzlies still played in the Pyramid and Dr. Cherryl Pearson attended the game that night before returning home alone.

"After the Grizzlies game, she went home where she spoke with a couple of girlfriends of hers," said Lt. Marlon Jones, of the Bartlett Police Department.

Andrea Fox was one of those girlfriends.

In an interview with "Dateline" six years ago, Fox said Pearson seemed fine and was looking forward to the next day.

"She did mention that her sister was going to work early the next morning and was going to drop off the kids," Fox said. "She loved those children and she spent a lot of time with them. She was excited to see them the next morning."

Investigators say the girlfriends left Pearson's home on Daybreak Drive around 1 a.m., January 5.

It was the last time anyone reported seeing the doctor, but investigators know it was not the last time someone contacted her.

Phone records reveal Pearson received a phone call in the wee hours of the morning.

"The phone call, as far as we could tell, didn't last that long, maybe several seconds," Jones said.

Investigators believe the last person to make contact with Cherryl Pearson actually called her from a pay phone at a gas station about a block from her home.

There's no surveillance video to show who made the call.

No fingerprints were lifted from the pay phone either.

Did someone lure the doctor from her home?

Her car was missing, but no one saw her leave and investigators say there was no forced entry, no struggle.

"The thing that was pretty odd was that she was a type one diabetic; she was insulin dependent," Jones said. "She had an insulin pump on and some of her diabetic supplies were still at the home."

So was her pager, even though she was on call that weekend.

Two days after she was reported missing, Pearson's blue Audi was spotted at the Quail Ridge apartment complex, about a mile from her house.

The car left investigators with even more questions.

"It was a very clean car," Jones said. "I don't know about whether it was wiped down or not, but it was immaculate. It could have been that somebody wiped down the car."

Jones also said no finger prints were found in the car.

Not even the doctor's prints.

And nothing was stolen. Her medical bag was in the trunk, so were her keys and an envelope of money.

Investigators suspected foul play and began questioning friends and family.

"There was one person of interest at the time," Jones said.

Cherryl Pearson's brother-in-law Charlton Hildreth, married to the beneficiary of Pearson's life insurance policy.

Hildreth had a criminal record, and at the time Cherryl Pearson disappeared, Hildreth was out on bond facing bank robbery charges for which he was later convicted.

"It's enough to interview someone," said Jones. "It's not enough to hold them."

The Bartlett Police Department says Hildreth provided an alibi and since there was no evidence to tie him to Pearson's disappearance no charges were ever filed.

"There was no evidence that he had any motive to harm her, but there was not evidence that anyone had any motive to harm her," Jones said.

"You have a person who is an upstanding citizen, by anybody's account a very good person," Jones said. "No enemies, no reason for her to be missing, no reason for anybody to harm her, and she just disappeared, and there's really no leads in her disappearance. It's very frustrating."

Pearson was the youngest of three children born to Hazel and Leon Pearson.

Mr. Pearson died in 2009.

Dr. Cherryl Pearson was legally declared dead that same year though her remains have never been found.

"When you do something to one person, it's a ripple effect and it affects a lot of people for a long, long time," Hazel Pearson told "Dateline" in 2006.

Ursula Madden spoke to Charlton Hildreth via email.

He and his wife declined her request for interviews and said they wished the best for the investigation and that "getting into a war of words with the Bartlett Police is not in our best interest."

There's still a $41,000 reward offered for information that can help investigators discover what happened to Dr. Cherryl Pearson.

Copyright 2012 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

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