Police in Riverside, Ohio, have classified the case of missing mother Cheryl Coker as a homicide

By Jeff Truesdell
January 10, 2020 09:41 AM

The time they spent together meant so much to Mary Carroll and her daughter, Cheryl Coker.

Carroll, 79, had a doctor’s appointment in the summer of 2018 — and on her day off from work, Cheryl, who lived within walking distance of her mom in Riverside, Ohio, offered to go along. Afterward Cheryl suggested a stop for breakfast. “Just you and I,” she told her mom.

“We got home, we had a good time laughing and talking, and then she says, ‘Let me fix your hair,'” says Mary. “You know, mom, we haven’t done this in a while,” Cheryl told her when their hours together came to an end. “This has been the best day.”

It’s a memory Mary holds dear. Not long after that, on October 2, 2018, Cheryl, then 46, vanished — and police say they have reason to believe she was murdered, in a case examined in an episode of People Magazine Investigates airing Monday, January 13, on Investigation Discovery (10 p.m. ET.). An exclusive clip is above.

More than a year later, nobody has been arrested in the case.

Days before she disappeared, Cheryl had filed for divorce from Bill Coker, her husband of 19 years, allegedly after telling her friends that Bill had a “girlfriend” he refused to stop seeing. Bill is now a suspect in the case, police say.

Cheryl Coker
Courtesy Coker Family

Cheryl was “heartbroken” about the girlfriend, her friend Shelly Appelhans tells PEOPLE. In a conversation that summer, another friend, Tina Wilson, says Cheryl told her “she was fearful ‚ not of [Bill], but of losing him.”

On the night before Cheryl vanished, Bill and the couple’s then 15-year-old daughter, Mikala, had returned from a planned trip to Orlando — accompanied, unbeknownst to Cheryl, by Bill’s girlfriend.

After dropping Mikala at school the next morning, Cheryl returned to the home she and Bill still shared, where police say she was logged onto Facebook until about 7:45 a.m. About three hours later, surveillance video showed her SUV entering the parking lot of an eatery less than a mile away — where it was found later that night, its doors locked and her phone, credit cards and other personal belongings inside.

Bill and Cheryl Coker
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Friends and others say Cheryl never would have abandoned her mother, who is living with a cancer diagnosis, nor her two daughters — Mikala, with husband Bill, or Marisa, from a previous marriage — or Marisa’s daughter. And they universally say she is never without the phone she uses to stay in constant touch with them.

When he was questioned by police, Bill immediately hinted Cheryl may have gone off with another man, saying the two had an “open marriage,” says Detective Travis Abney. In conversation with her friends, Cheryl was more blunt: She had said they were “swingers.”

“She was engaging in risky behavior before she disappeared,” Bill told Dayton TV station WHIO in February, after police named him a suspect. “I’ve never in my life hurt anyone,’ he told the outlet.

Bill did not respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

Despite Bill’s being a suspect, there is not sufficient evidence to warrant an arrest, says Abney, and Bill has not been charged.

People Magazine Investigates: Suburban Secrets airs Monday, January 13, on Investigation Discovery (10 p.m. ET).

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