Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Real Name: Linda Sue (Lutz) Sherman
Nicknames: No known nicknames
Location: Vinita Park, Missouri
Date: April 22, 1985


Details: Early in the afternoon of June 28, 1990, two flight attendants were having lunch at the Casa Gallardo restaurant in Bridgeton, Missouri, when they noticed something strange outside the window. A shocking piece of evidence that would turn an unsolved missing person case into a murder mystery. There in the bushes was a human skull. Chief Walter Mutert noted that it was a very well-manicured area, with plants, flowers, and gravel. The way the skull was situated gave him the impression that somebody had placed it there and wanted it to be found.
The skull was determined to be that of an adult female. It was of "recent origin". Thorough examination revealed little else. During that time period, a cemetery was being relocated in the area. Many bodies were exhumed, and graves were moved. Chief Mutert theorized that it may have been a prank, that someone stole a skull from one of the graves and placed it at the restaurant. At the time, there was no reason to suspect foul play. The skull was cataloged, stored in the evidence room at the Bridgeton County morgue, and forgotten.
Fourteen months later on September 6, 1991, a mysterious unsealed envelope arrived at the Vinita Park police station, twenty five miles away. Inside was an eight month old flier for Casa Gallardo that had a message stamped on the back of it in purple ink. The message read: "THE BRIDGETON POLICE HAVE L. SHERMAN'S SKULL". No fingerprints were found on it and since it was not sealed, no DNA could be extracted from it.
Dental records confirmed that the skull found outside the restaurant belonged to Linda Sherman, a twenty six year old wife and mother who worked at the U.S. Government Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, and was last seen on April 22, 1985. Her disappearance is clouded with intrigue, involving an allegedly jealous husband and an unknown lover. Years later, troubling questions still remain. Who killed Linda? Why was her skull left outside a local restaurant? And where is the rest of her body?
At sixteen, Linda was a typical teenager. She grew up in the St. Louis suburb of Vinita Park, the youngest of four. With siblings more than ten years older, she was sheltered, quiet, and reserved. Her brother, Dennis Lutz, said that she was a shy girl growing up. She wanted to be more outgoing and athletic, but she was more of an "at home" type of girl. She was a junior when she fell for her high school sweetheart, seventeen year old Donald "Don" Sherman. They were married on February 10, 1975.
When Linda and Don’s daughter, Patricia Marie "Patty", was born in August, the young mother was determined to finish school. Linda’s mom would watch the baby while she completed her senior year. To support his new family, Don took a job at a local gas station. He said it was hard, but also rewarding. According to him, they were initially very happy together. However, the relationship was rocky later on in their marriage. Working opposite shifts and money troubles strained their relationship.
In their nine-year marriage, Linda had taken Patty and moved out several times. In October 1977, they separated, and Linda filed for divorce. She wanted custody of Patty and their marital property. However, she did not follow through with it. In 1979, they reconciled and bought a home in Vinita Park. She later suffered a miscarriage and was diagnosed with epilepsy. After that, she began to suffer from seizures.
In 1982, Linda moved out again, taking Patty to an apartment in St. Ann. In September, she filed an order of protection against Don, claiming he had threatened her and Patty, and that he had tampered with her car. She described Don as "mentally unstable," adding that he had threatened to take his own life "and possibly that of my daughter and myself". Within a month, Linda notified the court, saying that she and Don were again reconciling, and the protective order was "no longer necessary".
According to Dennis, Don was obsessed with knowing Linda's every move. He was very possessive over her. She told Dennis that Don would get upset if she came home late from work, even if it was just a few minutes. He would ask her what was going on, who she was seeing, and why she was out late. He did not want her talking to other men. He even got upset when Dennis would visit and spend time with her. According to Dennis, Don would also hit her often. She told her family that she feared Don’s violent temper. Once, she even got a restraining order to keep him at a distance.
Some family members claim that by April 1985, Linda had had enough. She was making final plans to take Patty, then nine years old, and leave. According to her brother-in-law, Sam Miller, she had already made the decision to move out. She had filed for divorce and started making plans to start a new life. She started having her mail sent to the house of Sam and her sister, Fran. According to Fran, Linda was going to finally leave Don for good, and she really meant it.
On April 22, Linda left her night job at 2:16am. When she came home at around 3am, Don was still awake. According to him, they got into an argument because she would not tell him where she had been. They stayed up until at least 4am discussing it. She was still on the sofa later that morning when Patty left for school. According to Patty, Linda always took her to school, but on that day, Don took her. She remembers seeing Linda laying on the couch with her face to the back of it. She did not get up to kiss Patty goodbye. She did not say anything. She was just "laying there".
That would be the last time Patty saw Linda. Don claims that when he returned to the house that afternoon, Linda was on edge. According to him, she was supposed to already be at work at that time. She told him that she overslept and had to go. She was mad because she was running late. According to him, she drove off at around 6pm. However, there are no other witnesses that saw her leave. She never arrived at work and never came home.
When Linda did not come back, Don assumed that she had just left temporarily, like she did in the past. According to him, an overnight bag and other items were missing from the house. He figured that she “took off” with someone. According to him, there was some indication that she was having an affair. Although her family also suspected she was having an affair, they had reason to believe something terrible had happened to her. Sam and Fran became worried when Linda stopped calling (she normally called everyday) and they learned that she had not shown up for work. Sam said that if Linda was going to leave, she would have taken Patty with her, as she did in the past. However, Patty was left behind. He and Linda’s other family and friends began to suspect foul play.
According to Sam and Fran, at their insistence, Don went to the Vinita Park police station and filed a missing person's report two days after Linda was last seen. Meanwhile, Sam and Fran frantically searched for her. On a hunch, they headed to the local Lambert Airport. As they pulled into the short-term parking lot, they found Linda's car, a yellow Volkswagen Beetle, parked there. The doors were locked, but they could see her hat and schoolbooks (for a computer class) inside. They contacted airport police. They feared that she was in the trunk. However, airport police opened it and found no sign of her. Police learned that the car had been there since at least April 24. She was not listed on any flights.
Could it be possible that Linda had abandoned Patty and run off with another man? Don claims he saw Linda with another man, days after her disappearance. She drove past him in a van; when he yelled at her, she quickly ducked out of sight. A year later, he filed for divorce, saying that she abandoned him and Patty. In 1989, a judge dismissed the divorce case, leaving their marriage legally intact. A year later, when her skull appeared, suspicion fell on Don. In a bizarre coincidence, her skull was found outside the Casa Gallardo restaurant, one of his favorite hangouts. According to him, he was at the restaurant the evening after the skull was found and heard about the discovery. However, he did not connect it to Linda at the time.
No one connected it until a year later, when the anonymous letter arrived at the Vinita Park police station. Lt. Michael Webb was rather astounded when he received the letter. He felt that it was obvious that someone wanted them to know that Linda's remains had been recovered. Don said that he was scared because he figured that whoever put the skull at the restaurant knew him and knew that he hung out there often.
Did Don have reason to be frightened? Or did he have a secret motivation for placing the skull there himself? Some people speculate he was making plans to remarry and needed proof Linda was dead (in fact, he did remarry in 1994). For him, the skull provided the perfect evidence of her demise. But for Patty, the find was devastating. When the skull was found, she said that she kind of lost all hope in life. Before that, she always had some hope that Linda had left and was alive somewhere.
Decades after the murder, Lt. Webb still hopes to find Linda's killer. In August 1999, he had her skull exhumed and sent to Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute in Erie, Pennsylvania. It was examined by a soil scientist and a forensic archaeologist. They compared samples of soil found on the skull with samples from known areas of interest in Missouri. They were able to rule out several areas and narrow down the likeliest places where the skull was buried before it was unearthed.
The only suspect Lt. Webb has been unable to eliminate is Don. Patty thinks that he may have done it; she cannot think of anyone else who would have been responsible. He, however, maintains that he had nothing to do with her disappearance or death. He still thinks that she left with someone and met with foul play at the hands of that person.
Patty hopes that the rest of Linda’s remains can be found so that they can have a proper burial for her. She also hopes to find out what happened to her and who did it. She wants them to go through the agony that she and the rest of the family has been going through.
Today, police hope that new technology and soil sampling will someday lead them to her body, and eventually, her killer.
Suspects: Don has been named the prime suspect by the St. Louis Police in Linda's disappearance and death. He was known to be physically and emotionally abusive towards her. Before she vanished, she filed an order of protection against him. She claimed that he had tampered with her car. He had also threatened to kill her, Patty, and himself. Investigators believe that it is more than a coincidence that her skull ended up in the bushes next to Casa Gallardo and that she vanished just before she was planning to leave him. They suspect that he may have wanted to remarry. The only way he could do that would be if he had proof that she was dead.
Don, however, believes that she ran off with the man he allegedly saw her with shortly after she vanished. He believes that this man killed her. According to Don, there was evidence that she was having an affair prior to her disappearance. According to him, she did not come home from work on several occasions. When he called her at home from work, she would not be there. It was later confirmed that she had been having an affair with a coworker shortly before her disappearance. However, he had an alibi and was ruled out as a suspect.
Extra Notes:

  • This case first aired on the July 2, 2001 episode.
  • It was also featured on "The Trail Went Cold" podcast.
  • Some sources state that Linda was twenty seven when she disappeared.
  • On February 25, 1974, Don's father, Charles, was shot to death in their family home. His mother, Audrey, later pleaded guilty to manslaughter (around the time of Don and Linda's wedding) and served six months in jail.

Results: Unsolved. Police later sent cadaver-sniffing dogs and a search team to Perryville, seventy five miles south of St. Louis, where they believed the rest of Linda's body was buried. However, no trace of it was found.
One of Don's ex-girlfriends later came forward, claiming that he confessed to killing Linda. However, there was never enough evidence to charge him. On May 7, 2015, he died at Good Samaritan Regional Health Center in Mount Vernon, Illinois. He was fifty eight. For unknown reasons, Patty was not listed in his obituary.
In 2009, Lt. Webb passed away. In January 2016, Dennis passed away at the age of sixty-eight. Linda's parents, Walter and Elenora, had passed away prior to the broadcast.