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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How Will Cheryl Dunlap's Murder Change Our Community?

According to area news outlets (including the "Tallahassee Democrat"), the Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed yesterday the body found in Apalachicola National Forest by hunters on Saturday is indeed that of Cheryl Dunlap, the Wakulla woman missing since Dec. 1.

When I first heard Ms. Dunlap went missing the first week of December, I didn't think much about it until I received a call while from a law enforcement official last week questioning me about what I saw and observed on Saturday, Dec. 1.

My class had a field trip in the area where Ms. Dunlap's car was found and I was the first one to the site. I told the official everything I remembered, which wasn't much and I don't think I was much help. Ever since, I've been racking my brain trying to remember something but have been unsuccessful.

I began following the case this week and reading the discussions posted by "Tallahassee Democrat" readers. I lurked the forums daily, getting myself easily sucked into the rumors and basically creeped out by the facts and the fiction.

There seem to be many unknowns about the case. For instance, Ms. Dunlap was last seen at home, is that where she was victimized? Or did she have a flat tire and stop on the roadside? How did the perp get her ATM pin number? Why do the police think her killer is still in our community? Is her murder related to two Georgia murders? (I don't know the details of those deaths other than dismemberment was involved, but were the victims' ATM cards used, too?)

I assume local law enforcement officials are wondering these questions, too and hopefully, they have the answers and haven't released those answers because it's vital information to solving the case.

One sad thing is for certain, Ms. Dunlap was murdered and her killer is out there. My prayers and condolences are with her family.

If you haven't seen it, take a look at this photo. Yes, it's creepy but do you recognize this person? Have you seen this person?

Anyone with information is asked to call the Leon County Sheriff's Office at (850) 922-3300, or Crime Stoppers at (850) 574-TIPS (8477) or 1-888-876-TIPS (8477).

So what does this mean for us and our community?

I find it strange I'm referring to this area as "our community." Ever since moving here two-and-a-half-years ago, I've felt like an outsider, like a transient gypsy making a pit stop along a journey to something better. Oddly, somewhere along the way I've developed a sense of community to this place, especially to Wakulla. Maybe I've found the same attractive vortex which kept drawing Ms. Dunlap back to the area (from what I've read, she used to live here, moved away then returned).

I'm a bit of a free-spirit, I enjoy solo adventures but now I think I'll be clipping my wings slightly until the case is solved. I'm not planning on being a shut-in but will be more cautious on the adventures and trips I take. I had thought about biking Wakulla State Park and Apalachicola National Forest by myself but think I'll nix that idea for a while.

I think about the potentially dangerous situations I've been in, but thankfully, someone's been looking out for me and it's time for me to lookout for me, too.

Ms. Dunlap's murder has shaken our open-door community and many people are frightened by what they don't know, I'm included. But let's look at the big picture.

We can't let the murderer alter our lives. Heck, that's what the terrorists try to do.

While I find them goofy, we need to do what the bumper stickers on the law enforcement vehicles say, "Don't be afraid, be alert."
I'm not going to let someone take away my liberties, will you? Are you going to be afraid or alert?

The Leon County Sheriff's Office is looking for the truck pictured. Have you seen it? It's sure hard to miss.

AGAIN: Anyone with information is asked to call the Leon County Sheriff's Office at (850) 922-3300, or Crime Stoppers at (850) 574-TIPS (8477) or 1-888-876-TIPS (8477).

Read print media coverage on the case at this blog.

3 Comment(s):

Mags said...

An awful story and a lot to think about, Jen. Having lived in large cities all my life, I am always surprised at how different it feels when the sort of stories I'm so accustomed to reading about in my community touches me somehow. An anonymous person becomes a sister or a friend.

Alert, safe, free? This is a hard time to be asking these questions because they're just a little too necessary right now. Fear blurs the lines that once looked so sharp.

Anonymous said...

I've read that the police think that the truck pictured is camophaged. However, if the pictured is takened from a surveillance camera near the ATM, I wonder if the mottled look could be from colored lights across the street. If you look in the background of the picture showing the killer, you see what looks like a Jr. Store or gas station with lots of colored lights. Could those lights be reflected on the truck making it look like camo when it is really just a green truck? Thats what it appears to be to me. Surely the police have thought of this unless that have a better picture that is definately camo.

jhuber7672 said...

Hey Mags. Ironically, for at least the past month, the media outlets have reported violent crimes each night, this one seems "different." Not sure why that is, probably because it seems so much more random and violent.

Anon - thanks for dropping by. Interesting thought about the lights creating the camoflauge look and I noticed the photo has the background blurred out.

I certainly hope the police have taken this into consideration but from what I see (and I'm no expert) it definitely looks like a very colorful truck. When I returned to the area this week, I was hoping to hear the case has been solved. Am glad to hear Ms. Dunlap was laid to rest but imagine her family won't feel closure until the case is resolved.