Episode 54: The Pamela Murray and Beverly Sherman Cold Cases

When I was a teenager growing up in a small town about 20 minutes outside of Asheville, the Asheville Mall was my home away from home. I spent many weekends there wandering in and out of the stores and snacking at Corn Dog 7 and Sbarro. I later went on to work both at the mall and the movie theater across the street. At the time, I had no idea a 23-year-old woman named Pamela Murray had been abducted from the mall in the late 1980s and murdered just a short time later. What’s even more frightening is that her murder, along with the murder of a teenage girl named Beverly Sherman, was never solved. And after going back through the news reports at the time, it was clear the killer had been canvassing the mall for weeks, probably looking for an opportunity to abduct a woman.

Timeline of Pamela Murray Abduction

For the purposes of putting together an accurate timeline, this story really begins on January 20, 1987. That’s when a teenage girl named Beverly Sherman was seen getting into a light yellow Camaro behind the Asheville Civic Center. Police later suspected that car belonged to a john, as Beverly had been previously charged with prostitution. After that, she disappeared. A month later, on February 14, 1987, Pamela Murray drove to the Asheville Mall a few hours before she was supposed to meet her fiancé for dinner. She never made it inside. A witness later told police a man had approached Pamela outside the mall around 1 p.m. near the Sears entrance and grabbed her by the arm. The two then left in Pamela’s 1986 grey Oldsmobile Tornado with the man driving. Just a short time later, another witness saw the car near Azalea Road and realized the man and woman inside were struggling. Shortly after that, a motorist called police to report what they believed to be the body of a woman lying motionless on a deserted part of Azalea Road. She was visible to motorists passing by. It was only about 20 minutes from when she was abducted from the mall. Police theorized she had jumped out of the car and her captor then shot her. There were no signs of sexual assault. Her car was found back at the Asheville Mall, in a different area from where she’d been abducted, around 1 a.m. the next morning.

The fact that a woman would be abducted from the mall parking lot, in an area of town where people had always felt safe, stunned residents. Pamela Murray was a lifelong resident of Buncombe County who had graduated from Enka High School in 1981 and then attended Blue Ridge Technical College. At the time of her death, she was working as an industrial engineer with Asheville Industries. After her murder, several of Pamela’s friends established a fund in the hopes that they could offer reward money to anyone who had information about Pamela’s case. Various community members and business owners donated to the fund, and it eventually grew to more than $13,000, but produced no solid leads. Detectives eventually questioned more than 50 people, including Pamela’s family and friends. The FBI conducted ballistic tests on the bullets recovered from her body.

An Escalating Perpetrator

In an article that ran in the Asheville Citizen Times on February 27, 1987, I noticed a news brief on the same page that read “Parking Lot Flasher.” It said: An Asheville woman has reported that a man exposed himself to her in the Asheville Mall parking lot. The 23-year-old woman said a man in his 30s with brown, frizzy hair drove his automobile in front of her car, pulled down his pants and exposed himself, according to reports at the Asheville Police Department. Captain Will Annarino said he believes this unidentified man committed a similar offense about two weeks ago at the mall. They released a sketch of the suspect to the media. I’ll share it on my social media pages.

The Murder of Beverly Sherman

Pamela’s abduction and murder were still being investigated a few months later on April 26, 1987, when a man was walking a piece of property for sale on top of Vance Gap Road, a location in between downtown Asheville and the mall area on Tunnel Road. There, he came across the remains of what appeared to be a young woman. The victim was identified as Beverly Sherman, the teenager who had disappeared after getting into a yellow Camaro in late January of 1987. She had been shot once in the right temple with a handgun.

The obituary that ran in the newspaper at the time said Beverly was a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and had lived in Buncombe County for the past 11 years. Other than that, there isn’t much known about Beverly other than she was charged with soliciting for the purpose of prostitution on August 14, 1986 in the Coxe Avenue part of town.

A year after both Pamela and Beverly were murdered, the Asheville Citizen Times reported that evidence from the FBI confirmed that both cases were linked. Capt. Will Annarino said, “We can now say without a doubt that the same person who killed Murray killed Sherman.” In the article, he would not elaborate on what the conclusive link in evidence was. He did say “New forensic technology which has been developed recently has made it possible to re-evaluate certain evidence in both cases, particularly Murray’s vehicle. In addition to the physical evidence, the method of operation for the killer seems to be the same for both slayings. Both women were taken to isolated dirt roads in wooded areas and then shot to death. A witness who had seen Beverly Sherman get into that yellow Camaro confirmed the driver of the car looked like the police sketch of the man seen with Pamela on the afternoon she was abducted and murdered. The man was described as a white male in his mid-30s with blondish hair.

If you follow the series of news reports that came out right after Pamela’s murder, you’ll see that the killer was likely visiting the mall in search of his next victim after Beverly Sherman. On Feb. 11, a woman reported a man had tried to kidnap her from the mall parking lot. On Feb. 13, another woman said a man followed her into a public restroom inside the mall and tried to peep at her over the stall. On Feb. 16, a man fondled his genitals in front of yet another woman. These are the only details shared, so I can’t expound on them any further, but the first two definitely give you the sense the killer was using the mall as his hunting ground and stalking potential victims. And then, for some reason, he was brazen enough to abduct someone in broad daylight.

On October 9, 1988, police detective Jon Kirkpatrick told the Asheville Citizen-Times, “I don’t know if the killer’s still in the area. No other victims of similar killings have been found so it might indicate that the killer is no longer there. However, we don’t know what triggered the killer. He might still be here and not have been triggered again.”

If you look at the victimology of the two known victims, they couldn’t have been more different. In fact, I am making a conscious effort to talk about both victims here, because there just isn’t a whole lot of information out there about Beverly Sherman. But she was someone’s child, and she was only 17, and she was clearly struggling in her life. She still did not deserve to be executed in the way that she was and left alone on a lonely mountain road.

It also makes me wonder if the killer left the area and has victims in other places. I hope that these two cases will be solved one day, with the help of forensic or DNA evidence. I believe it’s only a matter of time. If you have any information about the murders of Pamela Murray or Beverly Sherman, please contact the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation at 800-334-3000.

Where Does Asha Degree’s Case Stand Today?

Nine-year-old Asha Degree disappeared 23 years ago from Shelby, North Carolina. Her case has gained not only regional but national interest because of the unusual circumstances surrounding it. Her mom, Iquilla Degree, described her as a quiet, but happy child who always wanted people to get along. She also said her daughter would talk to anyone, and that may have contributed to her disappearance.

Local news station WBTV recently interviewed the family, and I put together a timeline of what happened when the little girl went missing based on that article and a few other local media sources.  

On the evening of February 13, 2000, the family was watching Michael Jordan play in the NBA All-Star Game. In the middle of the game, the power went out. Asha’s uncle came by and said there had been a car accident involving an electrical pole. Asha, a fourth-grader, and her older brother went to bed a little after 9 p.m. and their mom fell asleep on the couch. Around midnight, the lights came back on.

Asha’s father checked on the girl around 2:30 a.m. and found her asleep in the bedroom she shared with her brother.

Investigators believe the young girl packed a few things in a backpack and left her home. Around 3:15 a.m., Asha was spotted walking along Highway 18 by a few different motorists. One driver tried to turn around and approach her, and she ran back into the woods. A search of that area turned up candy wrappers, a hair bow, and a pen and pencil in a nearby chicken house. Those items may have belonged to Asha.

The next morning, Asha’s mother discovered her daughter wasn’t in her room. She reported her daughter missing around 6 a.m.

Police searched for signs of Asha for the next 10 days before that was called off.

In August of 2001, developers were clearing a property in Burke County when they found a child’s backpack labeled with Asha Degree’s name. Inside, the backpack contained a Dr. Seuss book checked out from Asha’s school library and a New Kids on the Block t-shirt her parents said did not belong to her. A search of that specific area turned up no sign of human remains.

In 2016, the FBI and Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office released a photo of a car they believe Asha may have gotten into the night she went missing. It is described as an early 1970s Lincoln Mark IV or Ford Thunderbird, dark green, with rust around the wheel wells.

In 2013, Asha’s mother Iquilla told The Charlotte Observer that she feels she can’t trust anyone. She says her biggest fear is that someone their family knows took Asha, and it could be a person who tried to help look for Asha when she went missing.

In 2014, a 53-year-old man named Marcus Mellon wrote a letter to the Shelby Star newspaper. It read:

Asha Degree has been missing for over 20 years. About four months ago I had found out her whereabouts and what had happen to her. She was killed and then took and buried. I do know how and what town she is in. I hope you get this letter and do come see me. It’s on the up and up.

At the time, Marcus Mellon was serving time in a North Carolina prison for sex crimes against children. Investigators interviewed the man and decided his claims of knowing what happened to Asha had no merit.

There is a $45,000 reward being offered for information leading to an arrest in this case. Anyone with tips should call 704-484-4788 or 704-672-6100.

South Carolina Man Arrested in 1984 Charlotte Double Homicide

A cold case from Charlotte that recently resulted in an arrest of a suspect. On May 14, 1984, police responded to a double homicide in an apartment complex in the Hidden Valley area of Charlotte. A neighbor went into the apartment when a friend of the resident grew concerned about the young mother’s whereabouts. Twenty-seven-year-old Sarah Mobley Hall, a special education teacher, and her 10-year-old son Derrick were found deceased inside the apartment. The murders were brutal. Sarah had been sexually assaulted and both she and her son were strangled to death.

At the time, a Charlotte homicide detective told The Charlotte Observer, “It was an emotional killing . . . a sex crime. I have some theories on how it happened. At this point, I’m still questioning several people, but I don’t have one suspect yet.”

He went on to say, “We have a fair amount of evidence. I think we’ll clear the case. It won’t be in the next couple of days, though—unless someone comes in here and confesses.”

Fourteen years passed with no progress on the double homicide. In 1998, Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Chief Johnny Jennings reopened the case once again. He discovered there was possible DNA from a suspect on a pillowcase. But, he was unable to find a match for it at that time. This year, the CMPD sent some of that DNA to a company called Forensic Innovative Labs for forensic genealogy testing. They found a match to a relative of the suspect. In an article shared by WFAE.org, CMPD captain Joel McNeely said, “We quickly narrowed down a person of interest in this, that person, was now in South Carolina. And with the help of the FBI, we were able to get a DNA sample from that person.” The DNA was a direct match to the DNA found at the 1984 crime scene. On February 1, a 60-year-old man named James Thomas Pratt was arrested at a hotel in York County. The suspect would have been 22 years old at the time of the murder and had a history of misdemeanor arrests. He was charged with two counts of murder and not given bond. Anyone with additional information on this crime is asked to call 704-432-TIPS.

Listen to the episode here.

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Show Sources:

Pamela Murray and Beverly Sherman

Feb. 17, 1987

“Murder Probe Centers on Stolen Car”


Feb. 27, 1987

“Contributions to Pamela Murray Reward Fund Hit $2,000”


March 13, 1987

“Murray Reward Fund at $13,500”


March 15, 1987

“Donation Swells Murray Reward Fund”


February 14, 1988

“Women’s slayings linked”



October 9, 1988

“Police Detective Seeks Vital Piece in Murder Puzzle”



March 8, 1987

“Police Probe Murray Slaying, Mall Incidents”



Asha Degree



Sarah Mobley Hall and Derrick Mobley