“I looked up and saw two of the ducks flying, and I said ‘Don’t even start with me right now.’”
Sherry Buchanan is talking to her granddaughter Nevaeh. She does that from time to time when she comes around. She knows she’s there when she sees Canadian Geese and ducks. Those were Nevaeh’s favorite.
Sherry sees the signs of Nevaeh when they’re there and she can’t help but think about what Nevaeh would be doing right now if she were here.
“She would have been 18 this year,” Sherry says with a little smile. “So, it would either have been either graduation or going on to further education. Who knows? And that’s what I miss is that I didn’t get to see all that.”
The day Nevaeh went missing
Sherry remembers May 24, 2009 vividly. She was just about to leave work when her daughter Jennifer called.
“She says, ‘Mom, Nevaeh’s gone I can’t find her.’ I said, ‘Jen, if you’re lying to me, I’m going to kill you when I get home.’”
Sherry remembers running every red light on Telegraph to get to the Charlotte Arms Apartments where she, her daughter Jennifer and 5-year-old Nevaeh shared an apartment.
“My world turned upside down that day.”
The Amber Alert went out that night. A 5-year-old girl missing from right outside her apartment. The only sign of her was a scooter she was known to zoom around the complex on.
An all-out search began as police started immediately identifying possible abductors. Jennifer Buchanan told the media the following day: “I’m almost 100% sure she got snatched.”
She said Nevaeh would’ve put up a fight if someone tried to forcefully take her. She would’ve screamed. The details gave way to emotion as her voice finally cracked saying, “I don’t want to think about that right now.”
Eleven days after Nevaeh went missing, her body was found on the banks of the River Raisin just off Dixon Road. It was June 4, when two fisherman discovered the shallow grave and whoever left her there, tried to cover it up with a bag of Redi-Mix cement.
A weathered memorial now sits on the side of Dixon Road a few hundred feet from where the body was found. There’s a tall cross, flowers, permanent landscaping with several stones that adorn Nevaeh’s name-- which is Heaven spelled backward.
The sight of it though, makes you wonder... why was she buried here about a dozen miles west from where she was taken?
And how did the killer or killers get the body to this spot without being seen?
Did they use a boat?
Where the investigation stands
Two persons of interest were identified during the investigation -- both men who were convicted sex offenders -- but neither was charged.
Monroe County Sheriff’s detectives remain tight-lipped on the investigation but say it is in no way a cold case.
Nevaeh’s file is always on somebody’s desk and to date more than two thousand leads have been followed.
“After taking office on January 1, 2021, Sheriff Goodnough commissioned a separate team of investigators from the Sheriff’s Office Detective Bureau who partnered with special agents from the FBI’s Ann Arbor office to assist with investigative efforts,” reads part of a statement from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
“Together, the team has reviewed all investigative material, re-interviewed select witnesses, and are continuing to use cutting edge forensic technology to develop leads.”
That statement, combined with the department’s reluctance to go on camera to discuss the case, leads you to believe police have information they don’t want to the killer to know or even get a sense of.
But any hope or even momentum on the law enforcement side does not exist with Nevaeh’s family.
“Do you think police will ever solve Nevaeh’s murder?” I asked Sherry.
“In my opinion? No. No.”
Nevaeh’s presence persists
Thirteen years later, Nevaeh’s presence can be felt all over Monroe, including at her pre-school where she’d graduated just days before she disappeared. Her picture still hangs in the hallway and her name and likeness is on a bench on the edge of the playground.
Jennifer Buchanan is married now and has two boys who are almost Nevaeh’s age when she was taken.
“That’s why I don’t let these kids out of my sight-- especially when they’re with me,” Sherry says. “I just don’t want to trust nobody right now. I talk to people but I stay at a distance.”
Outside of the moments when geese fly above, Sherry likes to go and see Nevaeh at St. Joseph Cemetery when she talks to her.
Her grave still looks new, with her picture in full color, with an inscription that reads: “MONROE’S LITTLE ANGEL.”
A toy motorcycle sits on the ledge.
“I just tell her every time I see her , ‘Baby, I wish to God you were here with me. I would have loved to have seen how you would have turned out.
And I regret the day that person took you away from me.’”
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