When you’re married and your spouse has disappeared or been murdered the first person of interest is typically the significant other. In the majority of these types of cases, this notion is correct. However, there are instances where the partner is innocent. Sometimes, the police have a prime suspect linked to the crime but don’t have enough evidence to file charges, and the case goes unsolved. This is the unresolved disappearance and murder of Linda Sue Lutz-Sherman.
Linda Sue Lutz was born in 1957 and raised in Florissant, Missouri. When she was a junior at McCluer High School, she met Donald Sherman, who was a senior. They seemed destined for one another, and despite their young age, they got married on February 10, 1975, at Christ Memorial Baptist Church.
Shortly thereafter, they rented a home next door to Linda’s parents, Walter and Elenora Lutz. At 17-years-old, Linda gave birth to a daughter, Patty, before the start of her senior year of high school. This didn’t deter her from graduating, and her parents babysat their granddaughter while Linda continued her education.
To help support his family, Donald Sherman worked as an assistant manager at a local gas station. He later transitioned to a factory job as a machinist. Once Linda graduated she worked a plethora of jobs, including Sears as a sales associate, Site Oil Company, a cocktail waitress at Flaming Pit restaurant, and the U.S. Government Records Center (now National Personnel Records Center).
Their marriage had many rough years because their job schedules often conflicted with each other, so they were unable to spend quality time together. When they were able to be together, Donald was very possessive. He always had to know her whereabouts and didn’t like her spending time with other people, even her own family.
This type of jealous and controlling behavior caused many arguments. Many of these fights resulted in Linda terminating the relationship but eventually mending things with Donald. The first instance occurred in October 1977, when she filed for divorce. By the middle of November, however, they settled their issues and relocated to a nicer and much bigger home in Vinita Park, Missouri.
By 1982, things were going relatively okay, aside from the minor bickering every once in a while. Now that Linda and Donald had adjusted to their larger home they wanted to expand their family. Not too long after this decision, Linda became pregnant but unfortunately had a miscarriage. The unexpected loss took a toll on her, and her health suddenly began to decline. She was later diagnosed with epilepsy and often had seizures. This put a damper in their long-term goals, and they both decided it would be best not to have any more children.
Donald’s attitude started to worsen after Linda’s stillbirth. As a result, they started to fight more frequently. On one occasion, Linda believed Don was tampering with her vehicle–making it dangerous to drive. In her mind, that suspicion was confirmed when an argument broke out and he threatened to kill her, their daughter, and then himself. These dark signs were enough for Linda, and she filed a restraining order against him. The judge granted her request, and she and her daughter packed their bags and relocated to a small apartment in St. Ann, Missouri. One month later, Linda and Donald were back together; and as their relationship typically went, there were good and bad days.
In the spring of 1985, Linda felt that her life wasn’t moving forward in a positive way. In a state of feeling miserable and trapped in a neverending cycle, she finally took the initiative to leave Donald for good. She began saving money from her profession and was using it towards looking for a house or an apartment to rent, and even had her mailing address changed so she could avoid being around him in some small compacity. On April 11, 1985, she officially filed for divorce once again. Despite the measures Linda had taken to officially move on from her life with Donald, she was unable to completely avoid him.
Eleven days later on April 22, 1985, things took a very sinister turn. Linda had clocked out of her job at 2:06 a.m. and got home at approximately 3:00 a.m. When she arrived, Donald was waiting up for her, angry because of how long it took her. He began questioning her whereabouts but she refused to provide an answer. This caused friction and the two fought until 4:00 a.m., before going to bed, where Donald slept in the master bedroom and Linda decided to sleep on the living room sofa.
A few hours later, Patty woke up to get ready for her fourth-grade classes at George Washington Elementary School. In an uncustomary fashion, Donald took his daughter to school, which Patty found peculiar because her mother often performed this task. Moreover, she thought it was strange that her mother, who was still asleep on the sofa, didn’t wake up to tell her she loved her and to wish her a good day at school.
Once Donald dropped off Patty at school he went on to his shift at work. He returned home about 6:00 p.m., and according to his story, Linda was still at home even though she should have been at her job, and was antsy and angry. The two barely spoke to one another, and she left home, presumably for work, shortly thereafter. Sadly, Linda never arrived and nobody has ever seen her alive again.
When Linda didn’t arrive home after her shift at work, Donald didn’t think too much of it because it was becoming a regular event. He also believed she was having an affair, which is one reason why he put her through a lot of intense questioning the night beforehand. However, when Linda failed to make her presence known for one more day, and her family became aware of what was transpiring, they urged Donald to file a missing person’s report.
Meanwhile, Linda’s family frantically went around town in search of her and also handed out fliers to the community that offered a $1,000.00 reward for information leading to her whereabouts. After scouring every nook and cranny, they finally uncovered her 1971 yellow Volkswagen abandoned in the parking lot of St. Louis International Airport. There was nothing that would indicate a struggle in or around the vehicle, but in the backseat of her vehicle was a hat and school books for a computer class she was taking.
In the subsequent days and weeks, the police got involved and began interviewing Linda’s friends and family members. With no contact from Linda, something that was very uncharacteristic of her, her loved ones started to believe she met with foul play, especially considering her unstable relationship with Donald and his recent outbursts. They also felt there was no way Linda would abandon her daughter; let alone leave her in the care of her unhinged father who once threatened to murder the whole family.
Linda’s family also suspected she was having an affair. It was later confirmed by law enforcement she was having a romantic relationship with a co-worker, and even an employee Donald worked with caught her in the act. When Donald was interviewed by the police, he stated he firmly believed she ran off with another man. He claimed to notice that on the last evening he saw her there was supposedly a missing bag with an assortment of items taken from their home. Moreover, he mentioned that one week after her disappearance, he witnessed seeing her in the passenger’s side of a van driven by an unidentified male, and when Linda noticed him she quickly ducked her head out of view.
As the police continued to conduct their investigation into Linda’s disappearance, they simply couldn’t locate any evidence to support that Linda vanished on her own accord. However, they also weren’t able to provide any affirmation she met with foul play. The only information they obtained throughout interviews with family, friends, and co-workers was that Linda didn’t have any enemies or people with animosity towards her except for her husband, Donald.
It wasn’t long after Linda’s vanishing when Michael Webb, a young patrol supervisor for Vinita Park Police was assigned to the case. He went on to interview Donald on numerous occasions, but aside from the testimony of friends and family regarding his precarious relationship with Linda, there was zero evidence to support him being responsible.
Additionally, Donald lawyered up and refused the option to undergo polygraph testing. All of these things culminated in law enforcement making Donald the prime suspect in Linda’s disappearance, despite nothing tangible to work with. For Donald, however, he felt slighted and believed the police were focusing only on him and refused to consider the possibility he was innocent.
As time went on, the lack of answers took a toll on Linda’s family. Patty went to live with her maternal grandparents on the weekdays and Donald had her on the weekends when he wasn’t working. Donald, though, was having trouble coping. He was utterly convinced that Linda abandoned her life, whether starting over by herself or with another male, so he attempted to file for a cross-petition for divorce, but this was unsuccessful because if she was still alive, she would have to provide consent for this to occur.
Eventually, Donald turned to alcohol and began drinking very heavily to cure his stress and depression–an issue his own parents struggled with. On February 25, 1974, his mother Audrey Sherman used a .38 caliber to murder his father, Charles Sherman, after they got into a dispute caused by alcohol and the struggle to keep the family afloat.
After five years with no answers and a cold case, a new lead in Linda’s case emerged. At approximately 12:30 p.m. on June 28, 1990, two Trans World Airlines (TWA) flight attendants went to eat lunch at the Mexican restaurant Casa Gallardo in Bridgeton, Missouri. They sat down at a table situated next to a glass plated window, and when they looked outside they noticed what appeared to be a human skull resting outside of some nearby bushes and a yucca plant. They quickly alerted the restaurant manager, who immediately notified the local authorities. If finding a skull wasn’t abnormal enough, Donald Sherman had been at the same restaurant the day the skull was found because he often frequented the bar there to drink.
The Police Chief, Walter Mutert and his investigators arrived at the scene and sealed off the area. They proceeded to send the skull to the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office for further analysis. It was learned that the skull was female and appeared to be of recent origin. Aside from this, there wasn’t much more information able to be obtained, because there wasn’t necessarily a crime scene or anything to indicate the remains was that of a missing or murdered person. The skull was subsequently placed on a shelf in the morgue and forgotten about. At one point, it was even considered to be stolen from a cemetery and dumped at the restaurant as a cruel joke.
It wouldn’t be until fourteen months later on September 6, 1991, when the Vinita Park Police Department, who weren’t even aware of the skull being found, received an unsealed envelope. Inside was a Super Bowl flyer from the same restaurant the skull was discovered at, and on the back was a single sentence written in purple ink in all capital letters saying “THE BRIDGETON POLICE HAVE L. SHERMAN’S SKULL.”
Thereafter, new testing was done on the skull, and dental records confirmed that it belonged to Linda Sherman. With this surprising information, the police visited Linda’s family and broke the heartbreaking news to them. Patty, who was then 16-years-old, was devastated, but it did provide one answer that she was searching for, even if it wasn’t the one she wanted. Not too long later, Linda’s skull was buried in Steedman Cemetary in Callaway County, Missouri.
Linda’s case immediately turned into a homicide investigation. In hopes to acquire evidence from the letter, law enforcement sent the contents to the FBI crime lab in Washington D.C. but nothing substantial was gleaned–not even a single fingerprint or DNA. Whoever had written the letter and mailed it seemingly took all precautions to avoid having it traced back to him or her.
Michael Webb and other investigators proceeded to reinterview friends, family, co-workers, and other people who knew her. Throughout this process, an ex-girlfriend of Donald told the police he had confessed to murdering Linda, yet there was no evidence to link him to the crime. Another theory, perpetuated by Donald, was that Linda’s place of employment was involved in a cocaine conspiracy ring and she was possibly silenced. One rumor that did pique Webbs’ interest sent him and a team of police and cadaver dogs to search some property 90 miles away in Perryville, Missouri for Linda’s remains, but after a thorough examination they were unable to locate anything. Once again, the investigation into Linda’s case turned cold.
In 1999, the police exhumed Linda’s skull and sent it to Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania. There was new technology being developed, where newly electron microscopes and X-Rays used in archeology and soil examining was used to take samples of dirt clods that were initially found on Linda’s skull and gathered for potential evidence. The results managed to narrow down the place where she was presumably buried before her skull was retrieved and deliberately placed. Although this new research proved invaluable at the time, it still wasn’t enough to provide a solid possibility as to where the rest of Linda’s remains were and perhaps still are.
Since then, nothing has propelled Linda’s unsolved case forward with momentum. There is simply a lack of information. To help garnish attention and possibly unearth new leads, Unsolved Mysteries aired a segment on Linda’s case on July 2, 2001. Unfortunately, the episode didn’t provide much information, and the case has remained cold ever since.
The years continued to go by with no answers. Michael Webb, who started as a patrol supervisor, investigated Linda’s case for over twenty years and climbed the ranks to become the Vinita Park Police Chief. He passed away on February 4, 2009, due to pancreatic cancer. Throughout it all, he pursued justice for Linda every day he was able. He was adamant Donald was responsible for Linda’s disappearance and murder but was unable to provide enough evidence to convict him.
As for Linda’s friends and family, they tried to move on as best as they could. Donald Sherman eventually remarried, started a new family, and continued working factory jobs. On May 7, 2015, he passed away in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, at the age of fifty-eight. If he had any involvement or information about Linda’s disappearance and murder, he took those secrets to his grave.
Patty Sherman later relocated to Attica, Indiana where she got married and had a child. Even though there aren’t any answers to what truly happened to her mother, she continues to hold on to hope. There may never be any closure, but she does her best to learn from her parents’ mistakes and raise her family in a healthy, stable and loving environment. If she can provide that for her own family, she can live with some form of peace.