About Cheryl Harris

About Cheryl Harris

Cheryl Harris was born in Ferndale, Michigan on May 27, 1959. She has a son, daughter and six grandchildren. For many years, she has been a resident of Oak Park, a suburb of Detroit.

The accident at Pizza Hut is not the first traumatic event to happen to Cheryl. At the age of 21, Cheryl became the only survivor of a serial killer who dumped her naked body in a yard and left her for dead. It was only by the grace of God and her will to survive that enabled her to help law enforcement secure the arrest, prosecution and lifetime imprisonment of convicted serial killer Donald Murphy.

Stopping A Serial Killer

Donald Murphy, a frequent visitor at a Detroit lounge, always asked to be served by Cheryl who was head waitress. He was very friendly and polite. One cold night, Murphy offered the petite 5 foot 1 inch Cheryl a ride home which she gratefully accepted. She never, in her worst nightmares, could foresee what she would endure over the next several hours before barely escaping with her life. If Cheryl hadn't survived and fingered this man in court, there is no telling how many more women would have been murdered by this psychopath.

Murphy, a 36-year-old ex-convict, was arrested on December 15, 1980. While supposedly driving Cheryl to her home, Murphy pulled off onto the side of a dark roadway. Cheryl described how Murphy's face suddenly changed and he looked like a demon. She was "scared to death" and wanted to jump out of the car but couldn't get the door open. Murphy then pulled a knife and put it to her neck. Suddenly another car's headlights were approaching. Spooked by the headlights, Murphy laid on top of Cheryl. In a last ditch effort to save her her life, Cheryl bit Murphy so hard that she "could taste his blood "in her mouth. He then viciously beat and strangled her until she lapsed into unconsciousness.

As she was regaining consciousness, she saw the sky and heard birds chirping and thought she was in heaven. But through her peripheral vision, she realized Murphy was driving and she was in the front seat, naked with her wrists, arms and legs tied with her own pantyhose. Semiconscious, she stayed still and played dead.

He drove around for hours before dragging her out of the car and dumping her body. Naked and cold, she laid motionless until she knew Murphy had driven away. With her legs and hands bound, Cheryl, with blood flowing out of her mouth, managed to reach a house where a lady aided her as she again lapsed into unconsciousness. Police arrived and she was rushed to a hospital emergency room.

Of her ordeal, Cheryl recounts: "I got great satisfaction to identify my assailant in court and know that no other life would be taken at this man's hands ever again." Her bite marks proved conclusively that the police had arrested the right man. Murphy was convicted of murdering two women and confessed to murdering four others in Detroit.

The incident left its scars on Cheryl who, as a single mom, was raising her three year old daughter at the time. For four years she was unable to work and was under the care of a psychiatrist. For a longtime she was afraid to go out after dark. Vowing to never be a victim again, she was tutored at a gun range and got a license to own a handgun.

Kindhearted, Cares for Kids and Battles Lupus

Friends and family describe Cheryl as a kind-hearted person who loves all kids and looks out for everybody. At age 15, Cheryl secured her first job working with kids in the arts and crafts department at the Royal Oak Township Recreation Center. At age 17, she went to work at an auto parts company but had to leave after a year because of her allergies. After graduating from Ferndale Public High School she completed classes at Northwest
Beauty College of Cosmetology and obtained a Michigan license to practice.

But kids were her calling. She received training at the Detroit Entrepreneurship Institute and obtained a certificate that allowed her to open a licensed childcare facility. With money she had saved, she turned her backyard into a playground with swings, sandboxes, above ground swimming pools and lots of toys. She registered in Michigan as a foster parent and inhome childcare provider, the work she did for many years. Working mothers who couldn't afford to pay for childcare were never turned away.

In 1996, Cheryl was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue resulting in symptoms such as inflammation, swelling, and damage to joints, skin, kidneys, blood, the heart, and lungs.

A Loved Mother, Grandmother and Daughter Devoted to Her Family

When her elderly mother Burnette was found at the bottom of basement stairs after suffering a brain aneurism in 2006, Cheryl decided to close her childcare business to devote full time to caring for her mother and a great niece who was being raised by her mother.

As a single mom, she raised a son Julius who graduated from Eastern Michigan University and later attended Walsh Business College where he earned a Masters Degree in finance. Her daughter Latoria has had her hands full raising six children including two sets of twins with the support of her mother.

A month after the Pizza Hut accident, Cheryl was to begin training to secure licensing needed to establish her own business, an organic juice bar to promote healthy living. Due to her injury, that opportunity and her business plans have been put on hold.

Liberty Mutual

L-R: Cheryl Harris, son Julius, mother Burnette and daughter Latoria