Inside a building where people are dedicated to healing and saving lives Sherry Crandell ended up losing her life.
The murder of Sherry Crandell was so surprising, so surreal the detective tapped to lead the investigation initially didn’t believe it.
Detective Bernie Nelson and the victim’s family had the same reaction. How could she have been murdered inside the hospital?
The victim’s daughter, Tiffany Crandell, had just graduated from Penn State, and was visiting friends when she got the news,
“I screamed, I dropped the phone. I just fell on the floor”.
The drive home, she says, was excruciating.
“It was just so hard being three and a half hours away and just wanting to be there wanting to see her”.
Sherry Crandell was a registered nurse and in the four years before her death, worked as an administrator in the family practice clinic at Prince George’s hospital center. She had just turned 50 years old, dedicated to her job, Sherry would sometimes stay late. One of those nights was the evening of January 13, 1998. It was around 8:30pm and Sherry was finishing some paperwork in a somewhat secluded section of the hospital when she was attacked. She was bound, raped and strangled.
“That was just my first reaction. Just how, how could this happen and they, they don’t know what happened”, said Tiffany.
“I mean, unfortunately, you know there were no cameras that caught anything, you know there were no panic buttons. “It was sometimes hard to get a hold of security in the hospital or have them come right away”.
In fact, Sherry wasn’t found until 9:15pm. Forty five minutes later, when a cleaning lady called security. Plenty of time for the killer to get away.
“We do believe that she may have interrupted a theft in progress, and he was an opportunistic and and decided to also commit a sexual assault”, said the lead investigator in the case, Prince George’s County Detective Bernie Nelson
“It appears that he was in there for a while in order to tie her up the way that he did and also to partially remove some of her clothing”. said Nelson “There were signs of a sexual assault. We know that he was in there, I would estimate, for approximately 15 to 20 minutes”.
The office was ransacked and police believe the killer was after the money in a fundraiser candy box, and any other cash he could find.
The restraints the killer used were items he found in the office.
Investigators recovered some fingerprints but they haven’t been able to match them yet.
In the years prior to the murder, there was a history of petty theft all over the hospital and Sherry Crandell was fed up with it. On December, 23 1997, three weeks before she was murdered Sherry wrote an email to the head of security complaining about it.
She wrote, “I want to go on record and voice my fear that the next incident may involve a personal assault. This was too close”.
Investigators have done a tremendous amount of work on this case, interviewing more than 1,000 people. At times there have been suspects, but they’ve all been ruled out by comparing an individual’s DNA against evidence found at the scene. Police also compared that evidence against DNA taken from all of the male employees at the hospital who agreed to give it up. Most were cooperative.
“Except for a handful”, said Nelson.
With the men at the hospital, “We would put two cotton swabs inside their mouth (to get their DNA) and then put those swabs in an envelope which we then forwarded to the lab, and the ones that were not cooperative, so far, none of them have been developed as suspects”.
Detective Nelson says the case has been a rollercoaster ride for four and a half years and over time, it’s turned personal.
“There are not many days that go by that I don’t think about this case and wonder what we may be missing. You know, Sherry Crandell wasn’t doing anything wrong she wasn’t bothering anyone, she was just working in a hospital, and she ends up having her life taken away from her suddenly and viciously, and she was stolen from her kids, and we have to have someone pay for this. We need to bring someone to justice”.
Justice for a family desperate for answers.
“I miss just not being able to call her”, said Tiffany, “not being able to call her when something big happens in my life. I’ll never have my mom at my wedding, my brothers won’t have her at their graduations. I will miss her every day”.
Friends and colleagues miss her too. Sherry is remembered at the hospital with a plaque in a memory garden located next to the hospital’s main entrance which reads Garden of Hope and Peace dedicated to our friend and colleague Sherry Crandell, R.N.