Cheri Lindsey’s story: Her murder and its aftermath detailed

Cheri Lindsey of Binghamton, New York, left home one evening in late March 1984 to collect money on her paper route. Her mother, Jean, often accompanied Cheri on the errand, but this time, she stayed behind to prepare dinner. Cheri had accepted this part-time job with the local paper as she wanted to raise money for her teacher’s baby shower. 

David Lindsey, a police officer, and his team started searching for Cheri after she failed to return home. With their focus on Lindsey’s paper trail, authorities narrowed their search to the house of then-35-year-old James Wales. Sadly, Cheri was long dead when police arrived; Wales had raped and strangled the young girl. 

Cheri Lindsey’s story features in Investigation Discovery’s April 2022 release Evil Lives Here: Shadows of Death: The Paper Route. Per the episode, Jean’s suspicion of James Wales prompted police to take a closer look at him. 

James had yet to pay for the week’s deliveries, meaning Cheri had to pass by his house that day. Furthermore, Jean felt strange about the man Cheri replaced as distributor of The Evening Press in the North Side of Binghamton. 

“If you are going to find her, she’s going to be at Wales’ house,” Jean told police. Jean couldn’t quite describe why she felt off about James, but she couldn’t shake the strange feeling she felt about the father of two. 

James Wales had a short rap sheet consisting of misdemeanors such as criminal trespass and suspicion of drunk driving. “Wales wasn’t on our radar,” James Butler, the police chief, told “His name didn’t jump out.”

Wales agreed to give a statement and appeared calm and cooperative during questioning. However, nearly two hours into the interview, Wales confessed. “I don’t recall him crying or anything like that, but I do recall him telling us specifically what he did in that house,” Butler added. 

James hit Cheri several times with a table light, raped her, hung her from a pipe, and wrapped her lifeless body in a blanket. Police found Lindsey’s body in the cellar at Wales’ home.

Wales’ defense team claimed that James was not guilty for reason of mental illness. An expert alleged that James had an intermittent explosive disorder, and by killing Cheri, he thought he was executing revenge on his abusive mother. 

The jury refused to buy the argument, finding Wales guilty of second-degree murder and first-degree rape. The court sentenced him to 33 years to life in prison. 

About a week after Lindsey’s death, the City Council renamed the local park after her. Then-Mayor Juanita Crabb presented a commemorative plaque to David and Jean Lindsey and described the park as a symbol of the community’s support. 

“We appreciate it,” David told Juanita. Cheri’s face forms part of a mural at the memorial park visible from the road heading around Prospect Mountain. David and Jean occasionally visit, mainly during the summers, as the youth play baseball or softball.

In June 1985, Cheri’s parents, with the help of volunteers, started a raffle in Cheri’s memory to support community causes. They set to raffle to coincide with Cherri’s birthday. In the first year, the raffle raised $10,000 and funded a community party in the park.

The Lindseys currently limit their fundraising to 250 raffle tickets. Many volunteers, eager to help them keep Cheri’s memory alive, help sell the tickets. “The Lindseys have not only used the tragedy to memorialize Cheri, they used it to help a community,” Nancy Bell-Szwalla, a Binghamton resident, told

The fundraising efforts have funded the Humane Society, Toys for Tots, and Binghamton schools. “We wasn’t something to remember her by,” David said. “We need something to carry her name on.”

At home, Lindsey’s room remains unchanged: her board games, baseball attire, stuffed animals, clarinet, and Girl Scout sash remain where she left them. “I just can’t get rid of any of it,” Jean said. “It would be like throwing part of her away.”

James Wales’ first opportunity to apply for parole arrived in March 2017. He’d spent over three decades in prison and hoped to convince the parole board that he’d rehabilitated enough to rejoin society. 

“Well, nothing that is in my past as far as my own sexual abuse, my drug use and my alcohol use is not an excuse for what I did to that poor girl … during the course of the years I thought of all the things that I robbed that girl of… Not only was she victimized, I also victimized her family and my own family,” Wales told the parole board

The board noted that Wales had completed the required inmate programs, including vocational training and skills development. James blamed the crime on his inability to handle stress, which he said led to explosions of violent rage. 

Wales said he wasn’t sure why he killed Cheri, a confession the board used to underpin its denial of Wales’ parole. Parole Commissioner Julie Smith said:

“That is a concern, sir. We don’t know what happened, you don’t know what happened, how do we know you could not snap again, quite honestly. An innocent child, you are a good size man, an innocent child that you perpetrated such violence on her … it is real sad, real sad.”

David and Jean Lindsey have vehemently opposed Wales’ release and solicited letters from the community supporting James’ continued incarceration. There’s a campaign that encourages people to send letters opposing the murderer’s release. 

Cheri’s parents pay close attention to James’ prison stay. David Lindsey protested James’ transfer from a maximum-security prison in Auburn to a medium-security facility in Moravia. He collected 5,000 signatures and organized the sending of over 5,000 comments and emails to the New York State Department of Corrections in support of his petition. 

In early 2015, authorities conceded and moved Wales to a maximum-security prison in Elmira. Wales can apply for parole again in March 2023, but given the strength of public opposition against his release, it’s unlikely that he’ll convince the parole board that he deserves a shot at life outside prison. 

In late 2019, the Broome County legislature approved the purchase of Wales’ property on 6 ½ Sturges Street so the building could be demolished. 

The Lindseys hoped that the demolition would occur on the anniversary of Lindsey’s death in March. However, unprecedented delays forced the postponement of the exercise to August 2020. 

A crowd watched as Jean Lindsey took the first swing on the house’s front door using a sledgehammer. She then tossed the newspaper delivery bag Cheri used that fateful day into the house and allowed Gorick Construction to proceed with the demolition. 

“It’s almost 36 years,” David Lindsey told Spectrum News 1. “There was times where we wouldn’t even come down the street. Probably about 30 years it took us to finally come down the street.”

Jean said that the demolition kept Cheri’s name and story alive. “We try to keep the name going,” she said. David expressed joy that the long-awaited demolition had finally met government approval. He said:

“I love this day. I love it. I’ve been anticipating it for a few months now. It took a while. It took a while to get through all the red tape but it finally happened.”

The Lindseys would be forgiven for wanting to retreat into obscurity as they try to move on from Cheri’s murder nearly four decades ago. However, David and Jean Lindsey have vowed to keep Cheri Lindsey’s name alive through any means available. 

In April 2022, David wrote on Facebook that the family had consented to an Investigation Discovery feature about Cheri’s life. He wrote:

“Back in October of last year, we were contacted by ID Discovery channel in NYC. They said they were following Cheri’s story and wanted to do a story on her life. We agreed to talk to them and they sent a whole crew up here for a week.”

The Paper Route aired as scheduled and contains interviews with Cheri’s family and people around during the murder. 

Unforgettable: The Cheri Lindsey Story by Tina Hartigan details Cheri’s story in print. Tina worked with David and Jean to accurately bring out Cheri’s narrative and warn other parents to monitor their children closely. The book’s description on Amazon reads:

“The Lindsey’s were forced into a room that is only reserved for parents of murdered children. The Lindsey’s have flung open the door to that reserved room and have refused to leave their daughter to the annals of the forgotten.”

During her research, Tina Hartigan discovered that Tina’s tragic murder positively affected the Binghamton community: it galvanized the bond between neighbors as they came together to honor her life. She told WBNG 12 News:

“It has solidified the whole Binghamton area. It has made everyone familial in some way, they have come together to protect this innocent girl and that’s what happened. She was a true blue innocent. This should have never happened.”