Man confesses to killing Florida woman nearly 30 years after her disappearance

Victim last seen on Christmas Eve 1992

MARION COUNTY, Fla. – Nearly 30 years after her disappearance, the case of a missing woman has been solved after her killer recently confessed to the crime, according to the Marion County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies said 42-year-old Sherry Yon Petersen was last seen alive on Christmas Eve 1992 and was reported missing days later after she failed to show up for holiday celebrations with her family. Though detectives have been assigned to her case and investigated several leads during the past 26 years, Peterson has never been found and her case had remained unsolved until recently.

In July, Petersen's sister called the Sheriff's Office and said she'd like to be the new point of contact for the case, which prompted Sgt. Donald Buie to re-examine the file and follow up on potential leads.

Deputies said Buie's investigation led him to Frank Crow, 68, who is currently serving a 30-year sentence in Zephyrhills Correctional Institution for bludgeoning his former roommate to death with a sledgehammer.

During an interview with Buie, Crow made self-incriminating statements about Peterson's case but he refused to provide a full confession unless he was granted immunity.

With the blessing of the family and the State Attorney's Office, it was decided that Crow would be granted immunity because prosecuting him would be costly, especially considering that his health is failing and he's already going to be in prison until he's 84 years old, and because it would bring the family closure.

Crow told deputies that he met Petersen at a convenience store on Christmas Eve 1992 and that they agreed to go get drinks at a local bar. The pair continued drinking at Lake Catherine, which is where Crow killed Peterson, he said. Investigators said it was likely because she denied his sexual advances, although Crow claimed it was because she was a "snitch."

Deputies said Crow dismembered Petersen's body and disposed of the parts in multiple lakes in the Ocala National Forest. Crow also said he planned the killing before carrying it out, according to a news release.

Authorities said they believe Crow's confession was authentic because he knew details that only the killer would know. Petersen's body was never found.

“There are always missing pieces to these cases that we need to put together,” Buie said. “We never stop searching for that missing piece, and in this case, a key decision had to be made by prosecutors and Sherry’s family so we could get answers for all of our questions developed throughout the years. We hope this resolution brings closure to the family, and that Sherry’s soul can now be at peace.”

Petersen's sisters, Linda Hicks and Mary Curry, issued a statement thanking the Sheriff's Office.

“We would like to say how thankful we are that with God's help and with the caring work of Sgt. Buie that we were finally able to find out what happened to our sister, Sherry. She died in such a horrific manner, but we are just thankful that our Mother was in heaven with God and not here on earth when she found out how truly horrible it was for her. We will have to live with this news for the rest of our lives, but maybe now we can start to heal. There truly is no more hope,” the statement read.