NC woman haunted by rumors that her mother’s killer remains free

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Left: April Billings poses at the gravesite of her mother, Sherry Lyall Hart in the Hardin Family Cemetery in West Jefferson, N.C., Friday, Feb. 13, 2015. Hart was killed January 15th of 1984 near a bar just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Her alleged killer walked out of the Wilkes County jail never to be seen again. Right: Age progression of Richard Lynn Bare from NC Dept of Public Safety. On January 15, 1984, Sherry Lyalls Hart was last seen in West Jefferson by a friend. Her skeletal remains were later found at the bottom of a cliff. Richard Lynn Bare was arrested for her murder in March 1985 but escaped in June 1985 from the Wilkes County Jail where he was awaiting trial. (The Winston-Salem Journal)

By Scott Sexton/The Winston-Salem Journal

WEST JEFFERSON, N.C. — April Billings doesn’t remember much about her mom; she was killed when Billings was 6 years old.

“Just what my grandmother told me,” she said.

She does, however, have some memories of the December day in 1984 when they found Sherry Hart’s body at the bottom of a 1,200-foot cliff on the Ashe-Wilkes county line near a spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway called “Jumpinoff Rock.”

“It was on TV,” Billing said. “My grandparents pulled me away from the television when they started talking about it.”

As horrible as that experience was for a child, it pales when compared to what Billings has been through since.

The man that authorities charged with killing her mother — Richard Lynn Bare — walked out of the Wilkes County Jail, never to be heard from again. It was a maddening turn of events that has led to uncertainty and a 30-plus year wait for justice that may never come.

“I think about it all the time,” she said. “I think he’s still alive.”

Read full story: The Winston-Salem Journal