Victim's family fighting as man convicted in horrific '98 dismemberment case soon up for parole

For 20 years, the gruesome murder of Cheryl Durkin has haunted her family and friends. (WXIX)
For 20 years, the gruesome murder of Cheryl Durkin has haunted her family and friends. (WXIX)

MIDDLETOWN, OH (FOX19) - For 20 years, the gruesome murder of Cheryl Durkin has haunted her family and friends. The young woman was killed and dismembered, and her body parts were buried and tossed into a river. Now, the man convicted in the case could get a second chance.

Cheryl Durkin's siblings said they strive to remember the good memories and the good times they shared with their sister.

"She was fun, would do anything for anybody," Karla Edwards, Durkin's sister, said.

However, a very tragic and disturbing cloud never stops looming over them.

"This puts a normal person, an ordinary guy, in a dark place you should never have to go," said Gary Caudill, Durkin's brother.

At 33-years-old, Durkin's life ended abruptly. The Middletown woman vanished in February 1998. Her family found out she was dead not long after when her torso surfaced in the Great Miami River.

"Something that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy because you can't get over it," Edwards said.

Court records show that investigators believe Durkin's wrists were tied while she was beaten in the head. They said she was then cut apart with a saw, and her body parts were ultimately buried in a park, as well as Indiana, and also thrown into the river.

"Hard whenever you're in the courtroom seeing your little sister's skull and them telling you what happened," Caudill said. "That's where you get the anger and the pain."

The convicted killer in the case is James Lawson. For months, he lived life on the run until he was captured, charged and convicted of the crime. His defense was that Durkin was a burglar.

His sentence leaves him open to opportunity for life with a chance for parole. Durkin's family said it's because of circumstantial evidence.

"It changes everybody's life, destroys us is what it's done," Edwards said.

In June, the man Durkin's family has deemed a monster will come face to face with a parole board, fighting for a second chance. In the meantime, Durkin's family, with petitions and letters, is fighting to make sure that never happens.

"I don't think so," Caudill said. "You're an animal. Nothing else to say, you're just a freakin' animal that should've been exterminated 20 years ago."

Durkin's family has a petition circulating online that has hundreds of signatures. They are also asking supporters to send letters to the parole board.

Anyone who would like to send a letter can mail it to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction at 770 W. Broad St. Columbus, Ohio 43222 to the attention of the Ohio Parole Board. Letters can also be sent via email to
There is another petition circulating in support of James Lawson, asking that he be freed. You can read that petition here.

Copyright 2018 WXIX. All rights reserved.