January 8, 2024 | By: Freda Washington-Perez
Settling into the task of sharing the circumstances that led to addressing unacknowledged grief, Sherry took a deep breath and started. Challenged on how she ended up on a zoom laying bare memories of her husband Jerry Dwight Laymon some 50 years after his untimely death, a victim of an unsolved homicide. Her face registered brief concern in having done enough. As she shares glimpses of her 50-year journey, one that teeters between sharing a life full of happy times and second chances at love and motherhood, underlying sadness could be missed. Her shared memories feel warm and full. Then she gets to the work of explaining the “what if’s” of her life…of Jerry.
Jerry and Sherry first met in elementary school in the mid-1950’s, she laughed at that memory recall. She hadn’t thought much about Jerry back then, “he was short, an easy to miss kid…” that was, until he returned their 2nd year at Circle High School, in budding physique and maturity. He was football field ready and very hard for her to miss as a cheerleader watching from the sidelines. For a rural town in Kansas, where most residents were unbothered by simple means and living, the two were equally paired. “Will you marry me” was never a question. Sherry was emphatic, we “knew marriage and family” was always our outcome.
While matrimony was unquestioned, how to pay for a ceremony was. Jerry and Sherry, both decided it was not fair to ask her parents for wedding money when their budget was already tight paying for her college expenses, and his student loans and expenses offered little help from his side. As the two dated and set out toward formal education and chose careers they would often talk about commitment toward family life together. Sherry studied and went on to become a teacher. She settled comfortably in her career while saving money for a wedding. Jerry pursued a degree in Geophysical Engineering at Kansas State University and secured employment at Mobil Oil Company. Sherry remarked at how incredibly smart Jerry was. Fondly offering examples of his aptitude. A true intellectual in a time before the normalized tech boom and computer calculations. She beams, ”…he was the computer…his mind was a calculator!” When he was to graduate just before Thanksgiving 1967 the two went shopping for rings and wed in the small church they grew up in. Sherry laughs and sighs explaining Jerry’s fingernails were a “… chewed mess…” a nervous tick. “He was so nervous…look at the picture…” He had deliberately hidden his fingertips under her flower bouquet.
Sherry spoke beautifully about the love the two had for each other. Often weaving her flooding memories with offered visuals of their young love journey. She laughed at his ability to lean into his intellect yet struggled to articulate his emotions. Though he would try, “…took him 3 hours to write those!” Sherry shared Jerry’s testimonies of love for her evident in handwritten Valentine Day cards exchanged while in college.
Jerry’s job at Mobil offered the luxury of travel, an opportunity to see the world together. Sherry said after marriage they were immediately off. Settling briefly in Wyoming before Jerry became part of an Exploration Crew going around the world. The couple lived and traveled to Utah, Los Angeles, Dallas and then Louisiana. There were rapid international trips too. She traveled to meet him in Amsterdam, and they drove around Europe. His work continued to Africa, through the Straights of Gibraltar, and up and down the Ivory coast. Jerry planned the trips, she would “show up with the cheques.” Each new work assignment was not permanent, so they treated them as vacations and enjoyed as much pleasure in between. In the three years after he graduated, he settled into his career and looked forward to a new role in the company.
The two talked about starting a family, they both were ready, both wanted children. Sherry shared that she made an appointment to “get checked out”, eager to have a family. However, after a visit to the doctor’s she was told that having children would be a challenge and surgery would be needed. For Sherry, the last thing she’d known was that Jerry had dropped her mother off at the hospital and checked in on her. The medications given during recovery had taken her memory recall, “…drives me crazy…” Sherry explained,” not remembering him that last time…” and what they may have said to each other “that last time” bothers her.
Jerry Laymon was last seen November 16, 1971, around 4:15PM at the Mobil Plaza Tower office in New Orleans Business District in Louisiana. He was scheduled to attend work-related night class with co-workers at Tulane University. Sherry was recovering from surgery when her mother and his Mobil coworkers began to realize he was missing. He was reported “missing” along with a bulletin for his car.
After she was discharged from the hospital, with no news on Jerry’s whereabouts or what happened to him she remembers the “look on the nurses faces was not encouraging….” Detectives would come to let her know that Jerry’s body had been found, 8 days after he was last seen alive.
On November 24, 1971, Jerry’s body was found alongside a swamp, 300 yards north of Airline Highway Road in Reserve, St. John the Baptist Parish. Initial reports revealed he was face down, with clumps of grass in his right hand indicating he was alive when his body was dumped. The coroner reported he had been shot twice in the head with two .22 caliber bullets were recovered. His wallet was discovered with his birth certificate, credit cards but no cash. Jerry’s Mustang car was ultimately found in Houston, Texas. Records indicate that the car had been towed and impounded after it was left in a grocery store parking lot. It had been parked and deserted on the same day he was believed to have been killed.
The work that has gone into ensuring that systems charged with investigating Jerry Laymon’s homicide and deliver judicial resolution has been emotionally weighted. For Sherry, cycles of decades of silence have been disheartening. When she reconnected with agencies that worked Jerry’s homicide case to include St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigations in Louisiana she was painfully disappointed in the news received. Original files and documents had been lost to time. Original detectives had retired or died. Evidence that may have been collected is assumed deteriorated, or lost, whereabouts unknown. Over the years, Sherry has been relentless and found creative avenues to acquire information. Reaching out to the medical examiner’s office, clerk’s office, local newspapers and the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms regional office, sought out guidance and information in an Attorney General. Always hoping someone may have preserved information that would solve her husband’s cold case. Seeking accountability for Jerry’s case has been harsh. Sherry had always assumed that “…someone would be looking…” that the investigative process would be working…” The reality is in those 50 years information, evidence, files, leads, investigative agency, media, community had all gone silent. This case was left unsolved.
Jerry’s homicide was tragic for so many in 1971. What happened to his case years, then decades following has been likewise heartbreaking. Sherry’s frustrations and reactions to Jerry’s unsolved homicide, her pain, and the trauma associated was delayed. Her grief for her first husband came unannounced, and visceral as she managed grief in losing Glen, her second husband of over 40 years to Alzheimer’s. In this dual loss, Sherry has full support of her and Glen’s daughter Stacey which has been releasing, and at a time most needed. The emotion from that kind act registered on her face and in her voice, Stacey gives her space and support to mourn. “When Glen died the genie came out of the bottle…everything…all of it came out…” Sherry now maintains the work of reconciling what happened to Jerry, the prospect that this case may not be solved, and her profound grief. Our last zoom ended with her sharing how she spends some of her time now. Travel is still a constant in her life. Each year she spends time driving cross-country, enjoying the peace of the road, taking in beautiful sights.
Anyone with information on the murder of Jerry Laymon is asked to call the St John Parish Sheriff’s Office at 985-652-9513.
Please consider using the buttons below to share this case in hopes that someone, somewhere will come forward and give this victim and family the answers they need and the justice they deserve.
If you have a loved one that is the victim of an unsolved homicide, please submit their case here for consideration in a future Cold Case Spotlight post.