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The Fractured Life of Jeremy Strohmeyer

SUNDAY REPORT

Once a promising honor student, he began to slide into a darker world. Now, he stands accused of killing a little girl in a Nevada casino.

July 19, 1998|NORA ZAMICHOW | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Winnie walked in the front door, Jeremy slipped out the garden gate. He reached the street and started running. The police descended.

Inside the house, Winnie felt uneasy. Jeremy wasn't home, but the front door was unlocked. The French doors were open onto the patio. Lights were on in Jeremy's bedroom and the guest room. The house was filled with an acrid smell from the fireplace. She called out Jeremy's name. It wasn't like him to leave the house open.

She walked into his room and found a bottle that had contained Dexedrine, the amphetamine prescribed the week before for Jeremy's attention deficit disorder. There had been about 40 pills that morning; she had counted them to see if Jeremy had taken his medication.

The bottle was now empty. Lying next to old letters from Agnes, Winnie found a note in Jeremy's gawky script:

"I am so sorry.

"I just pray that this is enough to finish me off. Please Lord let me die.

"I'm sorry mom, I'm sorry dad, heather, all my friends and family.

"Forgive me for I have sinned. I'm sorry

"Please give these things to Agnes Lee. Tell her I will always love her"

'Sticking Out the Sunroof . . . That Was Cool,' David Says

When David Cash Sr. came home from work, he asked his son if he had seen the photograph of the suspect wanted for murder at the Primadonna.

"Yeah, looks like Jeremy, Dad," David said. "It is Jeremy."

His father insisted they go to the police.

"I guess I was scared," David would say later. "I figured even though I didn't do anything, I could get into more trouble."

The police took his mug shot. They interviewed him for nearly an hour. One cop was gruff, the other offered a doughnut. Just like "NYPD Blue," David thought.

He gave a statement. It implicated Jeremy.

When David returned home, he worked on an art history project, cutting out magazine photographs of pierced female genitalia for a collage. He went to bed around 1:30 a.m.

Six hours later, he drove to school. "I was rarin' to go," he says. "I was kind of curious about how school would be. Damn, I wondered, who's going to know?"

But during first period he was called out of class and sent home. His art history teacher refused his project, declaring it obscene.

That afternoon the principal called him. He wouldn't be allowed back on campus for classes, graduation or the prom. His presence would be "highly disruptive and could jeopardize his safety and the safety of others." The school would mail him his diploma and refund the $39 prom ticket.

David was furious. He was an impeccable student. He wasn't a criminal. How dare they treat him this way? He was going to sue.

By the end of the week, reporters and camera crews were positioned outside his parents' apartment complex. There was talk of a movie. For $1,500, David sold the video of him getting drunk with Jeremy to the television show "Extra." He kept $500 and gave $1,000 to Jeremy Phillips, who had helped negotiate the deal and shot some of the video.

On prom night, as TV cameras rolled, he popped up through the sunroof of a white stretch limo and shouted, "I'm not going in! I'm not going in!" Phillips, who had hitched a ride from Oregon, was at his side.

"Sticking out the sunroof with all the cameras running--that was cool," David says.

He and Phillips went to a restaurant that featured a belly dancer and then to a party at a friend's house, where they watched David and the limo on TV.

'There's Not Much You Can Do About It,' David Says

During Sherrice's funeral on May 31, 1997, at Paradise Baptist Church, her father and mother sat apart. They have not spoken to each other since their daughter's death.

Each has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Jeremy and the Primadonna Resort & Casino, now known as the Primm Valley Resort & Casino. Leroy has also sued for slander, saying he had been defamed when a casino official told reporters that Leroy--shortly after learning of his daughter's death--asked for $100, a hotel room, a plane ticket, money for his daughter's funeral and a six-pack of beer.

The Primadonna has filed a cross-claim and third-party complaint against Leroy, David and Jeremy, alleging their actions contributed to Sherrice's death.

Yolanda has moved into her own apartment. She sometimes dreams about Sherrice. In one dream, Sherrice is lying on a closet shelf, wearing pajamas. She kisses her mother and says, "Hi, Mommy, I'm back."

In the fall of 1997, David entered UC Berkeley. If anything, he says, the case has made it easier for him to score with women.

David's parents have separated again. His mother has moved to Oklahoma. Winnie and John have not talked with the Cashes since the trip to the Primadonna.

In the days after Jeremy's arrest, Winnie and John received death threats. "What kind of parents are you to have raised a boy like that?" one caller asked Winnie.

Accused of the murder, kidnapping and sexual assault of Sherrice Marshay Renee Iverson, Jeremy has pleaded not guilty and faces a possible death sentence.

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