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Previous story 19-year-old man sexually assaulted, strangled to death 7-year-old Sherrice Iverson in woman's restroom Next story
Published on May 29, 2021 7:52 AM

by Oregon Herald Staff
 
7-year-old girl’s murder at Nevada casino still haunts 20 years later She was like any 7-year-old, running around, screeching.
 
Merderer and rapist Phil Ramos and victim 7-year-old Sherrice Iverson.
Little Sherrice Iverson was raped and murdered in a casino bathroom by Jeremy Strohmeyer, who is serving a life sentence for the crime. David Cash, a friend of Strohmeyer, witnessed the beginning of the assault but never reported it to police or tried to intervene. This is the story, at least part of it.

Her name is Sherrice Iverson, and she was 7 when she was lured from an arcade into a Primm casino restroom 20 years ago, forced into the largest stall, sexually assaulted and slowly strangled before her killer snapped her neck.

A copy of that portrait — her smile wide and earnest — now sits in a cardboard box marked as "evidence" at the Regional Justice Center in downtown Las Vegas. The man convicted of her murder, Jeremy Strohmeyer, sits at High Desert State Prison in Indian Springs.

The shocking case started a national conversation on casino security and whether gaming properties should be required to provide child care. Its fallout also led to a new good Samaritan law aimed at protecting child victims of crime.

Ramos, now retired, was one of its lead homicide detectives.

"As investigators, there's always going to be certain cases you remember forever," Ramos said this month in his northwest Las Vegas home. "The Sherrice Iverson case is definitely one of those, just because of the dynamics of it: the absolute sheer innocence of the victim, the brutality of how she was killed, and the nonchalant attitude of Jeremy Strohmeyer."

Strohmeyer, now 38, is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for murder, kidnapping and sexual assault. At the time of the slaying, he was a high school senior, adopted at birth by a well-off Long Beach family, Ramos said. He pleaded guilty to his charges in 1998, and in exchange, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.

In 2000, Strohmeyer appealed, arguing that his lawyers pressured him to make the deal. In 2006, a federal judge upheld the conviction.

Strohmeyer continues to fight for the possibility of parole. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for June 12.

"Every time I drive to Southern California by the state line, I look over there, where the resort is, and replay it," Ramos told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "Whenever I'm in Southern California, in Long Beach, I think of it. Whenever I hear about a kid being killed, I think of it."

The Confession To Police

Strohmeyer said the incident began with wet pieces of paper being thrown back and forth with Iverson but escalated to violence when she threw a plastic sign at him.

After dragging Iverson into a handicap stall, Turley said Strohmeyer said he muffled her cries with one hand while removing her panties with the other and then molesting her.

Strohmeyer said the girl was screaming so he squeezed her neck until she stopped screaming.

Strohmeyer said he then repeatedl sexually molested her again until he was interrupted by two women who entered the restroom. Iverson's unconscious body was then propped on the toilet and Strohmeyer leaned back against her, giving the impression there was only one person in the stall.

Strohmeyer remembered that Iverson "gurgled and gasped" so he muffled her sounds again with his hand and decided to kill Iverson and chose to break her neck. He said he grabbed the girl's head with one hand and her shoulder with the other then twisted until there was "a loud pop."

Sherrice Iverson was found about 5 a.m., after her father desperately searched for her, screaming her name. To this day, the hotel staff retains a collective sense of guilt.

"They felt bad about forcing her off the casino floor because then she became vulnerable," former Primm Valley Resort medic Bart Stinson said. Nevada law prohibits children from lingering in casinos.

Stinson, now 62, had just commuted from Las Vegas the morning of May 25, 1997. To clock in about 6:30 a.m., he had to pass the downstairs arcade, where he noticed bright yellow crime scene tape blocking the nearby women's restroom. An officer was standing guard.

"I thought it was a crazy girlfriend or boyfriend," Stinson said. It wasn't until he walked upstairs into the EMT briefing room, exactly one floor above where Sherrice was killed, that he learned of the horror that had happened just a few hours prior.

"I was taken aback," he told the Review-Journal this month. "In the middle of the night at a casino, you don't think it would be a 7-year-old girl."

Though Stinson didn't respond to the scene, he said his co-worker, a young man, did.

"He was a chain smoker. Tough kid. But it screwed him up," Stinson said. "He was in therapy for the rest of the time I knew him."

Stinson said the housekeeper who found Sherrice — and then guided Sherrice's father into the restroom stall to see her — was deeply affected, too.

"She would have panic attacks. The rest of the time I worked there, I would get calls for her," he said. They would happen randomly, as she was cleaning a room, or walking the casino floor. "She was in real bad shape."

The murder happened shortly after 3:48 a.m. when Sherrice was last seen on surveillance footage, walking into the restroom. Her 14-year-old brother was somewhere else in the casino, and her father, Leroy Iverson, was upstairs playing slot machines.

Iverson didn't have money for a room. The plan was to stay and gamble for several hours while his kids played in the arcade. He told police he had done it several times in the past.

"She was like any 7-year-old, running around, screeching. And they're not supposed to be on the casino floor," Stinson said. So more than once that fateful night, casino employees reunited a wandering Sherrice with her father, and told him he needed to attend to her.

More than once, she ended up back in the arcade, where Strohmeyer found Sherrice while perusing the property with his friend, David Cash Jr. Cash watched as Strohmeyer forced Sherrice into that stall. He even leaned over the stall and tapped on Strohmeyer's head, but he never intervened, never reported the crime and never faced criminal charges.

Innocent child

Sherrice would be 27 now.

She was a smart Los Angeles second-grader who loved learning and had dreams of becoming either a nurse, police officer or dancer, her mother, Yolanda Manuel, told Strohmeyer in court the day of his 1998 sentencing.

"Are you a demon? Are you a devil?" she asked Strohmeyer, raising her voice before apologizing to the judge for her demeanor. "You are so evil if I had a wish here I would put you to death the same way you put my child to death. If it was my prison, I would blindfold you and shoot you in your feet and send you back to your cell."

Efforts to find Manuel for this story were unsuccessful. Her California lawyer, Steve Lerman, who also represented Rodney King, told the Review-Journal that Sherrice's death "ruined her life."

Sherrice's father died in 2000. Efforts to reach Harold Lee Iverson, her brother, now 34, were unsuccessful.

"Sherrice was just as innocent a child as you could think of. This poor little thing did absolutely nothing," Ramos, the detective, told the Review-Journal. "She was just being a kid, just playing in the arcade."

Ramos said Strohmeyer "targeted her from the minute he got down there to that arcade."

"He was like a lion on the Serengeti, chasing down his victim."

On a scratchy cassette tape of Strohmeyer's confession, recorded four days after the killing, the honor-roll student can be heard matter-of-factly describing the act.

Ramos can be heard on the tape, too, asking Strohmeyer if Sherrice's eyes were open or closed before he left the stall. The detective was searching for some glimmer of remorse.

"I don't, I don't think I really looked at her eyes," Strohmeyer said. "I don't recall really looking at her face at all."

Plea for forgiveness

Strohmeyer is married now, to a woman he met through letters about 14 years ago. They were wed in the visiting room of Lovelock Correctional Center in 2009.

"The label "prison wife' may warrant some negative attention because a lot of people are ignorant to the fact that not all of us women who stand by our incarcerated men are desperate, or delusional," his wife, Desiree, wrote in a blog last year, a day before their seventh anniversary. "We love. Plain and simple. I'm a normal woman. I like wine, I have a cat, I drive a Toyota, I work and am a functioning part of society."

In a handwritten letter to the Review-Journal this month, after he was asked about the case, Strohmeyer said he wants Sherrice's family to know he is sorry.

"I want to ask for their forgiveness, and I want them to know I would give anything to trade places with Sherrice," Strohmeyer wrote. "I just want them to know I am sorry, more sorry than words can ever say. I wish nothing but peace and good lives for them wherein their lives are not defined by this horrible tragedy as mine has been."

In the letter, Strohmeyer said he has committed to improving himself and the world around him. He said he works with young prisoners, trying to get them to be "less impulsive, to think about their actions."

"Prison is an angry, hateful, paranoid place most of the time, where everyone is your enemy," he wrote. "I try to defuse that blind malevolence in the hopes of making life more bearable for those around me, as well as in the hopes of evincing the goodness inside each of these guys so they'll go back into the world with hopeful and helpful hearts instead of hearts filled with anger and bitterness."

He does so, according to the letter, because he owes that "to Sherrice, her family, and society."

Ramos doesn't buy it. When reading some of Strohmeyer's comments, the detective paused for a few moments.

"I don't know what to make of that," he said. "I don't have any kind of sympathy for him in any way, shape or form. He was a vile person who committed an unspeakable act. There's no way any remorse he thinks he feels right now is going to change any feelings that I had for him at the time that he did this or even today."

"I know that eventually, he will die in prison," Ramos continued. "And that's about the only salvation anyone, myself included, can receive after what he did."

After the trial Imprisonment

Strohmeyer was initially incarcerated at Ely State Prison, a maximum security prison located north of Ely, Nevada where most prisoners in Nevada who are serving life without parole are imprisoned for at least the early portion of their sentences. He was placed in administrative segregation, meaning that he was not placed in the general inmate population, but rather in his own cell in a special secured section. His prison number is 059389. Strohmeyer was reportedly transferred to the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nevada where he is classified as 'medium' custody. Appeals

Jeremy Strohmeyer subsequently appealed his conviction.

In 2000, he was unsuccessfully defended by Camille Abate. Strohmeyer recanted his confession and accused Abramson of lying to him and bullying him into pleading guilty in order to cover up her misunderstanding of Nevada law. Strohmeyer's new attorneys also suggested that Abramson wanted him to plead guilty because Strohmeyer's parents could not afford to pay her additional fees if the case went to trial. Abramson denied all the allegations. Ultimately, his appeal was rejected.

In 2001, the Nevada Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Strohmeyer to withdraw his guilty plea. In January 2006, Strohmeyer lost a federal court bid to review his case.

On May 31, 2018, a request for parole was made based on 2012 and 2016 Supreme Court decisions that juveniles should have a chance at parole. His request was denied in July 2018. Lawsuit by adoptive parents

In October 1999, Strohmeyer's adoptive parents filed a $1 million lawsuit against Los Angeles County and its adoption workers. They claimed that social workers deliberately withheld crucial information that would have stopped them from adopting him as an infant. Specifically, they claimed they were never told that Strohmeyer's biological mother had severe mental problems, including that she suffered from chronic schizophrenia and had been hospitalized more than 60 times prior to Strohmeyer's birth.

However, the Strohmeyers have stated that they will continue to support their adopted son despite the fact that he will almost certainly spend the rest of his life in prison. David Cash

Sherrice Iverson's mother demanded that David Cash Jr., also be charged as an accessory to murder, but authorities stated there was insufficient evidence connecting him to the actual crime, and Cash was never prosecuted for any offense related to the murder.

In the weeks following Strohmeyer's arrest, Cash told the Los Angeles Times that he did not dwell on the murder of Sherrice Iverson. 'I'm not going to get upset over somebody else's life. I just worry about myself first. I'm not going to lose sleep over somebody else's problems.' He also told the newspaper that the publicity surrounding the case had made it easier for him to 'score with women.' Cash also told the Long Beach Press-Telegram: 'I'm no idiot ... I'll get my money out of this.'

Cash would go on to face being labeled 'the bad Samaritan,' and also the target of a campaign by students who attempted to get him kicked out of UC Berkeley for not stopping the crime. Two local Los Angeles radio hosts, Tim Conway Jr. and Doug Steckler, subsequently held a rally to have Cash expelled from the University of California at Berkeley, but University officials stated that they had no basis to remove him since he was not convicted of any crime.

Cash has never expressed remorse over Iverson's death. In a radio interview, stating that 'It was a very tragic event...The simple fact remains I don't know this little girl ... I don't know people in Panama or Africa who are killed every day, so I can't feel remorse for them. The only person I know is Jeremy Strohmeyer', but still insisted that he did nothing wrong. The Sherrice Iverson bill

Sherrice Iverson's murder led to the passage of Nevada State Assembly Bill 267, requiring people to report to authorities when they have reasonable suspicions that a child younger than 18 is being sexually abused or violently treated. The impetus for the bill stemmed from Cash's inaction during the commission of the crime.

The 'Sherrice Iverson' bill, introduced by Nevada State Assembly Majority Leader Richard Perkins , provides for a fine and possible jail time for anyone who fails to report a crime of the nature that led to the creation of the bill. The bill was enacted in 2000.

Sherrice Iverson's murder also led to the passage of California Assembly Bill 1422, the Sherrice Iverson Child Victim Protection Act, which added section 152.3 to California's Penal Code. This duty to rescue law requires that a person notify law enforcement if they witness a murder, rape, or any lewd or lascivious act, where the victim is under 14 years old.