‘She can’t be replaced’: This week marks 33 years since Clay County woman’s brutal murder

26-year-old Teryl Orcutt’s death remains one of Clay’s 4 unsolved murders

CLAY COUNTY,Fla. – The last week of January is one Cheryl Turner always dreads. It’s when she thinks about her little sister, Teryl Orcutt, the most.

“I miss a lot of things. I miss the fact that I can’t talk to her,” Turner said. “If we had cellphones then, I’d probably still have her voice on one of my answering things.”

Today, Turner is only able to look at family pictures and think back on good memories -- including the last Christmas they spent together in 1989. That was the year of the historic snowfall in Northeast Florida.

RELATED: 1990 murder haunts Middleburg community

“We had so much fun, we took and tied ropes to trashcan lids and took everybody sledding,” Turner said, smiling. “That was our last Christmas the whole family was together.”

Less than one month later, the unthinkable happened and Turner’s life changed forever.

On Jan. 21, 1990, Orcutt was driving back to the Middleburg home she shared with her mother when she disappeared without a trace. Clay County Sheriff’s deputies say she had left her boyfriend’s house in Jacksonville.

Her red Thunderbird was found pulled over on the edge of County Road 218 in Middleburg. It was still running, her belongings, including her purse, were still inside. But Orcutt was nowhere to be found.

Tragically, exactly one week later, Orcutt’s body was discovered by two young boys in a wooded area. Clay County detectives said she wore only underwear, socks and shoes.

Thirty-three years later, detectives are no closer to solving Orcutt’s murder.

Over the years, rumors swirled that someone in law enforcement was responsible, particularly given the manner in which the car was found. That rumor was fueled even further by something a witness told deputies she heard the night Orcutt disappeared.

Investigators told News4JAX the witness, who lived very close to where the car was found, reported to them that she was awakened by a woman screaming, “I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do anything.”

But Turner said she does not believe a cop was involved.

“She wouldn’t have pulled over for a lawman,” Turner said. “I don’t know why she pulled over, or how she pulled over. All I can think is she was forced over and she got over like that to keep from getting run over.”

Press play below to watch From the Vault: Teryl Orcutt’s body found in Middleburg (WARNING: Contains graphic content):

Turner also said the area where Orcutt’s car was found is a dark street, and the route she took home that night wasn’t her typical route.

“It wasn’t somebody stalking her,” Turner said. “They would have come the other way to the other end of 218 instead of that end.”

But Turner does believe the killer was local. Someone familiar with South Lee Road, where Orcutt’s body was found. It’s an area she described as being not much wider than a rural driveway in 1990. She believes it was virtually unknown to many at the time.

The sisters’ mother, Rosie Robinson, spoke to News4JAX in May 1990, a few months after the murder.

“Whatever it takes, I’m going to get to the bottom of this,” Robinson said then. “Somebody killed my daughter, and somebody is going to be brought to justice over it.”

But Robinson never got her chance. She died of brain cancer in the late 1990s, never knowing who killed her daughter.

“She’d pray at nighttime, ‘God take me away, I want to be with my daughter.’ I didn’t find this all out until she was sick,” Turner said. “When she got cancer, she says, ‘I regret praying that prayer because there’s so much more I need to do.’”

Turner made a promise to her mother she’d continue Orcutt’s fight.

Press play below to watch From the Vault: Police investigate murder of Teryl Orcutt (WARNING: Contains graphic content):

At the time of her murder, Orcutt was about one month from her birthday. If she were alive today, she’d be turning 59.

Another year with no family celebration, just stolen memories and unanswered questions.

“I just want to know why,” Turner said. “The fact that this person killed her, got away with it, how many more has he done? I just miss her. She can’t be replaced.”

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office said years ago that Orcutt’s boyfriend and ex-husband were cleared as suspects.

The agency also said it was able to clear all of its deputies that were on duty that night. But they did not rule out the possibility of someone impersonating a law enforcement officer.

Turner hopes advancements in DNA testing will eventually help solve her sister’s case.

Anyone who may know something, even if it’s something they’ve kept to themselves all these years, is asked to contact the Clay County Sheriff’s Office at 904-264-6512. First Coast CrimeStoppers is also an option -- call 1-866-845-TIPS.

About the Author:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.