GREENE COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Faithful, sweet, kind. That’s how Crystal Cole remembers her mother Sherry Cole, the 59-year-old who was killed at her Limestone home alongside her 7-year-old grandchild Jessie Allen on April 24.
“She thought everyone had good in them.”
“I don’t remember ever seeing her get mad,” said Crystal. “She was so forgiving and would never even want to hurt someone’s feelings. She truly believed God made everyone with a good heart.”
The house on Old Snapps Ferry Rd. where the bodies of Cole and Allen were discovered by police on April 25 is one Crystal says she and her sisters all found themselves coming to at their lowest points.
Whether it be trying to find life again after divorce or the death of a husband, each of Sherry Cole’s three daughters knew they could make their way home.
“She has helped us all with our kids. When I was a single mother, she took care of my daughter while I worked. I couldn’t have done it without her,” said Crystal.
Sherry took care of her grandchild Jessie as if he was her own, until both of their last days, Crystal said.
Police say their lives were taken at the hands of the 16-year-old suspect now charged with two counts of first-degree murder in their deaths.
(Due to a court-issued gag order on the case, no further information can be released about the identity of the suspect or his relation to the victims.)
Court documents obtained by News Channel 11 reveal the suspect allegedly admitted to police he killed Cole and Allen with blunt force strikes to the head and that the murders were premeditated.
Crystal now lives in Bean Station, Tenn. and says she wishes she had been able to see her mom more in the past two years before her unexpected death. The COVID-19 pandemic and fear of spreading the virus to her fiancé, who has black lung, prevented trips to visit, but Crystal says she was able to call her mom about once a week.
“We didn’t travel anywhere for a long time because of COVID and our fears of him catching it,” said Crystal. “In our last phone conversation, she always said, ‘I know Crystal, life is hard and it’s long but we come together when we need to.'”
The memories are something that will never leave her. Crystal says Cole was devoted to her three daughters in a way that only a mother can comprehend.
“When push came to shove and the world kicked us down, she was always there. She would love us and support us while we licked our wounds. Knowing we would leave again when we got strong enough. She was so selfless; she didn’t mind stepping back when our lives moved ahead. Proud we were making it on our own but always there when we fell,” said Crystal.
Not the final story
Crystal says in the wake of a horrific murder, she refuses to let chaos and tragedy be her mother’s final story.
“My mom was all about peace, yet she died violently,” said Crystal.
Sherry Cole’s entire outlook on life was driven by her steadfast faith in God.
“She was the most faithful person I have ever met. She thought everyone had good in them and God could fix anything,” said Crystal. “Her family’s happiness was all she cared about, she never cared about herself.”
Cole grew up in Greene County and went to Chuckey Doak High School. Crystal says her mother did not graduate; instead, she married her lifelong partner Bill Cole and started a family.
“She had such a hard life. I always wondered how she could keep that outlook,” Crystal said. “Growing up, sometimes we didn’t even have running water, and she had to constantly work harder to do the simplest things. Like washing dishes would take hours because she had to boil water from outside. She never complained though.”
Throughout all of life’s challenges, Crystal says Sherry remained devoted to her mission: giving everything she could to those around her, including for her grandson Jessie Allen and the teenager who allegedly took their lives.
“I want to scream from the rooftops how great she was. To tell everyone how much she sacrificed for those two boys. For all her kids and grandkids she gave her life for,” said Crystal.
For several years, Crystal says Cole had custody of Allen.
“She was overjoyed having Jessie there. She always told me taking care of her kids then their kids was what God put her here for,” said Crystal.
Crystal says the entire family is struggling to cope with the unexplainable deaths, made harder by the brutal nature in which they died. No motive has been released at this time for why the teenage suspect allegedly chose to end their lives.
However, Crystal says it has been a true comfort to see the love and support from the surrounding community.
“It didn’t take long before I was blown away by all the kindness that we still receive. The condolences and donations from strangers and friends is hard to believe,” said Crystal.
At a fundraiser held on May 14 at Fall Branch School, where Allen was in the first grade, the school’s PTO says the community raised over $10,000 for Jessie’s family.
The school also raised nearly $20,000 to help pay for the May 1 funerals of Cole and Allen.
“My mom would have been overjoyed to see that good was winning in the end. Because the best thing she ever taught me was that people are mostly good,” said Crystal. “The empathy coming from everyone I encounter proves to me good is winning.”
Next in court
On May 12, the 16-year-old suspect had his first court appearance in Greene County after being charged with the murders.
The juvenile has been detained by police since the day after the crimes, when he allegedly admitted to investigators that he killed the victims with a hammer and planned it the afternoon of.
Judge Kenneth Bailey decided after hearing testimony from four witnesses for the State of Tennessee that there is probable cause to believe the suspect committed the crimes.
He is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and remains housed in a juvenile detention facility pending his next court date.
District Attorney General Dan Armstrong has requested the state move the teen’s charges from juvenile court to adult criminal court.
A transfer hearing to decide the matter is set for August 23 with a status conference on July 19.
A daughter’s last message
Crystal penned a poem, a letter written to her mother, that she asked to be shared with the public in remembrance.
I can’t breathe knowing the violent way you left this world because I knew you,
I know you had the kindest heart and your belief in humanity was true.
Growing up I always teased you because you would believe any lie,
You couldn’t tell one yourself even when it would have been better to try.
I remember clearly you giving a co-worker your last dollar and my Dad asking “why,”
You innocently looked up at him and said “Well Bill I had it so I couldn’t just lie.”
You didn’t care that meant you would do without more so than you already did,
If someone needed your help you helped never looking for the intention they hid.
I am trying to find within myself the forgiveness you always showed,
You loved the boy who took you so how do I begin to carry this load?
I know you loved him until the end and you would forgive,
But he brutally took you and Jessie yet he still gets to live.
I will never get to hug you and tell you how much you meant to me,
With you looking up at me with that smile I will never again get to see.
I wish I could tell you I know you tried your best and this wasn’t your fault,
You gave everything to others before your life was brought to a halt.
That’s what I will always remember just how much of yourself you gave,
It will never be diminished by the actions of the one you couldn’t save.By Crystal Cole